Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle: Chaos

There was a time when a match which ended 7-3 might have been counted among the “classics” but that time has passed. Eye-watering scorelines are now just part of the game and even my American friends who won’t watch football because it’s “boring” have started to notice that something odd is going on in the sport.

My first ever Premier League football match was Arsenal v. Charlton at Highbury in 2006. Arsenal were clearly the superior team and traipsed about the pitch with a matchless unity and fluidity of movement that had the fans near me speaking of caviar days.

Arsenal were a team just removed from an unbeaten season. Their only missing player was Patrick Vieira and I wouldn’t say we missed him much because we had a little Spanish genius in his stead. Cesc Fabregas made that team click. If Charlton tried to harass him in midfield, he would magically create time and space for himself, and the engine of a perfectly oiled Arsenal machine would keep ticking over. The patterns were clear; the defense worked as a unit, the midfield bubbled along nicely, and the forwards worked the lines pulling the Charlton defense apart at will.

It was, and remains to this day, the best football I have ever seen. Everything was so perfectly timed and balanced that any missed pass by Arsenal brought a groan that one might give if they were looking at Seurat’s Bathers and noticed a bad brush stroke.

Arsenal won that game 3-0 with goals by Robert Pires, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Alex Hleb. It could have been 5-0 and the crowd moaned loudly when Adebayor missed two gilt chances presented to him by the legend himself, Thierry Henry. Hell, it could have been 6-0, after all, Robert Pires hit the post. But the match ended 3-0 and that is the point: the most organized and fluid football I have ever seen against an opponent in dire form only resulted in three goals.

Fast forward to yesterday and it was as if the world had turned upside down. In all the years I’ve been following them, Arsenal have been known as a possession hoarding team, a pass and move team, whose intricate triangles and one-two passes cut the opposition to pieces whilst wearing them out chasing ghosts in midfield. Arsenal are also known to be vulnerable from counter-attacks as they tend to play with a high defensive line, giving space to opposition strikers to get behind the defense.

Arsenal’s first goal against Newcastle, yesterday, was a classic “Arsenal goal” except I mean, its the type of goal Arsenal classically concede. Newcastle were playing high up the pitch, controlling the game with their passing, and trying to peg Arsenal into their end of the field. A long cross from Cazorla gets the ball out to Podolski and he played a slide-rule pass into the acres of space behind the Newcastle defense. Newcastle’s center backs tried to step up and catch Walcott offside, a move that’s so synonymous with Arsenal it was immortalized in the film The Full Monty, but the Newcastle fullback (Santon) plays Walcott onside. Walcott is off to the races and in the end simply opens his body up to shape the shot and curls home.

But then Newcastle scored to draw level off a Demba Ba free kick which was deflected in by Jack Wilshere who was supposed to be standing in the wall. It was a terrible free kick, to be honest, and would have been saved easily had it not taken a deflection off Wilshere’s head as he tried to duck out of the way of the ball. What was a player in the wall doing ducking? What happened to players taking the shot? It’s not to single Jack out, very few players in the League seem willing to just stand there and take the shot.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain restored Arsenal’s lead with a great strike from outside the box after Arsenal won the ball back from a Newcastle throw-in. But minutes later, Arsenal switched off defensively as Jack Wilshere allowed his midfield runner to just walk (walk!) into the Arsenal back line and stand at the far post. Obertan beat Sagna and put in the cross which Marveaux tapped in. It was a basic defensive error by Arsenal who seem to switch too easily from wonderfully precise movement to ugly chaos.

Arsenal hit Newcastle for a third when Jack Wilshere dribbled in to the Newcastle box, dinked a little cross over to where Walcott was and when Coloccini failed to clear with his header (it rolled along the bar in defiance of physics) Podolski nodded home. But seconds later, Arsenal were at sixes and nines again as Demba Ba just stepped in front of Kieran Gibbs (who had switched off) to tap in a wonderful Marveaux cross. It was at that point, that Alan Pardew motioned to his team and said “don’t concede any more goals.”

They would concede four more.

