Wow, what a crazy game of football at Ashburton Grove tonight!
It all started so subdued; I had to pinch myself to see whether I was actually awake. NU were allowed to pass the ball around as we did not pressure them anywhere near the required levels to gain control over the game.
Although Newcastle had more possession than us, and were also allowed to have it in our own half regularly during the first 45 minutes, I felt we were well organised at the back and there was only a small chance they would hurt us.
Theo’s anticipation of the Pod’s through-ball was first class, and so were his run and finish, and the ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ felt great: surely we could build further on this performance and punish the Magpies on the break a few more times?
Unfortunately, we managed to give a few unnecessary free-kicks away in the first half and one of them cost us dearly. Sagna seemed sedated today: is he not fully fit or simply missing a yard or two in speed at the moment? I did not think he was at his best against Wigan, but today’s performance is starting to worry me a bit. He gave an uncharacteristic free-kick away in a dangerous position and Demba Ba cleverly aimed for Jack’s head – what was he doing there anyway – to guide the ball past it. Okay there was a lucky deflection, but Jack should never have chickened out.
1-1 was a fair score at the end of the first half, though, and we could only hope for Arsene to wake our boys up properly; in order to regain control over the midfield, start pressing them in their own half, and stop relying purely on launching Theo into space at the first opportunity.
Ox’s goal at the start of the second half was a beauty; and one that had been coming for him for a while. We can all get excited about potential new signings in the next TW, but there is nothing better than witnessing one of our talented youngsters growing into a man right in front of us. Ox is quickly making the RW position his, and regular goals (and assists) are the only thing that is missing in his game at the moment. But today he made a big step forward with a classy, timely and important goal from just outside the box – perhaps the most important of the whole game, as this one gave us the necessary momentum to start playing proper football again in the second half.
However, the Barcodes pounced again on Sagna’s apparent slowness, as Obertan was able to beat him with relative ease to put the ball right across our goal to the far post – Koz did not manage to get his full boot against it, but could only slightly divert it – where Marveaux was left totally unmarked for the easiest of tap-ins.
It should come as no surprise that Wilshere was involved in getting us in front once more, with a determined run and a very good ‘hanging cross’ over Krul, to the far post towards Theo. It created total chaos amongst the NU defenders, and the Pod dealt with it all in the deadliest manner. I have been really impressed with Pod’s hard work rate and omnipresence on the pitch tonight.
But, but, but it all went pear-shaped once again, when Marveaux was able to put in a very clever diagonal ball from outside the box with the outside of his boot into the penalty area – arguably the best assist of the entire game – and Ba was able to beat sleeping beauty Gibbs with total ease.
Although the CB’s were the main culprits for conceding the 2nd and 3rd NU goals, it was also clear that we missed Mertesacker’s ability to bring order and structure to our defence.
It started to feel like we would never be able to kill the Magpies off in this game as our defence had simply become too fragile in the second half. But then, somehow, Arsenal found the afterburners and NU did not get another foothold in the remainder of the game.
It is fair to say that the Barcodes will have been tired at that time, having played at Old Toilet only a few days ago, but it was nevertheless impressive how we were able to up the tempo and pressure, and create a great number of opportunities in the last twenty minutes of the game.
Walcott 2nd goal was almost as good as his first one. His spatial awareness, combined with his decision not to blast the ball as soon as possible, but allow himself a touch in order to take proper aim, were very impressive. It turned out to be the blow from which the Magpies would recover no more.
Theo then became provider for the hungry substitute Giroud; first with a peach of a cross which OG headed in with force, and then with a determined run and ‘pass’ into the box which the Frenchman despatched aggressively with his venomous right foot. It was really nice to see Giroud taking his chances with such determination, and celebrating his goals with great joy.
But the final say was, ever so appropriately, for Theo.
This was his night; his announcement to the home crowd that he should play in the middle and what this could mean for us. From a ‘one-two free-kick’ taken near the corner flag with Jack, Theo slalomed past a few NU players, then somehow evaded a tackle, and got back up on his feet to beat Krul high into the roof of the net with a measured, rising chip. A truly fantastic solo goal.
Theo is all about speed they say; well, today he showed that his arsenal of attacking weapons is pretty well stocked. He will need to do this on a regular basis to win over the seemingly eternal doubters, but today he announced himself properly!
It was a great performance by Theo and a nice gesture to thank the crowd whilst holding the match-ball above his head. Whether you still have doubts about Theo or not – as a winger or a striker – it will be hard to deny that since he has been playing in the central striker position, Arsenal have had two out of three performances in which we looked a bit like our former self again, in which we had that extra dimension, and that so longed for cutting edge and bite; and with the team scoring 13 PL goals in just three games – a third of our PL total this season in 19 games – it would be madness not to continue with him in the middle of our attack – possibly with Giroud – for the time being.
A crazy game, a great result, and lessons need to be learned in defence; but today we witnessed the coming of age of Theo Walcott.
Written by: Total Arsenal.