Rosicky & Walcott Lead Arsenal’s Night Out On The Toon
Arsenal 2 – 1 Newcastle United
0 – 1 Ben Arfa (14)
1 – 1 van Persie (15)
2 – 1 Vermaelen (90)
I believe that shows we have quality, we have spirit, which I have never questioned. It was a relentless effort again tonight from the first to the last minute. The tempo was absolutely top level tonight. We kept going until the last second and just managed to win the game.
Arsène Wenger‘s words post-match encapsulate the victory perfectly. This was one of those nights where every character trait vituporatively levelled at the squad came to the fore. Determination, desire, mental strength; call it what you will the players displayed it last night in pursuing the victory that brought third place to within a point.
Yet the win came the hard way. Once again, Arsenal had to retrieve a deficit in achieving three Premier League points. That is a flaw that the players and coaching staff will no doubt work hard at eradicating, particularly as the Newcastle goal came about as a result of sloppy play at the back.
Arteta won the ball in midfield, passing at pace to Vermaelen who was under pressure from Ba. His hurried clearance went comfortably to Tiote. The midfielder strode into the Arsenal half, passes exchanged between Obertan and Ba before Ben Arfa cut in from the right and drilled the ball home at the near post. The old adage is that a goalkeeper should never be beaten there but in fairness to Szczesny, had he covered that a sizeable gap would have opened on the other side of the goal such was the angle of attack.
The lead lasted less than a minute. Straight from kick-off, Arsenal attacked and before the Newcastle bench had time to resume their seats. Tomas Rosicky sent Theo Walcott marauding down the right. van Persie slipped Williamson’s grasp, recovered his balance and coolly beat compatriot Krul to score. As responses go, that was as perfect as could be demanded.
Parity allowed Arsenal breathing space if they wanted it. Tomas Rosicky had other ideas, a virtuoso performance from the Czech no doubt boosted by his contract extension. Rosicky pulled strings with verve, his energy shaming many of the younger Newcastle opponents. As much as his physical speed of movement was crucial in providing Arsenal with industry and spark, his mental agility in the pass and opportunity was astonishing. If ever a performance deserved a goal as its reward, this was it.
It never came. As much as Newcastle tried to prompt, they were hemmed back by Arsenal for substantial periods. In these moments, Krul would hold onto the ball for longer than needed; it was a policy that would haunt him in the final seconds of the five minutes added time. Photographic reminders of the mocking smile following Robin van Persie’s taunts are posted as a permanent momento of the failure of his timewasting antics.
Newcastle held firm in the aftermath of the equaliser. Arsenal’s possession came to nought, van Persie twice had sight of goal, only forcing Krul into action the once.
Half-time allowed Arsenal to regroup. If Alan Pardew felt that replacing Santon would give the visitors more defensive strength, Theo Walcott took it upon himself to prove Perch no better as replacement. He and the outstandingly consistent Bacary Sagna simply dominated the right flank, ensuring that what little attacking spark was shown by Newcastle was swiftly snuffed out.
The first real opening came as a result of Arsenal’s two best attacking threats; Walcott’s cross was met by Rosicky, his header deflected away by Krul. Midway through the half, the two once more carved Newcastle open; this time the Czech’s shot was wide.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left had been relatively subdued by his recent standards and was understandably substituted with just over twenty minutes to go. His clearest chance came not long before that with a volley that rose over the bar; goal of the season it might have been if the trajectory had been a little lower.
Gervinho replaced him and with minutes remaining the Ivorian scented glory but contrived to stab his effort wide from a corner. It seemed that a point would be all Arsenal’s dominance garnered before the previously inept Howard Webb almost redeemed himself by punishing Newcastle with five additional minutes.
The winner came as the embers of the match flickered one last time. Newcastle ceded possession cheaply and Arsenal move the ball quickly to van Persie. Under pressure, the Dutchman shielded until Song swiftly strode through the centre circle, feeding Walcott. The right flank disappeared under his pace and the required cross was delivered. Deflected into the air, the ball fell as Thomas Vermaelen re-adjusted his balance to slide the ball under Krul. The Belgian had devoured the Emirates turf to arrive for the cross, epitomising the desire for victory.
Having started with the manager’s words, we’ll end with them:
We feel now at the moment in the team we just have that complete and total commitment to do as well as we can and give absolutely everything.
With that, anything is possible.