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Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0: One Foot Away From Champions League Qualification

Arsenal vs. Newcastle United: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

Emirates Stadium (Premier League)

Arsenal: Koscielny 26′, Ozil 41, Giroud 67′

Player Ratings via Evening StandardMatch HighlightsWenger’s Press Conference

After a frantic wait, the Gunners finally had a golden opportunity to give themselves some breathing space in the race for Champions League qualification after Everton stumbled against Southampton on Saturday. As expected, Arsene Wenger fielded an unchanged lineup from the side that was victorious against Hull but the dugout had a lot of quality options.

Arsenal came out of their shells early with some ‎intricate passing play between Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla . When the ball fell to Lukas Podolski’s feet, the Emirates held its breath as the fans expected another thunderbolt from that evil left foot of his but he chose to tee up Nacho Monreal whose cross was blocked.

After Ozil had lashed a shot just wide off the mark, Ramsey and Giroud connected well to instigate an attack but the final ball from Ramsey didn’t match his French teammate’s expectations. Shortly afterwards, Moussa Sissoko went all Messi on the Arsenal defense but his effort was blasted over the bar.

Arsenal broke the deadlock when Laurent Koscielny latched on to a Santi Cazorla cross to fire the ball past Tim Krul. It had the same Shaolin soccer style of last season but Arsenal fans didn’t care. Podolski had another half chance that was saved but Newcastle almost got an equalizer when Cheick Tiote blasted a shot that was smothered by Szczesny. Ozil’s deft touch to Bacary Sagna saw the fullback surge forward before crossing a ball that was blocked before it reached Giroud’s path.

Giroud had the chance to make it two but after he went sent clean on goal, he blasted the ball straight at Krul before firing another shot that deflected off Krul to Ozil’s path. With such a gift coming on a platter, the German schemer graciously accepted it, blasting the ball into an unguarded net.

Mesut Ozil goal

Ozil then chose to wow the crowd with a magnificent piece of individual skill, leaving poor ol’ Gouffran to eat his dust.

Santi Cazorla had a chance to make it three but he blasted his effort over the bar. This season, the goals haven’t flowed for the Spanish magician as his last goal for the club came in the 2-2 draw against Southampton, a period when he was going through a purple patch of goalscoring form.

Koscielny lurked on the blind side of the Newcastle defense but his tame shot was some way off his intended target. On the other end, Remy teed up Gouffran that saw off the challenge of Koscielny before blasting his shot straight at Szczesny. Arsenal hit the final nail in Newcastle’s coffin when Ramsey threaded a neat ball to Ozil that wasted no time in lofting a cross for Giroud. The Frenchman obliged with a good header that left Krul for dead.

Ozil was pulling all the strings in midfield and he cushioned a pass for Podolski that was hit with a first-timed shot but the ball sailed wide off the mark. The manager chose to bring on the experienced heads of Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini for Ozil and Ramsey. At the death, Yaya Sanogo replaced Giroud. The French lad almost had a chance to score his maiden Arsenal goal but the offside flag spared Newcastle’s blushes.

Late on, there was a penalty claim for Rosicky that fell on deaf ears and Arteta fashioned a chance for Monreal that was fired straight at the goalie, while Sanogo was free. Podolski’s rebound hit the roof of the net.

This victory puts Arsenal in pole position for Champions League qualification at the expense of Everton, that have put up a good fight all season long. Credit to Roberto Martinez for proving his worth in a better team than Wigan. Lest I forget,

Sayonara

Bonus Reading: Ranking the Last 18 St. Totteringham’s Days by James McNicholas of Bleacher Report.

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Arsenal vs. Newcastle Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger

The drama in the Premier League continued on both ends of the table as Fulham blew their chances of coming out of the bottom three after dropping points against Hull. Sunderland capitalized on that error with a win over fellow strugglers, Cardiff, to breath some fresh air above relegation waters. At the top, Liverpool threw open the title race with a loss to Chelsea, and with Manchester City getting a win against high-flying Crystal Palace, it’s going down the wire for the Premier League trophy.

Tonight, the business of the day remains Champions League qualification and with Everton capitulating in grand style against Southampton, Arsenal has a chance of going four points clear with a win against the out-of-sorts Newcastle. Since Alan Pardew’s infamous headbutt incident that saw him sanctioned with a seven-game ban, Newcastle has lost six of these games and he’ll get a chance to return to the dugout tonight at the Emirates, a ground he got spanked 7-3 last season.

