Monday, December 31, 2012

Arsenal 7 Newcastle 3

It was hilarious that Arsenal supporters at the Emirates were signing "Boring Boring Arsenal" at the end of the game. Being Arsenal supporters, we are often treated to entertaining games (perhaps too thrilling for our liking) and this was nearly as crazy as the 7-5 Capital One Cup win over Reading.

Most of pundits seemed to have predicted an Arsenal win, primarily based on a home side's advantage of extra days' rest thanks to a postponed Boxing Day clash with West Ham. Also, the form guide suggested the same outcome as Arsenal were looking for a fourth consecutive league win, while Newcastle were yet to win a game away from home. On the other hand, Arsene Wenger stated that he would have preferred playing in order to keep the momentum going on the back of three Premier League wins on the bounce. Besides, Newcastle still had a good team despite an injury crisis to their key players, including creative midfielders Cabaye and Ben Arfa, as well as the suspension of their centre-back, Williamson. Tiote's return after serving a one-match ban was also a worry for us. All Arsenal fans knew that this was not going to be an easy game.

Arsene Wenger only made a forced change to his side who started in their 1-0 victory over Wigan at the DW Stadium. Lauren Koscielny came in for Per Mertesacker due to the German's illness. Theo Walcott continued in his preferred central striking role.

Giroud's introduction was always on the card after he recovered from illness, which prevented him from taking part in the last game. The boss said that Theo's playing up front would add to his game, combined with his experience in playing on the wing. When the France striker came on the pitch, Wenger's words were confirmed. Giroud's 74th-minute introduction was not a straight swap with Theo. The Ox came off the pitch instead, which signalled the 23-year-old Englishman's shift to the right wing. Walcott provided two assists for Giroud from the right flank, one of which was a pin-point cross. He went on to score his third goal of the night to show that he has those attributes required for playing up front, e.g., tenacity, skills to beat defenders, composure, and clinical finish.

Walcott contract saga is no longer a matter of one player's future at the Club, but is now regarded as an important statement by the Club regarding their direction and ambition. Losing another key player and our current leading goalscorer would send a detrimental message to the inside and outside of Arsenal FC. Although if he is worth 100k a week or changing the Club's wage structure remains a question, the Club need to make him sign a new contract.

Arsenal went in front three times and every time Newcastle came back. At 4-3 with nearly 20 minutes left to play, we thought there would be plenty of time for a few more goals for either side at this rate. Fortunately for us, Newcastle seemed to have run of energy to come back one more time and goals arrived on our side. With Giroud's introduction and two more goals added to the scoreline, the game became a lot easier for us. Walcott's hat-trick was the icing on the cake.

The change in Arsenal's game we hailed in the West Brom match was present again. Wenger's men tried to break quickly with no more pondering and probing passes around the edge of the box. To our surprise, Arsenal's possession rate was a mere 44% in this game. Some fans say that they've had their Arsenal back, but the stats tell us it is more like we have a new Arsenal.

When RVP left us in summer, everybody questioned Arsenal's goalscoring ability. Since the beginning of the season, we have scored 63 goals in 28 games in comparison with 50 goals from 30 games at the same time last season. Our three new signings produced a total of 25 goals (Cazorla: 7, Podolski: 9 and Giroud: 9) in all competitions, while Theo has already scored more goals (14) than he did in the entire last season (11). This game highlighted the fact that we have plenty of firepower in our current squad.

The only negative from this game was three goals we conceded. We need to address the defensive shortcomings, for which the two full-backs were largely culpable.

Arsenal ended a very difficult year on a high. Let's hope they will continue with their good run of form. They should be full of confidence after four straight league wins, but hopefully they will not be complacent against the next opponents who failed to move out of the relegation zone on Saturday after allowing Stoke to come back from 3-1 down to share the spoils. It will be a different game to their earlier encounter this season at the Emirates which ended in Arsenal's 6-1 win.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 7
His goal-keeping was relatively sound, despite being beaten on three occasions, but his distribution left something to be desired.

Sagna: 6
His needless foul on Obertan brought a free-kick, which subsequently led to Newcastle's first goal. The France international, who used to be known for giving 100% in every game, didn't appear his old self in this game. As his contract issue crops up on the paper, it makes you wonder if he is already on his way out.

Koscielny: 7
Did OK.

Vermaelen: 7

Gibbs: 6
Good going forward. Nearly scored, but he was guilty for both of Newcastle's second-half goals. He wasn't even aware where Demba Ba was. Hopefully, he will learn from his mistakes, but we really need another left-back who challenges Gibbs' place in the starting XI. Santos is not the answer.

Cazorla: 7
Although he didn't score, he often made parallel runs with Walcott, one of which could have been more fruitful only if Walcott had made a decent pass to him. Made an effort which drew a powerful save from Krul.

Arteta: 7
Consistent as usual.

Wilshere: 8
We thought he was unlucky to divert Ba's free-kick into his own net at the time, but post-match analyses told us that he should have charged the ball down instead of turning his back to it. On the positive side, he made good runs, one of which led to Podolski's goal. Overall, he had a good game.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
Scored his first league goal since February from the edge of the box. Glad to see him score. He has been trying to take shots in the recent games and we like his direct approach. This goal should boost his confidence and encourage him to continue his effort.

Walcott: 9
He scored three classy goals. If his first goal was Henry-esque, his third was a Messi-style goal.

Podolski: 8
Had a good game. Worked hard both defensively and offensively. Set up Walcott's first goal by picking him up on the left-hand side and scored a goal from the close range, which was a kind of goal Arsenal were missing.


Giroud: 8
Made a difference when he came on the pitch in the 74th minute by scoring two goals. He is labelled as a static striker because of his role as a target man and a lack of pace, but he was mobile in this game and his movement is usually good with or without ball.

Ramsey: 7
Ramsey haters, you cannot fault his performance for this game. He made two key passes, one of which could have led to a goal, if Giroud's shot hadn't hit the cross bar. His passing success rate was 100% (although he only made 6 passes in his 8-minute-plus-injury-time appearance).

Coquelin: 6
Replaced Cazorla in the 86th minute to see off a victory.

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