By Chris Harris
It's hard not to feel sorry for Glenn Roeder. When he took over at St. James' Park in February he had Michael Owen and Alan Shearer in his squad. Nine months on the former has a long-term injury and the latter has retired. Owen and Shearer have never played together under Roeder - and they never will.
Any club would miss that pair so perhaps it's no great surprise that Newcastle have struggled this season. Roeder's team have sparkled in the Uefa Cup but are currently languishing in the bottom three of the Premiership. St. James' Park is no longer a stronghold and results on the road do not inspire confidence ahead of Saturday's trip to Emirates Stadium.
Few men are better placed to assess Arsenal's next opponents than Alan Oliver. He's covered the Magpies for the Newcastle Evening Chronicle since 1980 and has seen a dozen managers come and go in that period. In an interview with Arsenal.com, Oliver explains why Roeder needs more time, why Newcastle are crying out for a goalscorer and why he can't see beyond a home win on Saturday.
THE STORY SO FAR
"Newcastle are in the bottom three but hadn't actually played that badly until they lost to Sheffield United last week. They were slaughtered 2-0 at Manchester United but they were always in the game at Liverpool when they also lost 2-0. They were one-up against Fulham and in no real trouble but Fulham scored twice late on. Bolton scored twice in a minute. Newcastle have panicked at times but it's hard to really put your finger on why it's gone wrong. They've played 22 games already this season because there have been 10 cup ties, eight of which Newcastle have won. They won in Palermo, they beat Fenerbahce, but they have struggled in the Premiership. Glenn Roeder has had a rough deal. The money isn't there for him and he's only bought two players whereas Graeme Souness had around £50 million to spend and used a lot of that buying Jean-Alain Boumsong and Albert Luque. There's a campaign on some of the message boards to get Luque back in the side but he hasn't done well up here and Boumsong has been transferred now."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Scott Parker. He is a fantastic captain, he's been leading the team. You can't ask for anyone to drive the team forward more. He gives fantastic team talks but he is not getting enough of a response."
"They miss Alan Shearer terribly. To be fair when we we talk about Newcastle's problems we don't really talk about Shearer because he is no longer a Newcastle player, but they have had terrible luck with strikers. Michael Owen got injured in June and you cannot begin to believe what a blow that is. A study was done up here about Newcastle's predicted position if Owen had played every game this season. With the chances they create they would be third. The plan was to link up Shola Ameobi with Owen - the big man, small man combination - but it has not been possible. Now Ameobi is going to Colorado on Monday for an operation on his hip. Owen has scored seven goals in 10 starts but he's played so few games for the club that many people don't even identify him as a Newcastle player. Generally, Newcastle lack physical presence up front. When they had Shearer he could put himself about a bit and this must be the first time Newcastle haven't had a natural goalscorer since Micky Quinn in the late 1980s. They've had loads since then - Kelly, Peacock, Shearer, Ferdinand, Beardsley - but none at the moment. They have Obafemi Martins but he needs time to settle in because he's a young Nigerian lad living in a new country."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"St. James' Park used to be a stronghold but that has gone because they can't score goals at the moment.. Hopefully they can get over it though. I've done this job since 1980 and seen 12 or 13 managers, but I'd like to see Newcastle stick with Glenn Roeder because he's had a raw deal and he's got a feel for the club because he was a player and a coach here. If the Premiership results don't improve there will be pressure on Roeder but the fans have stuck with him. It's difficult to take. When you wake up in the morning the first thing you think of is Newcastle United and it's the last thing you think of when you go to bed."
"Emre is suspended and Nicky Butt could come in to play on Saturday which is no bad thing. He plays a different type of role. They've got to decide between recalling Shay Given now he's fit or staying with Steve Harper, who has been fantastic apart from that slip at Liverpool when Xabi Alonso scored. That could happen to anybody. Apart from that Celestine Babayaro is injured and Steven Carr is struggling so Roeder will have to play two centre backs at full back - Steven Taylor and Peter Ramage."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Arsenal have injuries but no matter what team they turn out they should win on Saturday. I saw them play against Liverpool last weekend and I've never been more apprehensive about a Newcastle game. It's a new stadium, a 60,000 crowd and I fear the worst. Other teams have gone there, defended and got a draw but Newcastle never really been that kind of team. Middlesbrough drew at Emirates but they have Woodgate and Huth. It's not the same for Newcastle."
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