29 12 2013 GifNumber 36 1 0 to the Arsenal: Olivier Giroud v Newcastle [GIF]

Giroud scored the only goal when both sides met this season

Newcastle’s cause wouldn’t be helped with the fact that Arsenal’s record at home this season has been good and the Gunners have not lost a game at the Emirates in the League since the opening day defeat to Aston Villa back in August 2013. Arsenal have scored in all but two of their home league matches this season – the exceptions were 0-0 draws with Chelsea & Man Utd.

Pardew has vowed to change his team’s fortunes in his return to the touchline,

“I think I will sit down a little bit more, but I still will be on the touchline,” he said. “It’s important that the team sees I’m there – we are a team and I am part of that.

“I have thought about my situation going forward and I think I will be better for it.”

Seeing a manager headbutt a player was a very shameful incident and I hope he has learned his mistakes. On the other side of the divide, it seems as if Arsene Wenger is set to extend his stay at the club, despite the speculation that he would be calling it quits at the end of the season,

“Look, I have said that many times already, I have given my word to this club and that I want to continue where I am…That means to stay.”

However, Wenger’s focus would be on tonight’s game and he would be hoping that his team would put up a good performance that would see them a breather from Everton.

Arsenal have won their last four league matches against Newcastle and are unbeaten in six against the Magpies. However, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four home matches in the Premier League. Newcastle on the other hand, has scored just one goal in their last five league matches, and conceded 14 in that time. They have also scored a meager 10 goals in 2014, the lowest for any team in the Premier League.

To injuries, Thomas Vermaelen is set to return from his injury outlay but the Gunners would be without Gibbs, Miyaichi (both hamstring), Gnabry (knee), Diaby, Walcott (both knee), Wilshere (foot). Newcastle also have their injury problems to contend with as Sa Ameobi (ankle), Ben Arfa (dead leg), Obertan, R Taylor (both knee), Santon (hamstring) are out of action.

I envisage that the Gunners would start with their usual 4-2-3-1 tactical setup.

Arsenal 4-2-3-1 football formation As expected, Szczesny would keep his place in goal and I also don’t expect the back line to change after successfully keeping a clean sheet against Hull. With Vermaelen fully fit, I would expect him to start from the dugout with Nacho Monreal retaining his place.

In central midfield, Mathieu Flamini is available from his suspension but I expect him to return to the team with Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta working well together. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Mesut Ozil is returning to full fitness and I would be hopeful for an improved performance in the attacking midfield slot but he would have Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla providing width from the flanks. Olivier Giroud would play up front on his own as it as always been this season.

 

 

 

 

Newcastle United 4-4-2 football formation

For Newcastle, their injury worries would be softened with the fact that Loic Remy is on his way to full fitness and they would be expecting him to add some firepower to their attack even if the goals have been drying up for the mercurial French forward.

 

Fabricio Coloccini and Mark Williamson have been part of a woeful defense that has been conceding goals from all corners of the Earth and I feel the trend will continue tomorrow with the kind of attacking talents the Gunners have in their disposal.

 

Cheick Tiote will do his bit to protect his back line and he will be supported by Vurnon Anita. The French duo of Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko will maraud the flanks to support Remy and Shola Amoebi.

The referee is Neil Swarbrick and he has brandished 63 yellow cards and no red card in the 18 games he has officiated this season. Maybe Tiote might break the ref’s red card duck if he decides to go all gung ho on Arsenal’s attacking midfielders.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

 

 

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Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1: Post-Match Thoughts and Player Ratings

13/14: West Ham 1-3 Arsenal - Olivier Giroud

The Gunners ended a great year on a high defeating a Newcastle side that was in a superb run of form, winning seven from nine games in the Premier League. All it took was a stunning header from Olivier Giroud (thanks heavens, he has finally scored!!!) from a Theo Walcott assist and the Gunners held on to seal a victory that sent them back to the top of the Premier League on the halfway mark.

In his post-match press conference Arsene Wenger was delighted about the team’s resilience and mental strength but his hands were a bit tied in terms of selection. Mesut Ozil missed the game because of an inflamed shoulder and he would be odds on to miss the New Year’s day clash against Cardiff. Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal fell ill but luckily, Laurent Koscielny returned to the fray alongside the BFG.

