Newcastle United Vs Arsenal, Sat 13 Aug 2011

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Winger Hatem Ben Arfa is Newcastle boss Alan Pardew's only injury absentee for their opening Barclays Premier League clash with Arsenal.

The Frenchman is around five to six weeks away from a return to action after damaging his left ankle - the leg in which he suffered a double fracture last season - during a pre-season friendly against Sporting Kansas City.

Mike Williamson (broken arm) and Danny Guthrie and Shane Ferguson (both ankle) are fit, but Pardew has revealed Ferguson will not start as a direct replacement for Liverpool-bound left-back Jose Enrique after only just returning to full training, while transfer-listed Joey Barton must assure the manager of his commitment if he is to be selected.

Dan Gosling is desperate to make up for lost time as he prepares to launch his Newcastle career in earnest against Arsenal tomorrow evening.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who joined the club from Everton last summer, has made just one brief appearance to date - as a late substitute in the 1-1 derby draw at Sunderland in January - as a result of the knee injury with which he arrived.

But having recovered from the setback which followed his involvement at the Stadium of Light and safely negotiated pre-season, he is finally ready to make an impact at St James' Park after a gruelling fight for fitness.

Gosling admitted: "It was really hard for me. Some of the sessions were tough and there were some dark days where I didn't think I could do it, but I got through it.

"The physios were really good with me, all the other lads were good as well and I had my family encouraging me all the time.

"It was tough, but I managed to come through it and I'm just glad it's all behind me now.

"I got a couple of minutes at Sunderland - and we conceded as well, so it wasn't a memorable couple of minutes.

"But I am looking forward to the season and hopefully I can have a bigger impact this year."

Cesc Fabregas has been omitted from Arsenal's squad while Samir Nasri faces a fitness test.

Fabregas has been left out due to a lack of match fitness, according to manager Arsene Wenger, while Nasri is suffering from an illness and will be monitored.

Robin van Persie (knee) and Kieran Gibbs (thigh) face fitness tests today but Theo Walcott and Thomas Vermaelen return to the squad. Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Abou Diaby (ankle) are definitely out.

Fabregas has been agitating for a move to Barcelona, the club he left as a 16-year-old in 2003, for the past two summers but Nasri's desire to leave emerged far more recently.

The prospect of losing arguably his two best players must be daunting for Wenger, but the 61-year-old insists replacements can be found if necessary.

"We are all replaceable. All the cemeteries are full of replaceable people," he said.

"But you do not want to lose big players, we fight to have big players so you do not want to lose them.

"I'm not disappointed in Cesc's behaviour. My personal feelings are not important. I take nothing personally.

"I have not been disappointed by Cesc's attitude and not by Samir's attitude. They have both been professional.

"The transfer speculation is disruptive but not an excuse. We have to deal with that, it is part of our job. People come in and out.

"We have had speculation every year. I believe it is part of our job and we have to deal with that."

Wenger denied losing the duo would mean Arsenal are no longer a big club.

"Manchester United let (Cristiano) Ronaldo go, do you think they are not a big club?"

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Danny Guthrie
Robin Van Persie
Joey Barton
Hatem Ben Arfa
Kieran Gibbs
Thomas Vermaelen
Mike Williamson
Premier League
Jose Enrique
Shane Ferguson
Jack Wilshere
Dan Gosling
Theo Walcott
Samir Nasri

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