A pair of braces from a rejuvenated Giroud and a resurgent Cazorla eased the pressure on a team seeking to erase the memory of the Stoke defeat with a comfortable win against a Newcastle side that traditionally don’t travel well.
On the first wintry day of the season a Christmas shopping delayed departure from home to the match meant there was no time for a pre match alcoholic relaxant and given our previous League result it seemed some beer would have been necessary.
It would be fair to say most Arsenal supporters looked at this fixture in the light of Newcastle’s form with a fair degree of trepidation given they last week banished the pathetically premature talk of Maureen-Yo’s Invincibles (his 14′ers compared to “THE” 49′ers) with a win over the diving specialists of the Premier League.
That trepidation may have increased with the news that the recently returned from injury Debuchy would be forced to play (right) back due to Kozzers injury and Chambers’ suspension.
In the North Bank lower there was talk of protests that had not materialised and word of “Wenger out” placards being confiscated however there was no definite sense of unease as the game kicked off.
From the off Newcastle tried to match Arsenal’s high energy start to the game and this was to be applauded. Too many times at Ashburton Grove we see away teams with 10 men behind the ball and looking to frustrate, however what was apparent that their midfield pressing was being let down by the below par performance from Newcastle’s front line.
The first chance of the match came to us with a header (I couldn’t see who it was from) off the cross bar and this was to set the tone for the game.
Sadly the next incident was a brutal one as I saw a scuffle for the ball in the midfield end up with high kicking legs and our super Chilean collapsing holding his stomach. It was hard for me to see how much contact there was, but the word around me was it should have been a red card for whoever the miscreant was.
The Newcastle number 28, all gangly legs and comedic/uncoordinated running style, failed to connect with many through balls and one of his fresh air swipes at the ball caused much mirth around me in the block behind the North Bank goal.
While the Arsenal were attacking the Clock end in the first half, at the other end of the ground from me, even my Mr Magoo standard eyesight enabled me to see that Santi Cazorla was engineering plenty of forward passes and creating time and space for Alexis and Welbeck to run onto.
Another aspect of the midfield play was the The Ox’s rambunctious ability to fend off the opposition midfielders attempts to push him off the ball, to this end Colback stood out(not just for his bright ginger hair) as having the most energy in the midfield battle ground.
Newcastle’s open/attacking strategy was bound to play into the Arsenal’s hands when another driving Alexis run to the bye line let him loft in a cross which Olly met with a thumping “towering” header.
At last, a goal from a cross, something we’ve needed to give our attack variety.
With that goal the tension seemed to fall away and even a goal mouth scramble, when Chesney had to make a double save following a Newcastle free kick, couldn’t reduce the positive feeling.
Olly song then rang out and soon after it seemed Welbeck had scored but the celebration was cut short.
Half time saw a pitchside interview with our first super swede, Anders Limpar, with replays of some of his best goals on the big screens. By this time the toes of Arsenla supporters must have started to numb with the plunging tempartures.
The second half saw no change in the away teams open, attacking approach and wave after wave of Arsenal attacks orchestrated by Santi and the attacking charges usually being led by Alexis (and occasionally Welbeck).
The performance of Bellerin was appreciated, not just for his help in setting up, and joining in, attacks but his tenacious defensive tackling and composure when pressurised, whenever I have seen him play live he has not looked out of place.
Another attack saw Santi weave his way into the penalty area then, stumbling, lift the ball over the diving rookie Newcastle keeper to make it 2 nil.
No sooner had the crowd started relaxing completely then a cross from our right saw Olly flick in the third goal and again his song was sang – how we missed the big Frenchman’s presence up top.
A feature of the match, many fouls on us being unpunished and first infractions by us leading to booklings, manifest itself with a soft free kick being awarded against us.
A groan from the home support told me Newcastle had pulled a goal back yet a 3-1 lead looked safe given the lack of quality in the away forwards.
This didn’t change the tempo or direction of the game and Arsenal carried on attacking with Welbeck in particular not letting the Newcastle keeper nor defence settle with the ball that long.
It was Welbeck’s pressing that let him run onto a pass that set him up for a driving surge, in my direction, to the goal where I could see the clumsy barge that led to the most stone wall of stone wall penalties you will ever see.
Being just five rows from the front I was hoping to have a good view of the penalty and as I saw Santi, like in the FA Cup semi final, wait to take the penalty, but as soon as he started his run all I could see was a sea of raised arms. Luckily the cheer told me we had four and we were mirroring Tuesday’s score line.
At this point the same voices around me who were critical of the manager pre match were singing:
“One Arsene Wenger”
In the context of what went before I was unable to process this turn of events or make sense of it.
In any case a happy home crowd cheered at the final whistle and Flamini joined the BFG as one of the few players who thanked the crowd before disappearing off down the players tunnel.
Two wins after the soul destroying defeat in middle Earth at the previous weekend was all that the team could do and one hopes this means the teams form is on the up, or at the very least the fragile recovery is starting.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)