NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 ARSENAL 2 (Giroud x2)
The Arsenal continued their fine run of form with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at St James’ Park against Newcastle United in what was a text-book example of a game of two halves.
The first half saw a dominant display with two fine finishes from Olivier Giroud. The first an instinctive prod with his knee to divert Welbeck’s flick on into the bottom corner and the second a fine header from a Cazorla corner having held off Williamson exceptionally well.
Newcastle were well and truly on the ropes and but for some poor finishing from Olivier’s front line counterparts we could have been three or four goals to the good at the half way mark. Whether it was John Carver’s rousing half time team talk, us taking our foot off the pedal, or heavy legs from our midweek exploits in Monaco is anyone’s guess (note: I suspect it was a bit of all three), but regardless of the cause Newcastle came out all guns firing in the second half, pressing high and snapping into tackles.
Just minutes into the second half it was 2-1, with Sissoko pulling one back for the home side after we switched off down our left hand side, and after that we really struggled to get our passing game going again. In the end though a combination of tame finishing, excellent defending (Gabriel and Koscielny were impressive) and some good saves from Ospina (in particular one with his feet following a double deflection) saw us over the finish line, with another vital three points secured in the race for the top four.
In his post-match interview Arsene was understandably happy with another away win:
We have played four games in two weeks and three away games at Manchester, in Monaco and here today, and we’ve won all three. The last 40 minutes were difficult because our legs had gone a little bit and Newcastle played very well in the second half, but we had an outstanding first half going forward. We had a fluent game by creating chance after chance and in the second half we just had to show different qualities and hang on.
I’ve heard many being critical of the second half performance, but if you can’t acknowledge the exceptional efforts (both mentally and physically) of securing a victory from a third tough away game in quick succession then you’re going about this “football supporting” thing all wrong.
A word for Olivier Giroud too. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people claim we’d win the title if we had a world-class striker and it leaves me wondering just what games they’re watching because clearly I’m watching different ones.
During his Arsenal career Giroud has made 124 appearances (98 starts and 26 as a substitute). Across these 124 appearances he has scored 56 goals. That’s roughly a goal every other game which, but my reckoning, is pretty good going. Especially when you consider how his goals to game ratio will have improved this season compared to his first, for example.
Olivier has continuously improved year on year and this season has a goal to game ratio (in the Premier League) which is better than anyone else. Better than Aguero. Better than Costa. Better than the inbred clown who plays for that lot up the road, who the English media can’t get enough of. “Is there any striker out there in better form?” they shriek whilst pitching their tents.
Well, yes… yes there is. And his name is Olivier Giroud. 9 goals in his last 9 games for a team that has won 21 of their last 26 matches in all competitions. And it’s not just the goals. There’s assists, hold up play, intricate link up play, a fantastic work rate, defensive headers from opposition corners, and much more. He’s an all-round striker who has risen to the challenge of the arrivals of Welbeck and Alexis and has, without doubt, cemented his place as Arsenal’s first choice striker.
It will be all quiet on the Arsenal front for a couple of weeks now thanks to an international break. When Premier League action resumes on Saturday 4th April we’ll be playing host to Liverpool who will be licking their wounds after defeat to United. As well as the usual motivating factors involved in this fixture there is also the knowledge that victory would create a 9 point cushion between ourselves and Liverpool, so there will be plenty to play for. But for now it’s boring internationals, during which I’ll be keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed that everyone returns fit, healthy, and ready to pick up where they left off.