A win. Three points. In the end that’s all that matter. Isn’t it? Especially for a team that has been struggling for games and goals. Happy to take them whichever way they come. And if they all come by virtue of own goals, so be it. They all count after all.
Again there were changes to the Arsenal lineup with Laurent Koscielny replacing the shaky Calum Chambers at centre back while Gabriel Paulista retained his place; Per Mertesacker apparently not yet recovered from the illness that prevented him from featuring in the Liverpool game. Theo Walcott was selected ahead of Olivier Giroud in the centre forward position while Mesut Özil missed out through injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced him in the lineup, meaning Aaron Ramsey moved to this favoured central midfield position.
The game kicked off with both sides seemingly going for it, end to end stuff at the beginning of the first half. That is until Newcastle’s Mitrovic achieved what he seemed to have been trying to do what since he joined the Magpies in the summer. For such a young player, hyped as a talent to watch out for, it seems such a shame that what he would be famous for would the bets that would be staked for how long before he collects a red card in a game.
Mitrovic’s red card, while justified and the correct call, was the last thing the Arsenal team wanted. Playing Theo upfront was a sign that Wenger was looking to play on the counter against the home team and with Kos and Gabriel as centre backs, the team could also play a high line at the back, squeezing the space in the middle. But the dismissal changed all that, forcing Newcastle to sit back and defend deep. Even then, there were a few chances for Arsenal to take the lead, but these chances were spurned with Walcott being the most profligate of the players on show; missing one particularly gilt-edged chance after Tim Krul blocked a shot.
In the end the goal came early in the second half off the boot of the Newcastle captain, Colocinni as Chamberlain either tried to shoot across goal or at goal itself; it’s not clear which the Arsenal winger was trying to do. He was one the Arsenal players who had a weird game overall, flashes of brilliance followed by bizarre decision making in the final third.
Another player who had a off game was Arsenal’s starting centre forward, and if you are not sure who that is, it is because nothing went right for Theo Walcott on the day. Nothing stuck to him, nothing fell for him, and when it appeared that it would, there was always one Newcastle defender or even the goalkeeper in his way.
It is all getting tedious now, this business of always managing to find the shin of the nearest defender or the chest of the opposing goalkeeper when shooting on goal. It is only four league games into the season but surely finding the range for the Arsenal players should be not beyond them for this long. If this team has any designs of challenging for anything this season being more clinical will be required.
One good thing to emerge from this match was the partnership between Koscielny and Gabriel. On paper, it looked like something that might not work, with both of them seemingly the same type of defender. But on the pitch, it was as if both players qualities seemed to amplify off each other, both stronger in the tackle, both faster to intercept balls. If i was Per Mertesacker, i would be very worried.
A victory is always welcome, especially one that comes just before the Interlull but it bears repeating that Arsene needs to find a solution to the team’s lack of composure in front of goal. Now whether that would be from the transfer market or more organically, I’m sure the coach knows better than me. Or any other fan. Or any pundit. And that is the truth.