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Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle: Post-Match Review
“7-3 To The Arsenal!” Let that sink in for a moment…
I don’t know about you, but i’ve only just about got my breath back having witnessed what was a truly awe-inspiring game of football that took place in North London just a few hours before I began writing this. With 10 goals in all and 7 for The Arsenal alone, this match between Arsenal and Newcastle, as you will have already gathered, was a special one. It’s fair to say that the prospect of a resurgent Arsenal side facing a struggling Newcastle outfit at the Emirates was a tantalising enough prospect in itself for Gooners, but nobody could have foreseen the match panning out the way it did.
In the last couple of seasons, Arsenal v Newcastle has been a closely contested affair, the most notable of recent meetings being the famous 8 goal thriller at St James’ Park in 2011 (4-4). Having led 4-0 in that game and still managing to only come away with a point, many Gooners would have been right in thinking that no matter how many goals we were to score, we’d have to keep one eye over our shoulder at a strong-willed Newcastle side. This view was justified by the first-half exchanges of goals between the two sides. A ‘we score, you score’ pattern started to emerge, and persisted until the Emirates score-boards read 3-3. At this point it seemed that dazzling attack coupled with sloppy defending had paved the way to a similar result to the one afore-mentioned, which occurred in the North East over a year ago. But, fortunately for Gooners, it wasn’t to be. The Arsenal picked up the tempo and severely punished a tired Newcastle side. The magpies were exposed to a Gunning squad, who in the last 15 minutes of the match, fired at will. Without upsetting animal activists with reference to my metaphor, I have to admit, this footballing cull was beautiful to watch.
However, if I am to review this match successfully, I have to point out the negatives and there were negatives. I’m going to get them out of the way, so that I don’t end this piece with a bitter taste. Firstly, there is the glaringly obvious fact that for over an hour, the game could have gone either way. Despite our impressive attacks, in true Arsenal style, we faltered at the back. Our defence fell asleep on a couple of occasions to allow Newcastle a real fighting chance of nicking a win.
The first Newcastle goal, of course, was almost unpreventable. A lucky deflection off, I have to say, an untypical shy-away duck from our passionate midfield talisman, Jack Wilshere. Not his fault, but he would have almost certainly felt so, as is his nature. Newcastle’s second, a tap in at the back post, actually stunned me. How we allowed a man to be unmarked, a yard away from the line at the back post, would have had Bouldy quaking in his custom-fit Nike trainers. Unfortunately, regardless of his stunning attacking play, Gibbs was inescapably worthy of blame for that one, as he tucked in to close to Vermaelen to cover Ba, leaving the back post exposed. Their third goal was a good one from Demba Ba, but it was Gibbs again, caught ball watching this time, who was late to react to the run of the Newcastle striker. All in all, there seemed to be a lack of organisation and a lack of communication in defence. We missed both Mertesacker’s presence and the calm and collectedness he brings to our defence. We also, once again lacked leadership at the back. Yes, I’m looking at you Thomas. The Verminator was again unconvincing as a leading voice in our back line, which surprised me, given his recent improvement and gain in confidence over the previous couple of games.
Anyway, on with the positives. There’s plenty of them!…
I thought that our Midfield showed again today that they are understanding each other more and more with each passing week, and doing so to great effect. Arteta once again played a very professionally disciplined role just behind Jack and Santi, and allowed them the freedom to roam the park, connecting with one another and creating for others. While Cazorla took longer to get into the game than Wilshere, I thought that once he had, he impressed most when he was playing just off Walcott, almost as a 4th forward. At points Santi’s display was reminiscent of his Man Of The Match performance vs Reading. As for Wilshere himself, he was once again a class act. His weaving runs and excellently creative distribution made him one of our stand-out performers. His run into the box, before delicately hanging the ball in the air in front of goal (before Podolski eventually headed in) was simply wonderful to witness.
