Newcastle 0 – 1 Arsenal
Unsurprisingly, the top four race had gone right down to the wire. Arsenal travelled to St James’ Park to face Newcastle in the biggest game of their season, whilst Tottenham were playing Sunderland at home. Only a win was enough to secure The Gunners’ position in the top four, with anything less leaving them Europa League bound – should Spurs win their match. Describing the situation as tense would be an understatement.[quote_right]”Arsene Wenger opted for Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace Mikel Arteta. Francis Coquelin was probably wondering what he had done wrong…”[/quote_right]
Arsenal began the first half with some conservative, yet energetic play. Rosicky and Arteta were doing a good job of organizing the midfield, whilst Sagna and Gibbs pushed forward at every opportunity.
However, as the half went on, Newcastle grew in belief. Typically, Arsenal were creating little, and finishing less. Poor passing in the final third for Cazorla and Ramsey in particular contributed to the breakdown of many attacks. Podolski’s limited movement also played a part.
Mikel Arteta was replaced in the twenty-fifth minute due to injury, and Arsene Wenger opted for Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace him. Francis Coquelin was probably wondering what he had done wrong.
The change didn’t have much of an impact upon the game, as Newcastle continued to flood the midfield and close down any Arsenal advances n an impressive manner.
Thankfully, the Tottenham and Sunderland game being played back in North London was also goalless going into half time, and thus the reward were very much still up for grabs – for both sides.
The second half could not have been more nerve-racking.
Arsenal started off well enough, but Newcastle were looking resilient. Their back four was organizing themselves well, and their midfield was at times too much for Arsenal to control.
However, following a corner in the fifty-second minute, Laurent Koscielny was first to a loose ball just yards from the Newcastle goal. He acrobatically jumped and volleyed the ball past Harper to give Arsenal the lead. [quote_left]”The final whistle blew, and Arsenal had – yet again, sealed a top four finish, leaving Tottenham in their ever-growing, cold, lonely shadow.”[/quote_left]
The goal provided some relief. but The Magpies would not roll over. News of Sunderland going down to ten men reached St James’ Park, and the pressure came flooding back.
Podolski’s tired, and somewhat lazy legs were replaced by Olivier Giroud, who came on and did a brilliant job of defending and holding up play. In the dyig moments, just after Gareth Bale had put Tottenham in front at White Hart Lane, Giroud put Theo Walcott through on goal.
The Englishman calmly danced past two Newcastle defenders, and elegantly poked the ball part Harper. The ball rolled for what seemed like an eternity, only to bounce back off the far post, and quickly gathered up by Harper. It was unbearable.
However, Arsenal held on bravely and showed real composure under immense pressure.
The final whistle blew, and Arsenal had – yet again, sealed a top four finish, leaving Tottenham in their ever-growing, cold, lonely shadow.
[title]Arsenal Player Ratings[/title]
Thankfully, Szczesny had very little to do today. His distribution was careful and accurate, and that was all we could have asked for.
Bacary has had a shaky few months, and today was no exception. His crossing and passing was suspect, and he looked very uncomfortable on the ball. However, he managed to make a few good tackles, and not make any real mistakes.
Despite making a few good challenges, Per looked extremely nervous – especially in the first half. Gouffran was beating him for pace, and a number of Newcastle attacks just seemed to go over his head.
MOTM. Once again, Laurent Koscielny led from the back today. His heading, tackling and passing were all perfect, and his goal was worthy of the boot of Lionel Messi. For a number of months, Koscielny has produced performances of the very highest quality, and long may it continue.
Kieran did well defensively, especially against a tricky Ben Arfa. He also got forward whenever he could, and provided a constant outlet for the midfield.
Only had twenty-five minutes on the pitch, but it was a good twenty-five minutes. Mikel made a few timely interceptions and kept the ball moving for Arsenal at a good tempo.
Poor passing throughout the game dragged down Ramsey’s performance yet again. He offered very little in the final third, and was almost a liability at times. Unreal that Francis Coquelin has to sit on the bench on the weekly basis.
As the game went on, Rosicky’s energy levels dropped dramatically. However, he put in a stellar performance, making positive runs whilst maintaining his defensive duties.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Santi could not replicate his performance last week against Wigan. His passing was below par, and he didn’t do enough in the final third. Although in fairness, poor movement from attackers didn’t help.
Theo looked dangerous throughout the game, but failed to make any real impact. Defensively, he was helpful, and his runs off the ball caused problems for Newcastle. His chance in the dying moments were excruciating to watch, but luckily didn’t matter at all.
Lukas looked lazy and uninterested at times. He failed to make worthwhile runs off the ball, and did little to bother the Newcastle back four. Poor positioning throughout the game.
The Ox had a conservative game, due to filling in for Mikel Arteta in a more defensive role. However, he did a good job and kept the ball moving for Arsenal constructively.
Olivier came on late in the game and did a superb job of holding up the ball. He also made himself useful defensively, putting in good sliding tackles in the Arsenal half.
[title]Still In Our Shadow[/title]
Today was a momentous day for Arsenal, but not because getting top four is like winning a trophy. Champions League football is important to any club – just ask Tottenham fans if you don’t believe me.
The entire match was heart-thumpingly dramatic, with Spurs doing their job, but Arsenal also did theirs, ensuring that the they play at the highest level next season. Laurent Koscielny was the man to make it all happen, and rightly so, as his performances this year have been breath-taking.
At the end of a long, hard season, and an even longer ninety minutes away to Newcastle, Arsenal’s shadow over their North London rivals is extended for yet another year.
What did you think of the Newcastle Vs Arsenal match? Share your views in the comments section below!