Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal: Scrappy Victory

There were many that were shocked when they saw Theo Walcott starting ahead of Oliver Giroud against Newcastle, but many were applauding the inclusion of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I know the game was extremely tough and we didn’t create too much but I believe it was the right squad 11 vs 11.

We had Laurent Koscielny back in central defence alongside Gabriel, two rather similar players but absolute warriors. Not long into the first half we should have had a penalty when Bellerin was brought down in the box by Newcastle newboy Thauvin. The only reasoning I can conceive as to why it wasn’t given is due to the referees line of vision being impaired.

Newcastle then opted to play rugby for the remainder of the first half with some ludicrous fouls in quick succession. Sissoko picked up a yellow for going studs first into Monreal’s shin, then not long after Mitrovic decided to do the same to Coquelin. He was shown an instant red card. The referee showing he was card happy in order to reduce the amount of dangerous challenges. This was not to be the last of it though, especially on Coquelin.

Our game plan was obvious, lure the Newcastle players out of position and play Theo in behind the defence, and utilise the pace of Alexis and Chamberlain outside him. This game plan went out the window when the red card was shown as it changed the entire dynamic of the game. Newcastle were going to sit deep with the objective to not lose and try to hit us on the counter if possible. This does not change the fact that we need a new striker, as in my opinion Theo Walcott is not a central striker. Walcott, in my mind, is an attacking wide man.

Frustration grew throughout the entire first half due to the fact we got the edge of the penalty area then either passed it sideways, backwards or just gave the ball away trying to thread it through 5-6 Newcastle players. Everyone knows that against a defensive 10 man team you need to be patient but we were trying the same thing over and over again with no positive outcome. There was a lack of drive, urgency and effort. We were trying to pull players out of position but we were playing far too slow to do so.

We eventually managed to go 1 nil up thanks to a deflected Chamberlain effort shortly into the second half. Then the game resorted back to more of the same of the first half. There was a great chance at the end for Giroud, when he came on, which saw him try to be too clever and lob Krul but it was an easy save. A top striker should be finishing that chance.

People were moaning that we lack creativity without Mesut Ozil but we managed to create 22 attempts at goal and 9 shots on target with the team that played. The problem is our finishing and ruthlessness in front of goal and converting those chances/efforts. We attack as if we know we will get another chance and it doesn’t really matter if we miss, which is totally the wrong attitude. If we want to be true title contenders then we need to be converting our chances. What if we don’t get another goal scoring opportunity in the game? What if we get a red card? Make the most of the chances and be ruthless, we lack that killer up front.

Here are Wenger’s comments after the match:

You play away from home, 11 against 10, and you know that they will play 15 yards deeper, you play 10 against nine in the final third, the crowd is behind their team which puts pressure on the referee, and then it’s very difficult. We didn’t find the space. They defended well and they’ve shown why they didn’t concede at Manchester United as well. We are happy to have the three points and to win 1-0.

 

On whether we will be active in the transfer window:

“We are open and we are in the transfer market. If we find an exceptional player in any sector, we will do it. At the moment I don’t know if something will happen or not. We’re working on it, I’m not any more or less optimistic than I was last week. You always want more goalscorers, but it’s unpredictable.”

 

I really hope we do sign a player in a position that is lacking, such as a defensive midfielder or a striker.  But be prepared for disappointment as you know how transfer windows are for us Gooners. It wouldn’t just be great for the squad but it would lift the fans and lift the squad morale.

Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: Birthday double for Santi

How much did we need that emphatic win to lift the team and fans spirits? It will do wonders going into the Liverpool match next week. Especially lining up with an untested back four which turned out to be solid, bar the goal. Debuchy is very competent and centre back and will now hopefully allow us to have better defensive performances. I feel we have missed the Frenchman greatly.

So we lined up with the back four of Bellerin, who was outstanding, Mertesacker, Debuchy and Gibbs. I don’t think they really did much wrong all game apart from the goal we conceded. Mertesacker almost opened the scoring with his flick on from a corner. The midfield consisted of Chamberlain, Cazorla and Flamini. Whilst up front we had Giroud, Alexis and Welbeck.

Bellerin started the move for our first goal by making an interception, Giroud got the ball and fed it out wide to Alexis. It looked like he had over hit the pass and it was either going out or the opportunity had gone, but Alexis got an early cross in which was met by the head of Giroud, after he busted a gut to get in the box.

Only a few moments later we should have been 2-0 up. Welbeck ran into the box from the left and the Newcastle player tripped over his own feet, as Welbeck finished a cheeky little chip past the keeper. The referee deemed he had fouled the defender and disallowed it. At this point the fans in the stadium felt that this could come back to haunt us.

We got our second goal nine minutes into the second half courtesy of, the birthday boy, Santi Cazorla. The diminutive playmaker ran into the box and had every right to go over, and claim a penalty, but he stayed on his feet and chipped the ball past the keeper, who came running out, into the net. Cazorla has long been criticised with his lack of goalscoring but, as mentioned in a few blog posts ago, we play a different system without Wilshere and it suits him well.

We only had to wait four minutes for 3-0 as Bellerin charged down the right side and sent in a low cross towards the near post. Giroud was waiting and had a little stab at the ball, allowed it to roll over his foot, and hit the roof of the net. It was the sort of goal we grew accustomed to seeing RVP score over the years. You could feel the tension in the ground subside after that goal, as surely we couldn’t lose now.

