Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle United: Barcodes Zapped

There really is nothing quite like a last minute winner is there? Of all the ways to win a football match nothing beats it for the sheer exhilaration and spontaneous outpouring of joy, and when your team has scored it at the expense of a pox-ridden scumbag like Alan Pardew, well frankly it doesn’t get any better than that.

It was a memorable way to finish an unmemorable match, but nonetheless also a match that told us a lot about what this Arsenal team can do when their confidence is up. Last night was our fifth consecutive victory in the league, and our fourth consecutive win after going behind – a Premier League record. Whilst I’d rather have a record of winning all five games comfortably what that shows you is that this is a team that can play with character and determination. At times (recent times at that) that quality has been in question, but the team have responded with class and though Newcastle might rue conceding a winner in injury time, the truth is that these were three points that we thoroughly deserved.

The game was hardly the most electric or fast paced, especially compared to some of our recent outings but it was good to see us dominate possession and keep Newcastle penned in. I felt in the first half particularly that we pressed them really well and they were denied time and space even within their own half. Newcastle struggled to find answers to that throughout the game really, and aside from their goal its tough to suggest they carried much of a threat.

Nonetheless it was they who struck first after they found life unusually easy in our half on about the quarter hour. An interception from Tiote saw them on their way and when Obertan fed in Ben Arfa the Frenchman made it look far too easy as he cut in and lashed the ball past Szczesny at the near post. A very disappointing goal to concede, but we didn’t have time to dwell on it. From the kick off, the owner of a brand new contract with the club, the deserving Tomas Rosicky released Walcott down the flank, his ball into the box found the feet of Robin Van Persie who did well to keep his balance and despatched the ball into the net to equalise some 14 seconds after the restart.

The pace of the match dropped noticeably, but as I said earlier we controlled the ball and the game well. Newcastle spent much of the half chasing shadows and at half time the only regrets we could feasibly have were the ease with which Newcastle had scored their goal and that we did not find ourselves ahead.

The second half for the longest time was a frustrating affair. Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal had already begun time wasting tactics in the first half and consequently gotten himself into a row with Robin Van Persie that was to boil over toward the final whistle. However in the course of the second half he also made smart saves, a Rosicky header coming to mind foremostly. Later, Rosicky missed what has be regarded as a golden opportunity, the only blemish on another fine performance.

So with the clock running down and Newcastle within sight of a creditable result, only drama would do and we got in added time. Five minutes were given by the officials, a delicious irony that Krul’s time-wasting gave us the very minutes that won us the game. From our own half it was a sharp break forward that Thomas Vermaelen made up a huge amount of ground to be on the end of, when it dropped kindly for him he made no mistake and the points were ours.

Afterwards there were handbags as Robin Van Persie gave Krul some stick which the goalkeeper reacted to. It took several minutes for the game to be restarted and the formality of the final whistle to be heard. In terms of what was seen between Krul and Van Persie I don’t see a huge issue to be made of it – Krul wasted time as a player in his situation would have, Van Persie took exception and gave him some grief when we won the game, Krul reacted, Van Persie laughed at him, there was some pushing and then I think some afters in the tunnel. Not really anything to get in a hissy fit over for either group of fans really. Personally its the three points that concern me,

So our three point advantage over Chelsea is restored whilst the gap to Tottenham is down to a single point and the chase is now very much on. We’ve got to keep this good form going when we face Everton (anybody know why we’re not playing again until next Wednesday?) There’s a huge game coming up soon between Spurs and Chelsea and we need to be primed to take advantage of one or both teams when they drop points in that one.

For now though, let’s content ourselves with another win and another demonstration of this Arsenal side’s ability to fight to the very end for this Champions League place. Arsene Wenger had every right to hail his team’s character (something he’s faced plenty of stick for in the past) after the game when he said,

“That [coming from behind to win] is the best response to something that has been questioned sometimes this season. 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.

Certainly the fact we have done it before helped us. Even when we were 1-0 down we just kept going and 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. That gets the crowd behind the team and you saw a very entertaining game tonight against a very good Newcastle side.”

I’m not sure I’d agree with the manager’s comments about the tempo of the game, and how he has the gall to say “even when we were 1-0 down…” when that constituted 14 seconds of open play I don’t know. But he has every right to talk about total commitment and quality. I’m also glad to see him mention the crowd’s efforts as they were behind the team all the way last night and in a season where relations between the club and the fans have been a little fraught at times it was good to see everyone on the same page again.

Going forward, if our effort in every game is the same then I have no doubt we’ll be in the Champions League next season (something else the manager said post-match). That consistency is now the question mark – can we produce it for another ten games because that is realistically what we need. Not necessarily ten wins but certainly ten determined and top draw performances. The bottom line is that it’s in our hands. We’ve done well to change the landscape of this qualification battle but as quickly as we’ve turned it to our favour it could turn right back around again. There’s a long, long way to go.

But for now that’s going to be all. Have yourselves a good Tuesday and I’ll be back tomorrow.

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  • shrek2be  On 13/03/2012 at 7:24 am

    I think when he said tempo , he meant the overall chances we kept on creating.Seems we were also dominating possession

    • Leper Messiah  On 13/03/2012 at 9:26 am

      Well, aside from a spell in the second half I don’t remember us creating all that many chances, but we did control possession very well all night!

  • Michael Sheehy  On 13/03/2012 at 7:33 pm

    We’re not playing until Wednesday because it’s FA Cup quarter final weekend and Everton are playing Sunderland. It means our game has been put back to Wednesday but at least Everton have to play twice before we play again.

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