That was much better wasn’t it? A fine team performance occurred against Newcastle United, with each Arsenal man doing his bit. When the whole side is switched on, the worries of a good defensive midfielder or a lack of leadership seem to go away. And they will, for a week or two. Blackburn, the next game after the international break will be key in determining whether the side’s focus to win titles is still intact after coming back from World Cup qualifiers.
There can be no complaints after this game. A high tempo must have been stressed by Wenger before the game and his players delivered. Attack after attack fell upon the Newcastle defence in the opening minutes, with the first goal key. After an indifferent start, Robin van Persie hit his stride. Scoring his first of the season must have lifted him psychologically and he dominated our attacking play, with clever turns, passing and flicks. The first blow was struck when Adebayor gathered a cleared ball, beat his man with a fine piece of individual skill, and crossed. The defender was judged to have handled, with his arm standing out in a natural pose. Rob Styles gave the spot kick and our Dutch maestro hammered it into the side netting. Shay Given guessed right but it wasn’t enough. That was the story all evening in this late kick off as the Irishman denied Arsenal time after time but it wasn’t enough.
There were complaints concerning a lack of the typical Arsenal fluency in recent games bar the Nasri goal on the opening day of the season. It was good to score a number of goals against FC Twente in preparation for a far tougher fixture against a Newcastle side improved by Kevin Keegan. The home side could have added a second as van Persie directed the ball into the path of Adebayor after another flowing move. The Togolese hitman was a willing runner who stretched the central defensive pairing of Coloccini and Taylor but was unfortunate in front of goal – he sidefooted wide from twelve yards. It did not matter as his strike partner was finally on form after an anonymous start to the season.
Surely it was better to have the Dutchman start slow and work his way into his stride, rather than have him perform explosively for five games and miss the rest of the season injured? That was the thinking among the optimistic fans but alas it was not to be. Robin seems cursed in both a positive and negative manner. He fired a shot in from an impossible angle with such venom that the bar was still shaking moments after. Yet he appeared to injure himself in the same action. Shades of the Manchester United game from two seasons ago appeared there, where he lashed the ball in for an equaliser but broke his foot. He walked off as it appears the same old story is playing itself out again.
Robin scored his second and seemingly put the game beyond the reach of Newcastle after a move made by the dynamism of Emmanuel Eboue. Now that is a sentence I never thought I’d be writing. Was this finally the game where the much-maligned Ivorian came into his own at right midfield? We have always seen flashes of brilliance from Eboue from the occasional cross, a backheel (see the assist for Bendtner in the 7-0 win against Slavia Prague) or flicks but there were scattered in between moments of red mist, stupid tackles and violent play. Not to mention the play-acting. Did Arsene Wenger see something in the driving runs he has been making from central midfield and coach him into utilising this. He cut inside more frequently than ever but this time into space. There was no slow-down and thousand touches as he moved forward an inch. Has he finally found his slot in the side? I sure hope so.
He drove into the Newcastle danger zone, played it out wide to Adebayor, who crossed for the Ivorian. Eboue back-heeled it into the path of van Persie, who lashed the ball high into the net. His midfield partner for the Fulham game in Denilson was very effective defensively, tackling well and bar the odd stray pass, he was fine. Having Cesc Fabregas as your partner probably gives you peace of mind possession-wise, knowing there will always be an option. He is young and inconsistent and will have his off days but he got his reward after a typical flowing move. Nasri and Adebayor worked the small spaces in between the Newcastle midfield and Adebayor played the ball into the path of Denilson who slotted home past Given.
While we were brilliant attacking-wise, our midfield gave great cover for the back four, which was a three early on as Kolo Toure seemed to be driving forward very regularly, creating havoc with no-one picking him up. He had one fine long range effort tipped past the post by Given. Nasri in particular was brilliant at receiving the ball under pressure and turning away from trouble. One would have thought that he couldn’t replace Hleb’s effective defensive work but credit to the Frenchman – he did his fair share of work in a fine performance. The cherry on top was undoubtedly his cheeky bit of revenge at the despicable piece of work called Barton, fresh from a spell in prison. He scythed down Nasri, narrowly missing his ankle and followed it with a disgusting smile. The ex-Manchester City midfielder was rightly booed when he came on and Nasri was rightly cheered when he tripped Barton off the ball in a Newcastle attack.
Soon after, Carlos Vela made his Premiership debut, while Alexandre Song and Theo Walcott also made small cameos. The former and latter linked up well down the right flank but Vela’s shot was blocked for a corner. The left footer was lively and a typical Wenger signing. After his globe-trotting to play for Mexico, he wasn’t available to come on for a number of games but has finally landed only to jet off again for the international break. Will Denilson be the only outfield player left at London Colney? Walcott, who was under the watching eye of Fabio Capello, sidefooted a shot wide after Arsenal tore apart the Geordies with some stunning play. One could argue Given had the better of him such was his imperious form. His best moment came when he jinked past two arsenal players in his own area, before removing the ball from danger.
The game could have been much different had Michael Owen buried Jonas Gutierrez’s cross. Unfortunately for the England striker, who is looking to sign a new deal, his strike partner Shola Ameobi got in his way. As the first half drew to a close, Owen glanced a header from the near post, which Manuel Almunia tipped over. In their third and best chance, Nicky Butt headed against the bar, yet considering the form of the side they were facing any Newcastle goal would have surely only been a consolation. And finally, a word concerning set-pieces – with Van Persie having got his groove back, and Fabregas and Nasri also available, will be finally be able to utilise all those corners into end product?
A fine performance showed how a few days can completely change the mood around the club. Hopefully the players and the manager will not have another off-day to that extent. Blackburn away will be the true test of this club and hopefully the travelling squad will boast a fe w additions. Work your magic Arsene!