Pundits are putting that goal flurry down to Newcastle having heavy legs owing to the fact that they had played a very hard fought loss to Man U three days prior but Arsenal’s fourth goal wasn’t down to Toon tiredness, it was slack defending. It was a broken play and Newcastle were pulled ragged as Gibbs got into the box and dragged back to the penalty spot. Despite Arsenal having two players standing there, neither could get the ball and Newcastle’s defensive midfielder, Chiek Tiote, just stood and watched as Theo Walcott took a touch, turned, took a moment to compose himself, read three chapters of Ivanhoe, and blasted the ball into the back of the net. Chiek Tiote hadn’t played in that Man U game, he can’t use tiredness as an excuse for his ball-watching.

Not satisfied with a 4-3 scoreline, Arsene Wenger substituted in center forward Olivier Giroud for midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and pushed Theo Walcott wide. The move worked and it was Theo Walcott who turned provider when his exceptional cross was thumped home by Olivier Giroud. 5-3.

Giroud scored the sixth and Walcott the seventh but both were born from the same type of action: Walcott dribbling straight at the opposition, being blatantly fouled, the referee swallowing the whistle, and either Giroud picking the ball up and scoring or Walcott picking himself up and scoring. 7-3. Chaos at the Emirates.

Everything about the game, from kickoff to the seventh goal, was weird. For the first 50 minutes, the Emirates seemed asleep. You could have, and perhaps the Toon Army should have, sung a lullaby. “Rock-a-bye Arsenal, in the top four…” And despite scoring, Arsenal seemed just as disinterested in the first half as the fans did. Moreover, Newcastle controlled possession, Newcastle outpassed Arsenal, Newcastle played the high defensive line, and Arsenal were a counter-attacking menace with Theo Walcott working the channels and Santi Cazorla relegated to a bit role. It was as it everything I thought I knew about Arsenal, everything I learned from that sunny Spring day in 2006 was turned on its head.

It’s not just Arsenal matches, Premier League football has become chaotic, wild, and unpredictable. Two hours before the Arsenal match, defensive stalwarts Stoke City, who hadn’t allowed more than four goals total at the Brittania all season, shipped three goals in the first half to Premier League bottom dwellers Southampton. And this isn’t just a Boxing Day problem, this chaos in defense and eye-watering scorelines are now a feature of Premier League games. Manchester United conceded three goals to relegation bound Reading on December 1st and you can think of countless examples proliferating over the last few years. The game seems very different to me now than it did when I first discovered it and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.


37 thoughts on “Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle: Chaos

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1ST

    “Newcastle played the high defensive line”

    Yes and no.

    The opening goal was a quick breakaway by Arsenal and Podolski plays an incisive pass from within the area and Newcastle get caught holding a high line.

    However, you see Podolski try the exact same thing on two occasions within 5 minutes after the first goal and Newcastle are much deeper and there is no room for Walcott to collect the ball and the keeper takes it.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Partially due to awareness on the part of Pdolski who had an excellent game creating from out left. Industry being his hallmark.

      But to me we play two types of teams. Teams who will retreat into deep defensive lines (Wigan) and those who try to come at us (Newcastle).

      With the former, Walcott is less effective through the middle as with the later, he has more room to work his best asset, speed.

  2. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1shotta

    Sometimes I think this year’s Arsenal is simply playing within itself fearful of taking the initiative. Just like the 1st half yesterday; too often we are content to concede possession and invite teams to come forward so we can counter-attack. It is as if the years of criticism that we can’t defend take its toll; yet it is self-evident that we are poor at hunkering down and absorbing pressure. We are an attacking team and we need to be on the front foot playing in the other teams half, demanding possession of the ball and forcing the initiative. Our defending must adapt to that reality in terms of personnel and defensive tactics.
    I hope this is just part of the transition to a post-Cesc era. Wenger is a veteran coach and we know how coaches are control freaks; they hate chaos.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Good point.

      I thought yesterday’s substitutions more positive and in keeping with our strengths than against Wigan a week ago where we tried to protect the slender lead.

