In what may be the most entertaining game I’ve seen from the Gunners, Arsenal played out a 7-3 victory against Newcastle and ensured they ended 2012 by giving fans something to smile about. The incredible scoreline marked our longest winning streak this season – 4. That statistic also tells you how inconsistent the team is and inconsistency was the mark of both teams today. The game started at 1:30am (Singapore time) and thankfully, both teams served up a truly entertaining match. I couldn’t fall asleep even if I tried.
Sloppy Uninspired Start
Perspectives first. 7-3 is a great scoreline for Arsenal but it was cruel on Newcastle. Arsenal were sluggish in the first half. Our first of four leads came against the run of play. It was down to a messy Newcastle high line that gave Walcott a full 1/3 of the pitch to exploit. Shades of Arsenal. He stormed down the left and opened up before slotting it past Krul. Shades of Henry? Maybe. But Walcott’s was a straight shot to the bottom corner, Henry’s left wing goals were almost always curved beauties. Not that I’m complaining.
You would have thought that Newcastle were the ones that took Christmas eve off, not us.
Newcastle’s equalizer came from an unfortunate deflection off Wilshere. Ba took the freekick with power but WS1 was wrong footed as the ball crashed off the back of Wilshere’s head. Nevertheless, Newcastle was more inventive and played with urgency. You would have thought that they were the ones that took Christmas eve off, not us.
Second Half Madness
Arsenal drove forward in the second half. Maybe Wenger was angry enough to shake them up. Mind you, Wenger was probably more angry with his jacket than the team. He spent a good amount of time fiddling with a spoilt zipper in the first half. The Ox put the Gunners ahead with a precise effort outside the box, marking his first EPL goal of the season. Arsenal’s defensive calamities were clear in the two equalizers that Newcastle were handed on a platter. Absolutely, no one was tracking the left wing when a cross came from the right. Gibbs should have done better instead of attempting to double-team a Newcastle CF that TV5 was already marking. Marveaux had a shot into the open goal from barely a yard. Newcastle’s third came almost in similar circumstances. Cross from the edge of the box seeing Gibbs unable to deal with Ba’s pace and strength. Not to be outdone, Newcastle performed ridiculously in defense which Podolski gratefully accepted with a nod into the empty net from mere centimeters.
With the score at 3-3, Pardew was seen yelling at his players to shore up the defense and be more reserved but Walcott gave Arsenal the lead for the fourth time. In yet another scramble in the Newcastle box, Walcott calmly picked his shot and sent it into the top corner from the edge of the six yard box with a goal line filled with both Newcastle and Arsenal bodies. At this point on, the game turned into an all attacking frenzy for both teams. Newcastle knew they could nick their fourth equalizer and Arsenal felt they couldn’t defend a one goal lead.
Giroud came on and was expertly fed by Walcott. His superb in-swinging cross was met with a diving header from the Frenchman that left Krul helpless. You read it right, we actually did deliver a ‘superb cross’. With the game at 5-3, Newcastle players looked disheartened. A two goal disadvantage after coming back 3 times is a massive psychological blow. Adding to the fact they played a game more than the Gunners, they looked a beaten side then. Giroud then doubled his goal tally and took the game to 6-3 after receiving a direct short pass and slotting it past Krul. That was a very un-Giroud goal but I’ll take it.
As the game turned into a year end celebration for the Gunners, Walcott completed a well deserved hat trick after dribbling past 2 defenders and getting felled by the third. As the Newcastle players immediately protested against what they thought would be a penalty, Walcott got up and slotted it past Krul. That ‘move’ was almost a carbon copy of what he did against Chelsea. This also reinforces my belief that you should never protest unless the whistle is blown. How often does protesting help anyways?
A game with a big scoreline usually tells you nothing. This is the same. I felt for Newcastle because it was harsh for them to go down 7-3 after the great amount of effort they put in and how they had outclassed the more rested Gunners in the first half. But if you can’t defend, you don’t deserve to win. The winner today was decided by the lesser of two horrible defenses.
The winner today was decided by the lesser of two horrible defenses.