Newcastle struck back, from a free kick, only five minutes after. Colback fired in a mid height cross and it was met by the head of Perez and it nestled into the far corner of Szczesny’s goal. I think Bellerin was the player who was supposed to be marking Perez and maybe a little bit of his inexperience was shown there. But other than that he provided great energy down the right hand side, especially when he ran pretty much the entire length of the pitch beating everyone.

Podolski and, the recently recalled, Coquelin came on to shore the game up and introduce some fresh legs. Whenever Podolski got the ball, no matter what location on the pitch he was, the crowd were hilariously shouting “shoot”. Going into the final minutes, Welbeck got brought down in the box and Santi Cazorla claimed the spot kick responsibility. He done a deft little chip straight down the middle to make it 4-1. Wenger then gave Maitland-Niles a few minutes to run about on the pitch before full time.

There was a lot of support for the manager during the match as “One Arsene Wenger” was belted out. It’s good to see the fans backing their manager and the team, showing it was just a minority of morons who were abusing the manager at Stoke. This doesn’t change my opinion, or plenty of others around me though, that he should heavily consider leaving at the end of the season if a top quality replacement is available.

Quick word on the referee, Lee Mason. He was awful. How Tiote got away with kicking Alexis in the stomach was bewildering. Colback got to take a free kick twice! He tried to play it short but the Newcastle player had wandered off and it was a free ball, so an Arsenal player decided to charge up the pitch but the ref pulled it back and give Colback a second chance. Welbeck’s disallowed goal should have been a goal. Luckily we won comfortably and we didn’t have the ‘referee cost us the game’ excuses come to the forefront.

There were some comments from Robbie Earle about how Cazorla scored his penalty. He claims it was disrespectful of him to score a panenka (that’s the name of the technique Cazorla used) against a young inexperienced keeper. So there is now a respectful and disrespectful way to score a penalty? Cazorla is paid good money to score and create goals, the keeper is on good money to prevent goals. How they score or save them doesn’t really matter as long as they do their job.

This is what Arsene Wenger had to say after the match:

Overall it was a dynamic game where defensively – despite the fact that we were depleted at the back – we were quite solid. Going forward we always looked dangerous. In the end we won in a convincing way. We scored four goals and that was needed. The response was strong after the Stoke City game and let’s go well over Christmas.

 

We now have a week to recover and face a poor Liverpool team.

Newcastle preview: Injuries galore and Gervinho quotes

Just as we had hoped to see Ramsey had started to get back to form, after his outstanding goal against Galatasaray, it turns out he is now injured for four weeks. He has a hamstring injury that he picked up in the Champions League match, which means our only fit, regular, central midfielder is Flamini. Let that sink in for a moment.

Yes we do have Chamberlain who can play there but that is not the position Wenger often plays him in, even though some of his best performances have come from playing in that position. Rosicky, if fit, could come into the squad today since Arteta, Wilshere, Diaby, Ozil and now Ramsey are all out. It’s that bad that we have recalled Coquelin from his loan at Charlton.

Our defence has fallen apart, again. Koscielny will miss the game due to a strained calf and this has led to Wenger making a gamble on Debuchy and asking him to play centre back, a position he has never played before.

“Debuchy has never played there, I asked him already. It will be a gamble. But there is not a massive difference between right-back and centre-back.”

 

Can anyone else see this potentially going completely wrong for us today? I expect we’ll see Bellerin at right back today, Debuchy and Per at centre back with Gibbs at left back.  The midfield, which will most likely be Flamini, Chamberlain and Cazorla, will have to be particularly aware of their defensive responsibilities today.

Up front we will definitely see Alexis Sanchez but then the other two positions could be up for grabs. It is between Podolski, who had a great game against Galatasaray, Welbeck and Giroud. I’d personally start Welbeck and Podolski as they offer some good movement up front. Giroud has also been performing better when coming off the bench after this lengthy time out.

Wenger caused a stir amongst fans on Twitter yesterday with a quote from his press conference.

““Look if everybody is fit and available we don’t need to go on the transfer market.”

People we claiming this as a sign that we will not be buying anyone in January as everyone should be back and fit during this period. I don’t read it like that at all. Wenger knows his squad are extremely injury prone, this year has been worse than ever (which is saying something), and is indirectly saying that he will be buying a player or two this coming transfer window.

Another quote that has raised a few eyebrows has come from Gervinho.

“He [Wenger] never had confidence in me. As a child I dreamed of playing for Arsenal, because I loved them.  Garcia doesn’t differentiate between those who are playing and those who aren’t playing. That’s important for a player. He doesn’t only speak to those who are playing, he talks to everyone as there are 25 players in the squad, not just 11. Now I hate them for the way Wenger treated me. However, I regretted leaving the club after such a short time without being able to show my worth, which I’m now doing at Roma instead.”

 

How Gervinho can say he “hates” the club for the way Wenger treated him and had no confidence in him is laughable. We always questioned why Wenger opted to start Gervinho over other players, does that show a lack of confidence in him? The truth is, Gervinho was never good enough for the Premier League. He was far too lightweight and panicked when in good positions. How many times did we see him beat one man then run round in a circle then try to beat the same man again when he could have passed the ball or run into a better position? How about when he missed from two yards out? How about when he was constantly pushed off the ball with ease. Whenever he was in a shooting position no one expected him to score and knew he would miss. You brought it on yourself mate. Now you are in a slower league with more time and space, you are doing decent so hush please.

Today is going to be a tough game, not just because Newcastle will be on a high from beating Chelsea but also due to our ridiculouslu injury decimated squad. I just want a win today, no matter what.