      Instead, we piled on Giroud who in tandem with Walcott helped push us past Newcastle with two goals in quick succession.

      Some work to be done defensively but we don’t have a problem scoring goals evidently and our GD @18 is looking very good considering.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Lettrs

    True barcodes were deeper on other ocassions when Poldi tried to find Walcott also helped by the fact that Poldis passes were hit harder than the good koeman brother hit freekicks.

    I dint think we were that bad defensively sounds stupid when you consider that barcodes seemed to score everytime we went up but we looked very organized through the whole game without the ball bar the brainfreezes , the second goal was the worst for me as that was bad manmarking and the third a total rookie mistake by Gibbs who knew Ba was there but blinked and lost his man.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Third goal was avoidable. Gibbs lost concentration.

      Second could have been defended better.

      First was a tad unfortunate.

      That said, we need to tighten up. It was nervy till the Giroud goals went in.

      However, we approached the game very positively and you always felt we would score again.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1le baron

    Arsenal have definitely transited from a possession-based team to a more direct and increasingly attacking one this year.It’s no bad thing.It shows Wenger’s largely unknown pragmatic side.You need further evidence?In the last few games he has opted to bring on Coquelin and Ramsey late in games to grind out results.The manager has come to terms with the nature and depth of the squad at his disposal and is basically trying to adapt team shape and tactics accordingly.For this to be a long-term tactical rejig,additional players in the form of a dedicated ball-winning midfielder with more experience and presence than Coquelin,and one or two authentic wide players with no obsessive career aspiration to end up as central strikers,are needed.If Theo’s going,then I would personally go for Zaha,M’vila and Adrian Lopez to beef up this squad.M’vila can’t have become a bad player overnight.He has made mistakes and been sternly punished for them.I think any big club outside France that takes a punt on him will be hansomely rewarded.And he’ll be very affordable now because of the bad press that has trailed him all year long.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      This is not a bad team.

      It means we finally have a ‘Plan B’.. And options are good for us.

      IN this instance, we cede possession and hit on the counter against a team we know likes to go forward and afford space at the back.

      This is where I like the idea of having the new option of Walcott playing top. It doesn’t work for all circumstances but it’s worth having the variation in our arsenal.

      Still, I do think regardless if he signs the contract, we would be well served with one more pacy and technical striker as a third option. When injury hits, our options will otherwise diminish very quickly.

      Maybe Pato at a cut price might be worth the punt since we already have Giroud and Walcott firing. It will give us the depth we need to try and prosecute a deep run in the CL along with the FA and the league.

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1alabamagooner

      So, on the subject of substitutions. I hear people say Wenger doesn’t make tactical changes often enough. Does anyone else think using Ramsey (and possibly Coquelin) was a last minute switch from the original plan? During the buildup to Poldi’s goal, three subs could be seen warming up – one was definitely Gervinho, and another looked like Rosicky (not sure about that though). After that goal, there was a shot of the bench, and Ramsey was still on it – he definitely had the look of a player who was not going to play; slouched down into one of those big puffy coats. Then, at 80 minutes, Ramsey was lacing up his boots, and Gervinho was sitting on the bench. In between those two things, the scoreline changed twice. Tactical change?

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1CarsonWells

        Bringing on a possession based player rather than a tricky winger (when leading against a team who have been ball-hoarding) is a fairly coarse tactical change, and one that Wenger often seems to use.

        Don’t believe all the blanket statements about the lack of tactical changes.

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1BMD

    Walcott’s magnificent 3rd goal reminded me of his goal last season against Chelsea where he tripped passing 2 defenders & got up to put one passed Czech. He could’ve had 4 or 5 yesterday. He can be brilliant at times & I think with some experience up front(& some work with Henry) he will flourish for us.
    We still squandered several chances & allowed NUFC to stay in the game. Gibbs was poor unaware at times. Sagna wasn’t great either. Great to see Giroud step in and immediately contribute. Confident strikers score goals & OG & TW should be oozing with belief.
    Hopefully we can build from this without getting complacent again along with money spent wisely(hopefully) this January. 4th place or bust!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Gibbs lost focus on occasion at the back which unfortunately lead to goals. Otherwise he was solid first half defensively and very good going forward.

