Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal | Nicking these games is a good sign

It was exactly a year ago today that Arsenal battered Newcastle 7-3 with Theo Walcott grabbing a memorable hattrick. Despite the swashbuckling entertainment served up at the Emirates that day, I much preferred today’s slender 1-0 victory because it highlights how we’ve matured as a team.

Last season’s Arsenal let down their brilliant attacking play with poor defending and were frustratingly inconsistent. For example, we followed up that hammering of Newcastle with a disappointing draw at relegation-threatened Southampton on New Year’s Day. The last couple of matches, however, showcased our new-found resilience and mental strength. We were flat for an hour against West Ham but hung in there, eventually overpowering the Hammers thanks to Podolski’s brilliant cameo.

Today wasn’t much better in an attacking sense to be fair — we hardly troubled Krul all match and it seemed fitting that we nicked the only goal of a scrappy game from a set piece. What’s important is that we were defensively sound in midfield and at the back, something we weren’t last season as a 7-3 scoreline illustrates. Newcastle had plenty of possession but only forced Szczesny into one good save and once we took the lead we didn’t look like relinquishing it unless we made a mistake (which Szczensy nearly did with his careless clearance straight into Remy’s face which thankfully flew just wide).

mertesacker celebrates against Newcastle

Mertesacker and Koscielny show what victory means to them

We may have dazzled against Newcastle a year ago, but what’s the point of winning 7-3 only to throw away two points in the next match? I’d much rather see us grind out a couple of unconvincing away wins, “winning ugly” as it’s often called, as it shows me we have the stomach for a tough battle and are willing to put in a shift — something I wasn’t really convinced about last season.

I was pleased to see Giroud finally score. He’s taken some stick over the past few games and justifiably so because he’s missed a lot of chances, but the man has never stopped running and working for the team in all that time. His head never went down, he just picked himself up and missed the next chance!

To be fair to Giroud, he has been overplayed by Wenger and has looked burnt out for a few weeks now. While he was fresh he was banging in the goals for us, scoring 10 in 18 appearances up until November 23rd as he played every Premier and Champions League game (except one) since August — that’s a very good record. But then fatigue set in, and because Wenger failed to bring in an adequate striker over the summer, poor Giroud hasn’t had the chance of a rest. No wonder his form has dipped, the guy is knackered, especially considering the amount of work he does in a game. He must surely now be rested on Wednesday against Cardiff — Bendtner should be an able enough deputy for that game.

The situation reminds me so much of when Wenger sold Fabregas, failed to buy a replacement and had to play Ramsey there instead. Now Ramsey had literally just recovered from being Shawcrossed, but instead of being eased gently back into first team action he was asked to step into the boots of the best midfielder we ever had — no wonder he struggled for a while with that burden to carry. Just as people are getting on Giroud’s back now, Ramsey took a lot of stick because some fans couldn’t see the bigger picture. Overplaying players to cover squad deficiencies is one of Wenger’s most annoying traits — look how he ran Wilshere into the ground a few seasons back, for example.

As I’ve said before on this blog, Giroud isn’t good enough to be our first choice striker, but he’s an excellent player who works hard and is a valuable member of the squad. He should be playing 15-20 games a season as back up to a Suarez/Higuain who’d be playing 30-35 games. Instead, it looks like Giroud will have to play 50 games this year because all we have as back up is Bendtner (and no, Podolski can’t play the lone striker role because he doesn’t have the physical presence).

There is of course the remote possibility Wenger will buy a striker next month, but I can’t see it for two reasons — firstly, he rarely buys in January and secondly, Chelsea are in the market for a new striker and will outbid us even if someone like Diego Costa was available. We will have to wait until the end of the season and hope Wenger grows some balls and sorts it out then, instead of pussying about for three months like he did with Higuain and Suarez last summer.

So anyway, we’re top at the turn of the year after coming through our tough December fixtures by nicking two vital away wins. It has got our league campaign back on track after the disappointment of the Everton, Man City and Chelsea games. Here’s hoping the new, mature Arsenal can banish the frustrations that the brittle swashbucklers of the last few years inflicted upon us.

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  1. Shanzu

    Yes I agree we were more rigidly minded and resilient in defence but must say that Wenger gambled heavily by replacing Walcott with Arteta. In doing so we were left with no pace at all and every ball that was hastily cleared by our overworked defenders was quickly pumped back into our penalty area! It only needed one mistake and we would have lost the game. It would have been a better gamble for Arteta to replace Giroud and for Walcott to provide the pace up front and seek to slow down the long ball being pumped back into our area. It was thankfully a tactic that paid off!! As for Giroud, he is a good c/forward but not a world class striker we need a better finisher if we are going to win the title this year.