Listed below are the Gooner Daily player ratings for Arsenal’s victors in St. James Park:

Wojciech Szczesny: The big Pole dominated his area by coming out to claim some tricky crosses and he also made some outstanding saves in the course of the game. 7/10

Bacary Sagna: Sagna had a stellar performance and kept the free-scoring Yoann Gouffran at bay all game long. His distribution wasn’t as sleek as it has been in recent times but it was a great performance from the French fullback. We need to sort out his contract soon. 8/10

Kieran Gibbs: Gibbs struggled initially after being stretched by Mathieu Debuchy but as the game progressed, he found his footing. Like Sagna, his output in the final third wasn’t all that till he was replaced by Mikel Arteta in the second half. 6/10

Per Mertesacker: The captain of the day put up another exemplary performance in the heart of Arsenal’s defense, using his height to great effect as well as making those trademark Merteceptions. 8/10

Laurent Koscielny: After missing two games with a gashed knee, the unsung hero joined forces with his right hand man and they became a tight-knit bunch in the defense. With performances like this that culminated into another clean sheet, one can agree that it would take only injury or suspension to bring Thomas Vermaelen back into the side. 8/10

Mathieu Flamini: The Flanimal was a rather surprising inclusion ahead of Arteta but he justified his selection with another rugged performance protecting his back line with an iron fist. His utility was on show again when he was drafted as an auxiliary left back to accommodate Arteta in the middle of the park. 8/10

Jack Wilshere: Many (I included) had thought that Aaron Ramsey’s absence in midfield would offer Wilshere a chance to strut his stuff in his favored box-to-box midfield role but despite “fresher” than any of his teammates on the pitch, Jackie Boy put up a rather sub-standard performance and his passing was very erratic. He needs to step up his game or he’d find himself a warm cozy spot on the bench when everyone is fully fit. 5/10

Tomas Rosicky: One tends to wonder if Rosicky is really 33. His work rate, tackling and energy were the major highlights of his performance but he didn’t really offer much from an attacking perspective, despite playing as the creative hub of the team. 7/10

Santi Cazorla: After giving the fans a glimpse of the old Santi Cazorla on Boxing Day against West Ham, the diminutive Spaniard put up a rather subdued performance and failed to make his mark on the game. He’s really struggling on the left wing this season but I don’t see him displacing Ozil from the No. 10 role anytime soon. 6/10

Theo Walcott: Walcott was a somewhat peripheral player in the course of the game but he had his moments of immense quality as he provided a neat assist for Giroud and almost scored another but was stopped by the woodwork. The stunning thing about Walcott’s play this season is that you won’t feel his impact in the course of the game but in one moment he provides a clinical edge, which becomes a potent weapon. 7/10

Olivier Giroud:

29 12 2013 GifNumber 36 1 0 to the Arsenal: Olivier Giroud v Newcastle [GIF]

That was a moment that Giroud needed and you could see the relief in his celebration. Strikers are judged on goals and when a drought sets in, it clearly affects their confidence. Hopefully, this would spur him on to have a great 2014 with his team but he’d be mindful of the club’s dealings in the January transfer window. 7/10

Mikel Arteta: Came in for Gibbs and added some solidity to the midfield as you would expect from the imperious Lego-haired Spaniard. 7/10

Carl Jenkinson and Nicklas Bendtner didn’t play long enough to get ratings.

Do you agree or disagree with Gooner Daily’s post match thoughts and match ratings?

Feel free to share them with your comments below.

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In other news, I finished the Canon Crested Arsenal Prediction League in second place and I’m getting a price soon, but a new season starts in January and it would be a good opportunity for more Gooners to join the Prediction League to win amazing prices. For further enquiries contact @CanonCrested and you can also visit the site

You can also join the Gooner Daily Fantasy Premier League, where the top three players win cash prizes at the end of the season but the winner also walks away with a branded jersey of his choice and it would be delivered to him anywhere in the world. To join the Gooner Daily FPL 2013/14, create a team in the Fantasy Premier League site, click on “join league” and insert this code,

971894-486230

Sayonara.

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Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1: Kos the Boss, Champions League Football, St. Totteringham’s Day

Kos scores the match winner on the final day of the season. Deja fucking Vu

The nerves were tingling, the stage was set and the curtain was closing on the 2012/13 Premier League season as Arsenal marched out one final time with their destiny clinging on the result after 90 minutes. Elsewhere, Tottenham hosted Sunderland while Chelsea hosted Everton in David Moyes’ final game as Toffees boss before he embarks on a new adventure as Manchester United’s manager.

Many Arsenal fans (me included) had hoped for the manager would tweak things a bit from the team that ran riot against Wigan. With Mikel Arteta suffering an injury last time out, I gave some permutations on his possible replacements. I also voiced my concerns about Lukas Podolski’s recent outings through the middle as he had not convinced me enough that he was up to the task.