      Walcott relished the space afforded. Fantastic third goal. But to me, he still lacks awareness playing in the central role.

      With Giroud on, we were equally if not more effective with Walcott cutting in from RW. Not to mention Giroud almost nabbed a hat trick himself!

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      But we can score goals.

      We aren’t the only ones to concede goals to Newcastle (United for one) and our GD hasn’t been poor as ‘bad’ as we have been defensively.

      I think it difficult to compare as it was a different era (if you look at the number of goals conceded in this season even by the leaders).

      That said, there is less by design and we do have to improve still at the back but the forward play unshackled is encouraging.

  6. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Wang

    Very pleased with the result yesterday, but clearly we still have room for improvement.

    There are two things about our game that I don’t understand. Why didn’t we press the ball more in midfield? The only possible but partial explanation I can think of is that Arsene did think Newcastle were tired and that the game plan was to simply play conservatively until they began to come apart in the second half. Still, we were at home, and playing against an inexperienced midfield, and pressing may have worked even better against a tired side. Instead we seemed to give them a lot of time on the ball, and didn’t close down the passing options.

    Second thing, and this is not specific to yesterday, but a random tactical question: when our center-backs have the ball and face two pressing opposition forwards, why is Arteta almost always collecting the ball on our goal-side of these forwards rather than sitting behind them so that they can be beat by the pass from our CBs?

    Again, loved the attacking spirit shown yesterday, and thought Poldi was MOTM until the crazy finish. Would love to see Rosicky get some sub-time, too – in his last app, he had great movement and really drove the team forward – a player I thought was done before last season. A great effort up front all around yesterday!

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      I’m not so concern about possession.

      Where has that gotten us in recent times.

      What is evident is that we now have another weapon in the arsenal and an ability (with Walcott top) to hit teams on the counter.

      The Cbacks played well yesterday. A couple of blips in concentration by Gibbs (not so much the second as he was covering a free man) led to more goals from the bar codes than necessary.

      But a 2 to 1 exchange is a fair return for us.

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I see the Daily Mail is linking us with a move for Leighton Baines. Tim is now genuflecting at the feet of Priapus to make this happen.

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1MIke

    Good game for the Gunners. Considering the Geordies lead ManU 3 times the fact they can score was well known and Arsenal’s defense did well MOST of the time. It was really the lack of a really top class def mid that is the problem if you allow Newcastle to pick out their passes from midfield it is really hard for any defense to stop them from scoring. But Arsenal should be pleased with their response. (teams with a solid Def. mid seem to slow Newcastle’s attack) BUT they also should not get too over confident as the Geordies also have problems on defense. The goal by OX was very similar to the equalizer vs ManU. And Walcott was spectacular but could he have pulled off those moves vs say ManCity’s def. Great game once Arsenal got going but I was very nervous until the last 20min it looked like Arsenal could drop 2 points if not give up a late one to lose all 3.

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

      Excellent stuff from Jack who won the ball countless occasions (Ditto Poldy and Gibbs)

      The added dimension Wilshere gives us driving forward has been us driving forward has also been useful to Theo’s game through the middle.

      Put it simply, there is more dynamism to our game (despite lack of ‘possession’) where previously we tended to go sideways.

      Overall an improvement.

  9. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Davsta

    I don’t want to sound bitter or twisted, but it’s my fecking licence fee paying for the cock spanners on Motd. Have just sat through umpteen reruns of Jerome’s goal for the orchs on Motd2 and I’m convinced that Crouch (scorer of the world’s greatest goal last season), controls the ball with his arms to lay it up for Jerome’s sweet strike/ lucky swipe.
    Am I bitter and twisted, or are the BBC a bunch blindfolded, glory hole attending, Tony Pukekiss cock slurpers?

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1santori

    Excellent option to have Walcott up front particularly with teams willing to come at us. At very last, we have a different option to employ other than possession with no end result. I for one am not complaining.

