Reaction: Newcastle United (A)

A tight finish and the most in form team at the end.

A tight finish and the most in form team at the end. (Credit: Flickr – Stuart MacFarlane)

It was a tense match. Many fans could not bear to watch it. But we did it. 1-0 to the Arsenal. 1 point ahead of Spurs and we are in the Champions League again. Newcastle brushed aside their horrible home form to put up a very good performance. They quickly surrounded our players and used their physical advantage well. It was a nerve wrecking match but the team made it count, just as they have done consistently in an amazing ten game run, picking up 26 out of 30 possible points.

 

 

First Half

Arsenal found it difficult to break forward in the first half. Nerves were clearly showing. Newcastle had better options going forward and were more efficient in their passes and runs. There was a strong sense of hesitation from the Gunners. It was a mixture of attempting to play it safe so as not to be caught on the counter while trying to put an attack together. You can’t blame the team for doing so but we needed a win. Arteta had to be substituted early as Wenger’s gamble on playing the vice captain did not pay off. To be frank, he was not having too bright a match. Oxlade Chamberlain took over as Ramsey covered the role of the deepest lying midfielder.

Newcastle looked fresher and imposed themselves on the game. They could have benefitted from not playing midweek but tiredness should be a non issue considering this was the final game of the season. Nonetheless, they were physically bigger and the defense had trouble dealing with their directness. Mertesacker had trouble coping with players that could both out-muscle and speed past him. At times, you wonder why Wenger stopped signing big, pacey players. Now, we have small and pacey or big and relatively slow.

 

At times, you wonder why Wenger stopped signing big, pacey players.

 

The same problem of having players spread too far out occurred  Newcastle had an easy time winning balls because our players had no one to pass to after being closed down really quickly. Many a times, there were at least 3 to 4 Newcastle players between a spread out Arsenal team and this was affecting our build up substantially. The result was long balls that were not really accurate and gave receiving players trouble in controlling them. More hesitation ensued.

Arsenal had chances with Cazorla skewing horribly wide from a Gibbs lay off. The little Spaniard did not know he had time and took it on the fly. Podolski went through on goal only to be flagged offside. On the other end Newcastle had chances of their own with Cisse and Ben Arfa wasting good opportunities.

It was scrappy first half. Fouls were being committed in the middle often that broke play down. Both teams had trouble furnishing fluent attacks and set pieces were being wasted. At the half time mark, all three key matches stood as draws with Arsenal fans getting more nervous by the minute.

 

 

Second Half

Another crucial goal from the French centre back.

Another crucial goal from the French centre back.

The second half started the same way the first ended. Attacks went down the flanks on both ends. The middle flank was packed full of players and numerous fouls awarded and missed. There were a few nasty ones that went unseen but the game was largely kept under control with Arsenal focused on ensuring that the result went their way.

 

Koscielny had scored the winner in the 3-2 win at West Brom in last season’s closing fixture. Today he did it again, ensuring that the Gunners finished ahead of Spurs.

 

There seemed to be little going for the Gunners until Walcott whipped in a good free kick from the right, near the corner flag. The ball was nudged towards goal where Koscielny executed a magnificent overhead kick to smash the ball into the net grazing the face of the ‘keeper. It was a well taken, acrobatic goal. More impressively, it came from a center back. Koscielny had scored the winner in the 2-3 win at West Brom in last season’s closing fixture. Today he did it again, ensuring that the Gunners finished ahead of Spurs.

The Arsenal fans celebrated. It was relief. We needed 3 points because we were sure Sunderland couldn’t hold out. You have to give credit to Spurs, they have taken three points in the final ten minutes of their games and we were sure they would do it again. And they did. Sunderland was reduced to 10 men before Bale once again gave Spurs a glimmer of hope.

Arsenal was desperate to keep the three points. Newcastle was fired up to win due to a combination of home pressure and Ashley’s $1m carrot. The game opened up. Arsenal sat back, invited pressure and sprung forward on the counter. We had chances to push the advantage but failed to make any count. Podolski and Cazorla were brought off for Giroud and Wilshere. Giroud was getting defensive work done, tracking back, sliding in and keeping Newcastle at bay.

 

Giroud has no pace but his touches and flicks release fast wingers. Too bad Theo didn’t make the most of it.

 

It fell to Giroud to win a long clearance with two Newcastle players on him. He managed to steer the ball to Walcott who dinked past the last defender only to hit the post. The fans gasped. Thankfully, we didn’t have to regret that. This is what Giroud brings into the Arsenal game. He is not a good finisher and he has no pace but his touches and flicks release fast wingers. Too bad Theo didn’t make the most of it.

The game closed out soon after. Arsenal were determined and kept a good defensive line. Newcastle did not have much of a chance the moment Arsenal went into lock down mode. 1-0 to the Arsenal. 1 point ahead of Spurs. And Champions League for the 17th season in a row.

 

 

Just Did It

It took a great run. League statistics point that we are the most in form team for the past 3 months. We took a massive 26 out of 30 points in that run. Yet, some credit must be given to Chelsea and Tottenham. It was a very close finish and all three teams were in good form. It took an exceptional end of season run from the Gunners to remain in the Champions League. It took many 1-0 victories. It took guts and courage. It took victories when we were down to 10 man. And, it all counted in the end.

This is exactly why I am proud of the finish. We didn’t need lasagnagate, nor did we need a Fulop. The team went out there and got themselves across the finishing line even though the rest of the competition did well.

 

It took many 1-0 victories. It took guts and courage. It took victories when we were down to 10 man. And, it all counted in the end.

 

The season is over. It was a roller coaster. It was not an easy ride but that was what made this season’s closure one to be celebrated. There seems much to look forward to. The top three teams will be changing their managers and Arsenal seems to finally have a real transfer budget. The summer looks promising and I am looking forward to it. Not because of possible signings but because I have had my heart in my mouth for too many weekends.

Thank you for ending the season on high. Thank you for doing the job when everyone said we couldn’t.

And of course, happy St. Totteringham’s day!

 

 

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