Even if a part of me believed that Podolski’s brace was enough to keep him in the side, I was astonished when I saw Arteta leading the line at the starting lineup. Despite suffering an injury a few days back, the ‘captain’ was desperate to play at the expense of his health. The manager named an unchanged squad from the team that dispatched Wigan and Howard Webb’s whistle signaled the start of Arsenal’s game of the season.

Santi Cazorla was making his 38th Premier League appearance as he was the only player in the team to play every league game this season. The Spaniard lofted a corner that was nodded to safety by Fabrizio Coloccini but it fell into the path of Theo Walcott that blasted his effort over the bar. At the other end, make-shift left back, Mapou Yanga Mpiwa, made mince meat out of Per Mertesacker before supplying a cut back that was blasted over by Papiss Cisse.

Cazorla swung in another dead ball that was flicked across the goalmouth by Laurent Koscielny. With no Gunner attacking the ball, the Frenchman’s effort skewed wide off the mark. Moments after Koscielny almost contributed to a potential goal in Newcastle’s half, he made a vital interception when he and Per Mertesacker hit the deck to block Yoann Gouffran’s effort after some good work down the right from Matt Debuchy.

Gouffran fashioned a great chance for himself when he waltzed Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna but his tame shot was miles apart and it clearly didn’t match up the decent buildup from Gouffran. At that distance, the least he could have done would have been to test Wojciech Szczesny’s goal.

It was puzzling enough that Arteta started the game and it became more puzzling when he suffered a recurrence of his injury only to be replaced by the Ox, which was out of scope, I taught. Yes, he excelled in the role against AC Milan last season and Norwich this campaign but playing him in the holding role was a big ask in a game of this magnitude.

As Arsenal pushed on for the all-important goal, Kieran Gibbs made some space for himself creating a good pass for Cazorla but the Spaniard’s technique let him down as he launched a poorly-struck effort sailed aimlessly over the bar.

Yohan Cabaye fired a long range drive that was easy pickings for Szczesny but on the Polish goalkeeper’s opposite end, the Newcastle faithful honored the 38-year-old Steve Harper in the 38th minute, as they sang his praises and applauded the stalwart that had served the club for 20 years even through he was on the fringes, serving as a back-up to Pavel Srnicek, Shaka Hislop, Shay Given and more recently, Tim Krul.

Football – It can make a grown man cry…

Arsenal broke away with Walcott sending Podolski through on goal but the offside flag spared Newcastle’s blushes. The German forward still managed to miss the chance and it would have been very embarrassing if he missed that with the assistant referee’s flag down. The last bit of action of the first half saw Hatem Ben Arfa glide his way through the Arsenal defense before blasting his effort over.

In the start of the half, Arsenal threatened when Harper’s poor clearance was intercepted by Aaron Ramsey before he teed up Walcott on his right. With his eyes firmly fixed on goal, Walcott blasted a shot to Harper’s far post but it was parried by the veteran goalie. On the other end, Debuchy was almost sent through on goal but Szczesny anticipated the situation and reacted brilliantly to smother the ball.

Sagna offered little or no threat whatsoever on the right flank but his improvisation won a free kick for his team not far from the corner flag. Walcott took over the responsibility of the dead ball and swung in a cross into Newcastle’s danger area. After the ball ricocheted off Podolski, Koscielny reacted the quickest and showed off his acrobatic side with a swinging shot that almost took out Harper’s head before going in to give the Gunners the lead.

Kos the effing Boss

For a considerable chunk of the season, Koscielny spent a lot of time warming the bench because Thomas Vermaelen played alongside Per Mertesacker on merit, because of the mere fact that he was the captain despite his horrible gaffes. It took some balls for the manager to axe the Verm from the squad but the Mertesielny combo has reaped benefits.

Debuchy exploited some space vacated by Gibbs and drilled a cross that was attacked by Gouffran but Mertesacker used his long legs to good effect as he made a trademark Merteception. For those that don’t know, a Merteception is a vital goal-saving interception made by Per Mertesacker. :D

Arsene Wenger replaced the ineffectual Podolski with a refreshed Olivier Giroud. Newcastle continued to threaten Arsenal’s rearguard with several pelts into the box and after a goalmouth scramble Steven Taylor was ready to go for the kill but Koscielny yet again made another vital interception before suffering a blow from Taylor. Moments later Jack Wilshere replaced Santi Cazorla.