When a team scores 7 goals, you can’t doubt their ability going forward. After saturday’s result, I can’t doubt Arsenal’s thats for sure. The front 3, no matter who was playing, played exceptionally well, with huge amounts of confidence. The openness of the game was perfectly suited to free-flowing, pace-filled counter-attacking football which was exploited to perfection, initially by the starting front 3 of Podolski, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. I thought that Podolski played exceptionally well and was our main creative force in the first half, which was justified by his early assist for Theo Walcott’s opening goal of the evening. With the ball at his feet, the German played with his head up constantly, whilst off the ball he pressed his man very effectively, winning the ball on more than one occasion. His hard work was re-paid in the second half when he grabbed a scrappy goal after a mesmerising bit of play from Jack Wilshere. It seems that Podolski is guilty of inconsistency in general, but we must remember that this is his first season in the Premier League, and I don’t think that 6 goals and 6 assists in the league so far is too bad.
The Ox once again had a great game on the right wing, adding a very much needed goal to his recent good performances. The Ox is very effective and threatening when he runs at defences, but it’s true to say that he doesn’t provide enough on paper (goals or assists) and he says himself he would like to score more. He would have done his self-confidence the world of good with that smart strike from the edge of the area, which was evident in his passionate celebration.
As for Theo, well, I’m going to talk about him separately after this section, in which case I’ll move on to every Goonerette’s dream man… Oliver Giroud. Oli did incredibly well after coming on, scoring 2 goals in as many minutes and hitting the up-right in the dying seconds. “I’m still here!” seemed to be the message from the Frenchman, reinstating his ability to score goals for this Arsenal team. I think that Giroud caught many Gooners by surprise, having missed a few games with a combination of injury and illness, causing them to check their assumptions that we lack a true goalscorer in this Arsenal side. His performance also puts him in a good mental state for the upcoming tough January fixtures and demonstrates to Arsène that he has a couple of different options in that central role to choose from.
In his third game on the trot as a central striker Theo reminded us all what a fantastic player he really is. From flashes of Thierry Henry to one of the best crosses I’ve seen all season, Walcott both proved his potential as a striker and his progression as a winger. There is no doubt that his performance stole what was already a scintillating show at the Emirates.
Theo’s first goal was evidence of the greatest striker training anyone could ask for, training from the King himself: Thierry Henry. It was widely reported that Thierry was helping Theo in training after joining up with the Arsenal squad during the MLS off-season, something that has become an annual affair. Even Wenger himself said it was the type of goal Henry would have scored.
“The first goal was a Thierry Henry-type goal.” – Arsène Wenger
Walcott is well known to be an idol of the hugely talented, charismatic Frenchman and has once again shown signs that he may well be able to emulate, to a certain extent, Henry’s magic one day.
Theo’s second goal showed yet more composure and quality. His turn and finish were not only executed to perfection, but also with a certain air of calmness which only the very best players can really pull off successfully. However, it was his third goal, and Arsenal’s seventh, that had me on my feet in front of the tele, applauding the young English forward. His daring run oozed confidence, his desire to get up and continue, having been brought down, showed determination and his chip over a then helpless Krul, was a stroke of pure genius. I was in awe.
But it was not just Theo’s goals that impressed me, it was also his provision from the wing when he was moved there to accommodate Giroud. For his second assist of the match, the cross he delivered was sexier than the man who’s head poked the ball into the goal for Arsenal’s fifth. The pace, power and accuracy of the cross took two Newcastle defenders out of the game completely, leaving Oli G to grab his first of the match and can’t be described as anything better than sumptuous. This proved, to me at least, that Theo is still capable of providing from the right wing when needed, and judging by his comments after the match, he understands that may be the case some of the time. That’s good to see.
Of course Theo needs to continue this form and of course this match is not the be-all and end-all of whether he’s worth keeping. However, he has been producing consistently effective performances all season long and I think it would be foolish to even think about replacing something or someone like Theo, that what we already have.
This win was the perfect way to end the calendar year for Arsenal, both the team and the fans. Goals galore it may have been, but it needs to be viewed as a springboard for a very tough, packed January schedule. We face Southhampton (a), Swansea (FA cup + a), Man City (h), Chelsea (a) and Liverpool (h) PLUS the possibility of an FA Cup 4th round tie and a rearranged West Ham (h) fixture, all in one month. We have some momentum now more than we’ve ever had this season, so lets keep it going and start to make 2013 a year to remember.