Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0 - It Was Well And Truly Put Right With An Ade Brace

Everyone knew the players needed to produce a performance far better than the one on Tuesday night.  We also knew a win was necessary after such a drubbing.  Anything but a victory could begin to set in doubts over a mini collapse and dip in results.  We needed to put The Carling Cup firmly behind us and the opportunity to continue a different journey to Wembley was the perfect opportunity to do this.  The away fans were happy to remind us of our defeat but it is Newcastle that have no chance of a Wembley final, any final at that matter.
Newcastle had been the first team to fall to the second string in the Carling Cup this season and having had that run abruptly halted, it seemed almost appropriate to start this one with the same team.  With Kevin Keegan back the Geordies are aiming for a new start and Arsenal were aiming to kick start a string of victories to get the season moving again; once more a meeting that seemed appropriate at this time.
After rotating his squad for the Spurs game it was interesting to see how Wenger would set up.  He could have left the team with similar personnel but after such a humiliation it was a risk with confidence definitely low.  Lehmann was always going to start in goal.  For me, after his comments he does not deserve to be guaranteed a starting place in such a big cup competition.  Hoyte reverted to right back where he is more comfortable and Senderos took his place inside.  We welcomed Clichy back into the side with Gallas once more leading the back four.
Jens Lehmann.  After his outspoken views he really has something to prove and for me today he did not do anything near enough to show why he should play ahead of Almunia.  His kicking was dreadful; aiming the ball towards our smallest player in Theo Walcott or kicking it straight back to Newcastle.  His positioning was poor when Taylor was played in by Duff; the centre back had a difficult decision to make but having seen Lehmann come towards him the looping header was the right option.  Had the header been accurate Lehmann would have been left embarrassed.  His general dominance at set pieces was non-existent and that led to the odd goal mouth scramble.
Gael Clichy made a massive difference today; as our only natural width he got forward on countless occasions and defended very well.  His crossing has improved greatly recently and the right footed cross for Adebayor was perfect, pace, accuracy and venom – a defender’s nightmare.  Justin Hoyte also had a good game; less adventurous going forward but very solid at the back and clearly more suitable to the right back slot as our second choice right full back behind Sagna.
Senderos knows this is his time to shine and in this he was solid and started to show his best form.  He has never been that consistent in an Arsenal shirt, mainly due to the fact that any sort of time out of the team sets him back to square one.  He won every header in the air and had Owen in his pocket all game.  The only time I worry over him is when he is faced with raw pace and/or brute strength; these have been his weaknesses in the past but Owen posed no threat of this kind.
Mathieu Flamini showed us what we missed in midweek.  He got stuck into challenges and won the ball an awful lot with some crunching tackles taking ball and man.  He gave Newcastle no time on the ball and once more indicated that he has played a part in the team’s title bid this season.  Sign him up long term now Mr Wenger!
We all know Cesc Fabregas has not been in the best of form lately and in the first half seemed to continue this dip.  He had one tame effort on goal that really tested Newcastle but in the second half it was a different Cesc.  His passing game got better as he tried more intricate passing as well as producing some amazing long passes.  He dictated play as he pushed further up the field to link with the attackers.  For me he has dropped too deep recently but against Newcastle he took up far more dangerous positions.
Wenger kept faith with Diaby and Walcott even after poor performances against Spurs.  Walcott looked lost once again down the middle but got a chance out wide with Rosicky’s injury (more of that later) but just as he has done recently was not at the level we want/expect from Theo.  He seemed to lack purpose and often refused to attack his man when one v one.  He needs to be more positive and take players on.  Second half he came out a different player as he made life difficult for the full back until he was taken off.
Diaby, like Walcott had something to prove but at the start seemed to be on sedatives.  He grew into the game and looked threatening when he came inside.  He showed once more he is lost when hogging the left touchline and often dribbled into dead ends.  When he took up positions infield he was a threat and showed why Wenger should give him a go in the centre.  He powered through the midfield on a few occasions and his lovely dipping shot brought a fine save from Given.  The one thing Diaby must improve though is his speed of thought; he seems to react slowly to pressure on the ball and often gets caught delaying a pass or simply refusing to pass the ball to a team mate.
So back to Tomas Rosicky – this guy’s injury problems are getting ridiculous and worrying.  He is so injury prone and rarely gets a run of 5 games without some sort of lay off.  He makes a difference to our team with his drive and creativity and that shone through against Fulham but either he did not warm up properly or a worse problem has arisen.  I have heard it’s just precaution which I hope is true.  Our squad is short and we need all the players fit and ready to play.
Eduardo benefited from Rosicky’s departure as he was brought on to partner Adebayor.  His movement is so clever and although he is not the quickest, this sharp thinking gets him into positions clinical strikers know about.  He was so unlucky not to score today with his curling shot in the lead up to Ade’s goal, a volley saved by Given and a shot brilliantly blocked by Cacapa.  He is coming along really well and we are starting to forget the absence of Van Persie.  His partnership with Ade really is blossoming.
Emmanuel Adebayor – is there a better striker in the Premier League right now?  He has 18 goals this season for Arsenal and if he can keep this form up he will hit 25+ by the end of all competitions this season.  His finishing is awesome right now, his strength and skill on the ball has come on leaps and bounds and he is firmly established as a fan’s favourite.  His spat with Bendtner has not affected him and today he made the right headlines.

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