Well, quite a way to end the year of 2012 for Arsenal Football Club. Plenty of goals, not only in the goal we were aiming for but also conceding our fair share of it. Suicidal defending and lacklustre moments complimented by some display of sublime attacking football. This match that ended 7-3 in our favour, perhaps no better summation of the kind of year we’ve had. I will never ever complain again when we have a dull match.
This is like the no holds barred type of game, like how the WWE likes to classify it. Everything goes and no holding back. Basic defending, a concept that was alien to both teams yesterday. We were at sea with our own but Newcastle managed to upstage us on that front. Both teams were far more comfortable on the ball and on the attack. Compared to the Wigan game where we were far more aware and better in our positioning, this was anything but.
Three times we took the lead, three times Newcastle pegged us back. After that we ended our mood of giving and but continued with our taking. We would be here all day if we were to go through each goal, one by one. So we won’t be doing that. Theo Walcott got his hattrick and I was impressed with the composure he showed for the 2nd goal. Olivier Giroud got a brace himself and showing to use that his right foot is useful as well. Lukas Podolski was more visible in defensive actions but got on the scoresheet. A feat which was replicated by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, except that he wasn’t particularly good the rest of the time.
As for the goals that we conceded, ball watching remains the biggest crime that we commit. Not noticing where the runners are and not placing themselves in good positions, Wojciech Szczesny have every right to be livid with his defenders. Yet, the first goal we let in was because our player didn’t want to look at the ball. Jack Wilshere perhaps wary of [insert Fergie related comment joke] and ducked out of Demba Ba’s shot. Not very brave, not very smart. The 2nd and 3rd Newcastle goals came from Kieran Gibbs’ side and the left back was at fault for both of them but he wasn’t the only one. Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny equally culpable.
I have not been overly impressed with Walcott cameo in the central striking role but on yesterday’s showing, it would be unfair for me not to acknowledge a good performance from him. I’m still at the point that I’m only worried about whether he re-signs if we don’t have an equal or better replacement readied. That said, I won’t be unhappy if he extends his contract with us. He took his chances well but so did Giroud. That cross to the Frenchman for the what was effectively the winning goal, was a peach and something which we often see from him in wider areas.
Further back, two small but nimble footed midfielders had contrasting games. Wilshere produced the more positive output while Santi Cazorla may just want to move on as soon as possible. Wilshere, at his all action best, provided the drive from midfield each time that the team felt deflated by a Newcastle equaliser. It’s very encouraging to see how well he’s doing (despite that duck) at this point of his return. Hard not to be excited when he’s fully fit. It’s not all a fruitless match for the Spaniard as he did get an assist but just like AOC, had an otherwise game to forget. Both improved at the start of the second half but faded away again, soon after.
What this game tells us is that we are capable of forcing the issue to get the goals we want. That we still needs to spend more time in the training ground working the way we defend. That Walcott is another player in his final months of his contract who is producing the goods on the field. We’ve seen how those always turns out. What is doesn’t tell us is how we don’t need to add to the squad by next week. That should remain within our priority, despite this latest result. However, we should take heart from this game as it shows that we are not a terminally ill squad as some likes to paint us as. 4th win on the trot and we should go to St Mary’s backed by the confidence of this winning run.
Onwards and forward.