    With this sort of performance from Theo, Wenger has to seriously consider coming as close to meeting his contract demands and concluding the extension. Maybe a reduce term (say 4 years) at 90K?

    Still think it should not distract us from two other urgent requirements in Jan :

    1) Striker. As good as Walcott is (and Giroud), still think we do us a massive favour if we get a quick and technical layer with good awareness(someting Theo still lacks) to play as an alternate through the middle. Pato is an injury liability but maybe a gamble if the price is discounted. @23, he has plenty of experience at top level and if we use him carefully, can provide us the extra depth necessary to push for the remaining 3 competitions. He can also be played wide if necessary.

    2) Cover for Arteta. Coquelin is promising but still learning. With Diaby indefinite with return, possibly like to see someone with some size and strength but also good possession ability (there’s your word) brought in as an Arteta back up. I like Capoue but really anyone who can do a good job shielding/transitioning. If Diaby by some miracle returns to full fitness, Coquelin could be considered as a RB alternate (Presuming sagna leaves in the summer). Capoue offers us another option as CB thereby possibly freeing TV (who incidentally had a good game) to cover at LB if need be till summer.

    If Walcott signs, we will have option to wait till summer to sign another wideman (creative) if need be.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I have a feeling we’ll make a bid for Adrian Lopez, though I suppose that might depend on whether Atletico can keep Falcao. I honestly thought Falcao would move to Chelsea this January (or next summer), but they seem to be set on Ba instead? Interesting. Lopez could come at a decent price, and I’m sure he’s tired of playing second fiddle at Atletico (not that playing second fiddle to Falcao is anything to be ashamed of).

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    Chelsea to sign Demba Ba. Better to serve in Hell than rule in Heaven in this Kroenked premiere league?

  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Now can somebody cut that into pieces and throw it from the London bridge…?? The Handbrake I mean…finally that we managed to release it..

    Not too much time to dwell on this game…we have to keep our focus on..and get our next away game at St.Marys bring in more of these 3 points..thats also another team which we hit for a Six. So we can do it…but lets not be complacent and get the job done the best possible way..Very critical that there are no doubts regarding the ability of this team in anyone’s mind.

    Infact its time to put fear in the minds of the opposition…

    upcoming we have Swans, City, Chelsea, Whm, Liv and Stoke..
    Go Gunners…Lets get the cannons blazing…!!!!!!

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1Cliffy

    Look what the wise man did there???…what he told young Theo..

    “So its not about the money…its about the central role..eh ?? Ok..there you have it…and boy you are good at that too..which I myself have told you before when all others were asking you to find a brain…”

    “Now we need one more central striker since Chamakh will be going to African cup of nations..because…they need a camel blowing hookah as their mascot…also Gervinho is going there too..and Arshavin is not going anywhere…But we wont bring in Ba…or Henry..because you are there…”

    “If you need any more hints…i’ll make make crop circles with my feet”


    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      Last report I saw was that Chamakh is not going to ANC because of non selection to squad. Is he now going as goat milk carrier?

  15. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1newington stephen

    How do you replace Walcott for cheaper than what his expense will be if you Consider our boards austere mentality, how much of a positive will it create for all concerned at Arsenal if he signed up? I think it might be quite difficult signing new top top quality going forward if he doesn’t, Walcott and his advisors know their in the driving seat and bad previous got us to this situation so the board should bite the bullet and pay him a competitive wage re other top teams within reason and he don’t look too bad through the middle to boot! But think he’s already gone.:-(

  16. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    So Ba’s Chelsea move is not a done deal over salary and playing time issues. That 7mil release clause balloons to 13mil + once all the mouths get fed while we can just resign Theo for 5mil/yr and do one of those 8yr deals.

    Frank Lampard at 31 is still a better player than Ramsey at this point in time and that is sad.


    I’m most impressed that Adrian can score with both feet and his head. He’s a 3 tool player.

    I sincerely hope we don’t think the Arsenal shirt is going make Southampton faint with fright tomorrow.

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