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  2. Nizam

    Near half time,the gunners obsession with ball possession ,nearly led to fatal results.As the gunners played keep ball,it was intercepted and the magpies surged forward and could have scored if not for our gk’s reflex action.
    Giroud could have been replaced by Poldoski but Wenger persisted with him. I also find the gunners Carzola and other small sized players easily outmuscled by the bigger NU players.Size does count in the epl. I hope that Wenger will consider size when he next buys players.Compared to previous seasons,the 2014 gunners are a shade or two shorter. They maybe technical but could be easily brushed aside as the tackles on Wilshire and Carzola showed.

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  3. The BearMan

    Good result but ugly performance. As much as I willing to accept that to the end of the season if it ends with silverware. The squad looks worn out with the regular winter games. Wenger do not trust those on the bench so he has to keep playing the same individuals until they break. The only solution is to bring in 3 or four class players.

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  4. Domhuail

    Why don’t you just admit you’re a Wenger-out man in the guise of a Gooner and face the fact that your prejudiced view is not the entire reality. This is a solid article until you start your rant against Wenger and his ¨failure¨ to listen to you and bring in a striker over the summer, and his likely refusal to do so in January.
    OK… its your jaundiced opinion and everyone has the right to one but lets look at the situation:

    1)Most decent and affordable strikers are Cup tied…AW doesn’t want that.
    2)He has the potential to use Podolski (who has shown,despite your claim that he doesn’t have the ¨physical presence¨ according to you but I saw him in Germany and he had more than enough presence to lead a very poor team in scoring. He has Gnabry and Bendtner, both of whom can perform as you noted above and Walcott is eager to play the striker role as well.
    3)Once the OX is back, we’ll have more options in the AMF position and if Sanogo ever comes back, he may add something as well.

    Anyway, imho Wenger knows more than you are any other pundit, wbout how to manage and get results….so try and give him credit, and lay off the whining please.

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    • Gooner Steve

      Smickers answered very accurately on my behalf below about the mismanaged summer.

      As to your point about me being a ‘Wenger out’ man — yes, this time last year I most definitely was. Then he did three very different things over the course of the summer:

      1) He didn’t sell any of our top players
      2) He finally bought a world class player using the vast sums he has had at his disposal for the last two or three years
      3) He compromised his attacking ideals and allowed Steve Bould more time to work with the defence and teach the midfielders how to defend sensibly as a unit.

      The result has been the transformation that sees us top of the league at the halfway stage and I no longer want him out because he’s finally done the things me and thousands of other fans and bloggers have been screaming for him to do. He was holding us back for the past two or three seasons, no doubt about that in my mind.

      However, Wenger still has many faults and I will call him out when he makes mistakes. That doesn’t make me ‘prejudiced’ and contrary to your belief, I can still be a Gooner and criticise the manager — the two are not mutually exclusive.

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  5. The BearMan

    Domhauil you got an agreement from me when it ought to be a disagree. Here we go again! When your own players are telling you we have to bring in players to be able to compete to the end of the season and put up a good fight, that should be enough to convince you it is time to take action. Even our main opponents are seeking to strengthen their squads, when they appear to have better quality on their benches. But this is not about our opponents, it’s about being able to rest squad members so that they do not run the risk of burn out or pick up injuries.

    Maybe you have forgotten the typical English season. The first part which we just got through, teams simply justle for positions. The hustle starts in Jan / Feb, folloqed by the BiG fight comes towards the end. When even the weakest teams in the Premier League find courage. Bringing in 1or 2 top quality players even if they are cup tied for the CL, will lift the team. Have you forgotten the Ozil effect? Will deal with your nonsense Wenger out-man comment another time, only to say this, the finishing 4th mentality is not good enough for any manager managing a BiG club as Arsenal. West Ham maybe! But listening to one of their Directors recently, they are dreaming of one day winning the Premiership.

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  6. Smickers

    His point re transfers was about how badly Wenger handled the summer window. It was a farce and he got Ozil not through giule and cunning but through pure luck as he was offered to a number of clubs.
    Woukd he have bought Ozil if we hadn’t lost to Villa anf his job was in the line? I strongly doubt it.
    Wenger wasted an entire transfer window once again and was lucky in the last day.
    In addition Mourhino made him look like a child on deadline day, stalling him with hope of Ba so he wouldn’t buy another striker.
    As another Arsenal fan said somewhere “on deadline day Wenger played checkers, Mourhino played Mahjong like a pro.”

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