I’m going to harp all season on this. 4-3-3 isn’t working out for us. 4-3-3 is supposed to morph into a 4-5-1 where both allows you to maintain a numerical advantage in midfield. We ain’t doing that. We didn’t really own the midfield today, even at 7-3. Our formation requires a traditional CF in the middle. We have Giroud for that but whenever he plays, we give him poor crossers (Gervinho, Ox, Ramsey). Walcott can’t play in that role and was made to look really good today by a rather suicidal Newcastle defense. I don’t get it, we need to play in a two striker system. We had that for 15 minutes today and Walcott was having a field day finding space behind Giroud and either assisting him or taking a pop himself. We don’t we do 4-4-2? I don’t know. It is not like we have great wingers or we are fully stocked with top quality center mids. Wenger logic befuddles me.
Walcott is one of our best finishers. No question about it. He is also our fastest player. But he cannot play a lone CF. He doesn’t have the strength or size to manfully lead the line. In fact, Kanu, Adebayor and Giroud are probably the only forwards we had in the past 16 years that were able to. 3 in 16 years? Yes, that’s because Wengerball prefers pacy strikers. Also, he cannot play with his back to goal. Theo will thrive playing off a big guy if he wants to remain central. When we do a 4-3-3 with Theo on the right, Theo actually behaves as our second striker and it works wonders when he plays off Giroud. But again, Wenger logic befuddles me.
The partnership between Ox and Sagna is not working out. Granted they didn’t have much time on the pitch since Ox played early on with CJ and when Sagna got back the latter played more with Theo and Gervinho. Nevertheless, the number of misplaced passes on the right flank was embarrassing.
Our central midfield is getting shut down too easily by teams with stronger and more physical players. Santi doesn’t get bullied off the ball but can do little when 2 or more bigger bodies close him down. If opposing teams put someone big on Arteta, the same effect occurs. Long story short, we need Diaby and that isn’t going to happen.
On the brighter side, I like having Poldi, Theo and Ox play together. Their pace gives us something. In my ideal setup I’ll line Poldi and Ox on the flanks with Theo as a withdrawn forward and Giroud leading the line. Will that happen? Maybe if the African Nations Cup last the entire season.
2012 marked another set of topsy turvy matches for the red part of London. We’ve witnessed two 5-2 victories over Spurs, tremendous games against City and Chelsea and not forgetting incredible matches with lower tier teams like Reading. This is why I support the club. Sure, I could be like most Singaporeans and support the club that wins all the time (hello family) but I get a bigger kick out of supporting teams that are unpredictable and have the penchant to drive you crazy. The Arsenal team has delivered both awesome highs and head banging lows this year.
Here’s to an equally crazy 2013!
|GK||W. Sczeney||7.5||Reliable. None of the goals were his mistakes. Dealt well with corners and freekicks.|
|RB||B. Sagna||7||Lively down the right. Unfortunate not to be granted better service by the Ox.|
|CB||L. Koscienly||7.5||Made multiple key clearances and won the aerial battle. Didn’t do much wrong.|
|CB||T. Vermalen||7||Quiet game but covered his ground well.|
|LB||K. Gibbs||5.5||At fault for Newcastle’s 2nd and 3rd. Played superbly in attack but was poor in defense.|
|CM||M. Arteta||6.5||Professional job but couldn’t deal with Newcastle’s physical approach in the first half.|
|CM||J. Wilshere||7.5||One of the few who could beat a few men and still retain the ball. At times, it does seem like he prefers taking players on rather than run into space. Good assist for Poldi.|
|AM||S. Cazorla||7||Quiet game as he was closely marked but made a couple of key passes and landed an assist|
|RF||A. Chamberlain||7||Battled hard and was rewarded with a fine goal. Could have linked up better with Sagna with some of his passes going very, very wide.|
|CF||T. Walcott||9||Helped by a sucidal Newcastle defense but exploited every space he got. 3 goals and 2 assists. One of his best games in an Arsenal shirt. Will he stay? I doubt it.|
|LF||L. Podolski||7.5||Worked very hard both in attack and defense. Deserved his scrappy goal but couldn’t last a full match again.|
|SUB||O. Giroud||8||Made the best of his chances in a short subtitute appearance. Could have gotten a hat trick if not for being over confident in that close range finish.|
|SUB||A. Ramsey||6.5||Lively short apperance that included good play down the left.|
|SUB||L. Coquelin||6||Very short cameo but provided some cover in the middle.|