With Arsenal level on points with Leicester but edging the Foxes out on goal difference, the Gunners hosted Newcastle while the Foxes played high-flying Bournemouth at home.
The away side seemed to be the ones with the best chances created and Arsenal had Petr Cech to thank as the big goalie continued to make several saves from Giogiornio Wijnaldum. There were also close shaves from Chance Mbemba and Aleksandr Mitrovic. It’s not as if it was all about Newcastle, Arsenal had chances of their own with Olivier Giroud trying to get on the end of some good crosses but it took as long as 70+ minutes before the telling stat came up…Giroud showing great determination to win a header before Laurent Koscielny reacted the quickest to toe poke the ball home.
Late on, Mesut Ozil teed up Aaron Ramsey that made fools of two Newcastle defenders before firing his goal-bound shot wide. It also meant that Arsenal have only won two Premier League games without a goal or an assist from Mesut Ozil this season – both against Newcastle.
With Leicester dropping points against Bournemouth, no thanks to Riyad Mahrez missed penalty, Manchester City maintained their title chase with a grounded out victory against Watford, this victory over Newcastle has put the Gunners in the driving seat.
Newcastle 0 – Arsenal 1 (Coloccini o.g. 52′)
After playing the last game of the previous week, the FA, in their infinite wisdom, decided that Arsenal was going to open the proceedings this week with an away fixture against Newcastle. Steve McClaren’s side was still buzzing after securing a priceless point at Old Trafford and I wondered whether Tim Krul was going to continue his heroics against the Gunners.
It didn’t take long before Krul picked up where he left off, making a close save from Theo Walcott, that had started in place of Olivier Giroud. The game was cagey affair but it was meant to spring to life when Hector Bellerin was clearly impeded in the box. For some strange reason, the ref turned a deaf ear to Arsenal’s appeals for a penalty and the game progressed. The ref was under the spotlight again when Aleksandr Mitrovic stamped on Francis Coquelin, and without thinking twice Andre Marriner brandished a red card to the Serbian forward.
With the home side losing a man, McClaren adjusted his tactics for his side to play really deep and they did their bit to smother the Gunners and deny them any space whatsoever. A window of opportunity arrived when Alexis Sanchez fired a shot that was parried by Krul, Walcott used his blistering pace to get to the ball but his shin lofted the ball over the bar, much to the dismay of the Arsenal faithful watching the game. By his huge standards, that was some miss.
From then on, the game had an erratic feel about it, with the Gunners wasteful in possession and playing without any urgency, despite having the numerical advantage. The breakthrough finally arrived early in the second half when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired a shot that was deflected into the net by Newcastle’s skipper, Fabrizio Coloccini. Own Goal has been a vital signing for the Gunners these days, scoring winning goals against Crystal Palace and now, Newcastle.
Ox would have had another chance to make it two when Nacho Monreal provided a superb cut back but he failed to get the ball under control.
Wenger made a couple of substitutions to alter the flow of the game but in the end, Arsenal went back to North London with three points in the bag, as well as propelling up fifth place in the table. From an attacking standpoint, the game was a disappointment for Arsene Wenger’s side as they failed to provide any cutting edge to put Newcastle to the sword. Yes, the Magpies defended really deep but there were moments when the Gunners should have at least, let one rip from distance but they stuck to their intricate passing philosophy and that didn’t reap much fruit.
Another talking point would be that blatant penalty that was denied by the referee. The standard of officiating in the Premier League keeps dropping with each passing season but that would go down as one of the key decisions that would have turned the game on its head.
However, I’m grateful for three valuable points and the Gunners can go into the international break feeling much better about themselves.
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Newcastle 1 (Sissoko 48′) – Arsenal 2 (Giroud 24′, 28′)
With Manchester City winning against West Brom, it was important for the Gunners to maintain their momentum against a Newcastle side they had a quite impressive record against. Arsene Wenger made some changes from the squad that beat Monaco with Gabriel Paulista and Aaron Ramsey coming into the fold with Per Mertesacker rested and Mesut Ozil missing out due to illness.
The home side were the quickest to get off the mark with Ayoze Perez firing a shot that was blocked by Gabriel. On the other end, Alexis Sanchez swung in a cross that was bound for Giroud but Tim Krul anticipated it. Giroud did really well to nick in a lovely pass for Ramsey but the Welshman’s finish was pathetic.
Arsenal opened the scoring when Giroud reacted quickly to a Danny Welbeck flick to guide the ball past Krul.
That was his seventh Premier League goal in nine League games but that wasn’t enough for the Frenchman as he latched unto Santi Cazorla’s corner to give the Arsenal lead some cushion. Prior to Giroud’s second strike, Alexis combined with Welbeck twice but the Englishman wasn’t in the same wavelength with the Chilean. Welbeck went on to have a slalom run but there was no end product from it.
Newcastle began the second half with more urgency and got a goal right from the onset when Moussa Sissoko side-footed Remy Cabella’s cut back past a hapless David Ospina. Maybe the goalie line of sight was impaired by Gabriel but his reaction to the shot was quite comical.
That goal took the wind off Arsenal’s sails and it was all Newcastle from then henceforth. Ayoze fired a looping shot that went wide, Gouffran fired a tame shot that was saved by Ospina, Williamson was next to get in the act with a point-blank header that was saved by the goalie then Daryl Janmaat blasted a long range volley that went wide.
Newcastle’s pressure was incessant and I thought the Gunners were going to concede. Arsene Wenger brought on Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini to shore things up in midfield. Following some more pressure on Arsenal, Welbeck had a breakaway on the left where he used his pace to great effect to evade his marker but he couldn’t beat Krul on his near post.
Late on, Ospina made another great unorthodox save from Perez and Arsenal brought on Bellerin to wind down the clock. The young fullback did well to get a clear chance but he attempted to tee up Giroud. Luckily for Newcastle, Krul was on hand to smother the ball.
Wenger was obviously happy in his post-match press conference but he stressed on the next to remain focus and take each game as they come. Giroud deserves a mention for his awesome run of form in recent weeks. Danny Welbeck has even admitted that he’s on fire,
“Oli’s been on flames and he’s worked very hard to get the goals. “He’s winning points for the team and I think collectively everyone has been very impressed with the way he’s been playing in 2015.
“He’s big and strong, and if defenders get tight to him, he can hold the ball up and bring others into play. I think we utilise that strength of his very well.”
Giroud has suffered some criticism from the fans and media vultures but in recent weeks he has made all his critics to watch in awe as he has been blasting the goals in. I’m so happy for the lad and I hope his good form continues.
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