Newcastle 1-3 Arsenal
If ever Arsenal were involved in a game of two halves this season, this was it. Newcastle were the better side in the first half, belying their status as a bottom three club but for Arsenal, the half was not too dissimilar from their recent displays when the opposition takes the game to them. Misplaced passes, bad decision making and an overall lack of fluidity riddled the early period.
They had the better of the chances from open-play, with Van Persie twice going close and Arshavin going on a fantastic run before skimming the cross-bar but it was Newcastle who had the best chance of the whole game. Manuel Almunia normally so dominant in the air, dropped a catch under pressure from Ryan Taylor and in hurriedly trying to reclaim the ball, forgot there were others around him and bundled over the same player. Obafemi Martins spot-kick was too tame and the Spaniard redeemed himself with a save to his left.
Credit must go to the Magpies who played at a quick tempo while the movement from the front two was causing problems all day and Denilson and Diaby initially had trouble catching their breath. Bassong, linked to Arsenal because of his nationality marshaled the Gunners front men so well and it was unfortunate the Frenchman had to exit early, something which Wenger was quick to point out as a turning point. “I must say as well Newcastle were unfortunate to lose players, like Sebastien Bassong and Steven Taylor, at the wrong period of the game.”
The second half started in a similar, quick-fire fashion but Arsenal started to assume control, playing with more conviction and accuracy that was missing in the first half. Nicklas Bendtner gave the Gunners the lead with a glancing header and the Dane had a good game; roaming around the pitch, he was involved in creating good chances. However Martins soon equalised, an uncharacteristic mistake from Gallas twice, first nutmegged by the Nigerian before miskicking the clearance for Martin to poke home.
Newcastle may have tired mentally as well as physically and with Steven Taylor resuming treatment off the pitch, the temporary ten men where stretched in their resources as Diaby played a one-two before making a powerful surge into the box and finishing strongly. A little bit of movement from Van Persie had dragged the defence out and opened the gap; Arsenal were more fluent and fluid playing some of their best football this season. The Dutchman was starting to play in the channel between midfield and attack where nowadays is seen as the key area to open up opposition defences. Van Persie again moved out of position to help create the third goal and kill the match as he played Nasri to fire in at the near post.
The battle between both Taylor’s and Clichy was particularly engrossing and the left back had the measure of the two Newcastle men all game producing his best performance yet this season. The difference, from an Arsenal perspective was they were playing more closer to each other and providing support, allowing for better movement and accuracy in their passing. Keeping the ball in the early period is something Arsenal are going to have to work on but the second half display shows the enormous potential and more of this young side.
Man of the Match: Abou Diaby– Just like Nasri and Van Persie, upped his game in the second half to help inspire an Arsenal win.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||9|
|4||Shots off Target||5|