Within 10 minutes the gulf in class between the two sides was clearly established. The first thought in my head was, how did a Chelsea side consisting of players like Anelka, Terry, Benayoun, Zhirkov, Ramirez, and Ferreira lose against Newcastle at home? The answer seems to be that their kids were not very good and they didn’t play with the right mentality.
Arsenal didn’t have either of those problems. The fringe players, it seems unfair to call talented players like Rosicky that, at Arsenal are probably better than those at any club in England and there is no doubt everyone was fired up and ready to perform.
The game started at a high tempo and our pressing forced Williamson into an error within the first minute. Vela had an excellent chance but couldn’t really get a clean strike on goal. Before the clock could show a minute on the board Arsenal had a couple of good chances from a Corner. Bendtner’s initial shot was blocked and his follow up effort was easily collected by the keeper.
In the first ten minutes Arsenal created three or four other openings but the finishing didn’t match up to the quality of the build up play.
After that period the game settled into a rhythm that one would have expected from the start. Newcastle were better organized and Arsenal had to work hard to open their defence. The hosts managed to create a couple of chances of their own with the help of the long ball.
Arsenal Centre Backs were caught napping when the youngster Ranger burst down the middle to latch on to a long punt. Szczesny came out but didn’t get the ball. There seemed to be a foul on Ranger either from Djourou and/or from Szczesny but he tried to regain his balance. That allowed Koscielny the opportunity to get between the striker and the open net. An excellent interception by the Polish Frenchman thwarted the Arsenal supporting Newcastle kid from opening the scoring.
Soon after, Alan Smith tested Szczesny with a thunderbolt and my stream wasn’t good enough to see whether the youngster got a touch or not.
On the other end Arsenal were creating plenty of chances but most of them resulted in simple saves or Corners.
It looked like a stalemate will be carried into half-time when Arsenal got a goal out of nowhere. Walcott sent in a deep Corner and the Keeper came out for it but missed. The ball was headed by an Arsenal player (couldn’t really see due to the quality of the stream) towards Bendtner who got an excellent header towards goal. Eastmond, or was is Koscielny, did enough to distract the goalkeeper and the ball went through his legs. The man on the line headed it back out but it went in off the back of the Keeper’s head. Cruel on Krul perhaps.
It was a funny/scrappy goal to watch but gave us an advantage going into the break.
It was good to see Arsenal come out focused and motivated to score more. We got the reward for our efforts under controversial circumstances when Walcott doubled the lead eight minutes after the restart.
A long ball (goal kick?) was headed forward by Sagna and that allowed Theo to get in behind the Newcastle defenders who were pushing forward. There is no doubt Walcott would have scored but there was some controversy as Bendtner collided with Williamson who was trying to chase back.
I think the ref did a good job of letting it go as he’d allowed the defender to get away with a similar collision early in the game when Bendtner was making an attacking run to support Theo who had gotten in behind on the right. One could debate that both decisions were incorrect but I was happy the ref showed a great deal of consistency.
I’m not sure Walcott himself was onside as replays showed he was marginally behind the defender when the header was made.
After the second goal Chris Hughton brought on Gutierrez and Carroll. Arsenal continued to play the tippy-tappy game and frustrated the home side. After the hour mark I thought our level dropped a bit and it allowed Newcastle the opportunity to build some pressure.
There was some anxiety in the way Arsenal were playing/defending and the crowd were urging the hosts forward. They created many half chances but our defenders did really well on most occasions. Szczesny was barely tested until the final few minutes.
Despite being down to second gear Arsenal created a number of counter attacking opportunities but the final ball was lacking. The game was settled in the 83rd minute when an alert Cesc stole the ball just inside the Newcastle half and played it out to Bendtner. The striker scored with a sublime finish bending the ball into the far corner. It reminded me of “The Curler” that was discussed in the comments section of a previous article.
Late on Walcott ran on to a through ball from Koscielny to pick up his second and Szczesny made a couple of impressive saves to keep a clean sheet.
Just like the previous game against City, this wasn’t a perfect performance but it was much more than good enough. You don’t win by 4 goals and keep a clean sheet in a tough away game if you don’t play well. Some players made mistakes but others were there to cover for them, we missed some chances but we created a lot more, that’s just what we need.
I’m afraid I didn’t have a good enough stream so there might be some mistakes here. Please let me know if I missed some events or got some players wrong.
Szczesny: Confident display from the youngster with a couple of excellent saves. He did look uncertain when he came out early on and didn’t get the ball, but we can’t blame him for that. Defenders put him in a spot and then they bailed him out. I don’t want to make long term statements from one performance but I won’t be worried if he has to come on from the bench in a big game.
Eboue: Made some excellent runs but the finish/final ball was poor. Did a decent job defensively. With a little more concentration and better decision making he can be a big player but I’m not sure if he will be able to achieve that. Looked at ease in an unfamiliar left back role.
Djourou: Looked a bit shaky initially and had trouble with some long balls. Settled well as the game progressed. Made some important interceptions as the game went on. Won a number of important headers. Strong defensive presence on set pieces.
Koscielny: Another one who had a shaky moment or two early on. Exceptional reading of the game and we can see why he topped the French league interception charts. Brilliant defending in one-v-one situations. Very composed and confident on the ball. Played some intelligent and accurate long balls as well. I know it won’t be a popular choice but he was my pick for MotM.
Gibbs: Started well but picked up an injury early on. Hopefully it won’t be very serious.
Eastmond: Worked hard and chased the ball well. Also made some decent tackles. Didn’t look very confident in tight areas and should have helped the defence better when we were under pressure. Gave the ball away on a few occasions.
Denilson: Did a good job of keeping the game ticking but it was a patchy performance. Went missing for a while when the defence was being tested. Another one who lost the ball under pressure on more than one occasion. I thought playing with Eastmond left him exposed as both of them have similar weaknesses.
Rosicky: Was pulling the strings for the first hour or so. Looked at a different technical level than anyone else on the pitch in that period. Dropped deep often and played some good forward balls splitting the defence. Good to see him complete the 90 minutes.
Walcott: two excellent finishes (3 shots, 3 on target, 2 goals), some amazing runs, a couple of misplaced crosses, decent defensive tracking – Theo is back. Probably will be the popular choice for MotM.
Bendtner: Looked hungry and sharp. Worked harder than we’ve seen in the past. Used his physical presence well. Made a couple of excellent runs from the left with excellent close control. 6 shots, 5 on target, one fantastic goal.
Vela: Didn’t look very confident in the initial part of the game. Did a decent job on the left but could have done better with his crosses and runs.
Subs: Sagna made some uncharacteristic errors, I’m not sure he’s fully recovered from his injury. Cesc got a good run out and picked up an assist in the process. I thought Arsene made a good tactical substitution by bringing him on as Newcastle were beginning to dominate at that time. Fabregas brought in a strong presence in the middle and a great deal of composure. JET didn’t get enough time.
Again on a side note, I’d like to mention that all our goals in the second half came from uncomplicated football and minimum passes. It happens when we get wide open spaces. These are times when you realize some people are too eager to jump to conclusions or to form theories about the way Arsenal play.