Just when we taught that one goal was enough to assure the Gunners of a Champions League berth and celebrate St. Totteringham’s day, Gareth Bale scored a late winner against a 10-man Sunderland which made the final moments of the game very nervy. With Newcastle going for broke, spaces were exploited at the back as Walcott darted past Coloccini before skipping past Taylor and placing the ball past a hapless Harper. To Walcott disgust, the ball hit the post and rolled effortlessly back into the arms of Harper.

In the end, the Gunners held on to grab an absolutely vital result, sealing fourth place in the Premier League. Judging from how badly things were in the start of the campaign, a fourth placed finish was welcome. According to the Premier League Form Table, Arsenal was the best team in terms of recent results and won every away game since that stinging defeat against Tottenham.

Wenger’s post-match interview had it all, with the boss expressing his relief in sealing qualification yet again, knowing what the ramifications would have been if Newcastle somehow snatched a late goal yesterday. And of course, a word for Tottenham,

Sayonara.

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Newcastle Preview: A Champions League Berth Beckons

Finally it all boils down to this…

Win this evening and Champions League football will come to North London for the umpteenth season in a row, anything else coupled with results elsewhere, then we will have ourselves to blame.

Forget about the rash performances in the past, Gervinho’s unfathomable miss against Bradford, Wojciech Szczesny’s poor Parry that led to Colin Kazim-Richards goal in the FA Cup, the shameful first leg outing against Bayern Munich coupled with the spirited performance against the Champions League finalists.

Since Arsenal’s woeful performance that culminated in defeat at White Hart Lane in March, the Gunners have been unbeaten in the Premier League. It started with a sturdy performance against Swansea before dispatching Reading with consummate ease.

The month of April saw the Gunners ease past West Brom before a late surge quelled the threat Norwich posed. A disappointing draw against Everton was followed by a nervy win over Fulham. The newly-crowned champions visited the Emirates in a feisty affair but both sides shared the spoils.

The month of May has seen the Gunners defeat QPR and Wigan with today’s match against Newcastle being the ultimate decider for the club’s aspirations for next season. Fourth place isn’t good enough for a team that has won 13 Premier League titles but it’s more than adequate at this point in time.

There has been talk of a potential playoff with Chelsea but we have to remember that both teams will end up playing Champions League football, irrespective of the result in Villa Park.

Paolo di Canio and his Sunderland hordes will go to the Lane without any pressure of any sort and I certainly do not expect any favors from them, even if Arsenal did them a huge favor by dooming Wigan to relegation. Tottenham will want to do their part in defeating the Black Cats while hoping for the worst for their illustrious North London neighbours.

Newcastle endured a very torrid campaign as they failed to build on their successes from last season. A fifth placed finish earned Alan Pardew the Manager of the Season award in the last campaign but injuries coupled with some atrocious results saw Newcastle flirt seriously with relegation. A French revolution in the winter saw an upturn of their fortunes and the win against QPR confirmed their top flight status for another season.

Arsenal arrive in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in a rich vein of form and would hope to seal a victory that would confirm a Champions League berth as well as celebrating St. Totteringham’s day once again.

To team news, I don’t expect much changes in the squad with the  exceptions being how Wenger would respond to Arteta’s injury, as well as the dilemmas of selections in the left back slot and the center forward position with Giroud’s touchline ban over.

Starting with Arteta’s injury, I’d expect Wenger to make a decision out of four possible outcomes…one would be to bring on Jack Wilshere (that’s nursing an injury) before sending him to the specialist hospital for his much talked-about surgery. There’s the option of trying an experiment with the Verm, as he certainly possesses a few qualities needed for a holding midfielder.

Wenger can also summon the services of a rusty and washed up Francis Coquelin or make some tactical changes by using only Aaron Ramsey as the holding midfielder while Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla play in front of him.

With all this in place, bringing on Jack Wilshere will be the most plausible option with Ramsey providing adequate cover in the middle of the park.

On the left back dilemma, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs have contested admirably for the right to become Arsenal’s No. 1 left back and this competition has brought out the best in both players. For today, I believe that Monreal will get the nod because of his vast experience and the defensive stability he offers with no disrespect to Gibbs of course.

In attack, I’ll say that it’s good to have Giroud back. Despite his brace against Wigan, Podolski hasn’t convinced me that he can lead the line for the Gunners. His quality is undoubted but he hardly offers a focal point in attack.

With 17 goals to his name, Giroud has enjoyed a decent debut campaign with Arsenal and he was a goal shy of a hat trick in this corresponding fixture in December. With him leading the line with Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla on his flanks, Newcastle should brace themselves up for a storm.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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