Tuesday, 29 April 2014

It's Happened Again!

Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle

It’s happened again, Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again! This chant rang round the Emirates last night as the Gunners secured a crucial three points in the race for fourth place against a poor Newcastle United side last night. It was also a victory that ensured Arsenal would once again finish the season ahead of their North London rivals, despite Spurs’ lavish £110 million summer spending spree. A wise man once proclaimed that change is inevitable, but it would appear that some things just never change.

Although Arsenal supporters always take great joy from mocking their inferior neighbours, last night’s game was also tinged with a great sense of regret as the performance of Aaron Ramsey highlighted just what the Gunners had been missing during his four month absence.  The Welshman was simply outstanding yesterday as he strutted around the field exuding great confidence. There has been an immense change in Ramesy’s mental approach to the game during the last 12 months, going from a man who seemed so unsure of himself to a player who now truly believes that he is world class.

Mesut Ozil was also in inspired form against Newcastle, scoring one and creating another, but Ramsey was just on another level, head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch. He was spraying pin point passes across the pitch with consummate ease, spotting and picking out runners ahead of him with perfectly weighted through balls, as well as showcasing his all round game with a number of excellent tackles.

Ramsey and Ozil had to be on their game last night as Alan Pardew set his side up to spoil the game, with eleven men behind the ball, ensuring a lack of space for Arsenal to get in behind them. As a result, the Gunners had plenty of the ball, but struggled to produce anything of any note during a rather stale opening twenty minutes to the game. The Closest the Gunners came to opening the scoring was through Ozil’s volley which bounced just wide of goal, following a Santi Cazorla cross which Tim Krul palmed straight into the German’s path.

The Gunners took the lead in the 26th minute, through Laurent Koscielny. Santi Cazorla’s free kick delivery was allowed to drift all the way to the back post and Koscielny snuck in behind his marker to get his toe onto the ball and divert it away from Krul and into the net. It was a goal very similar to Giroud’s against the same opposition in the away game at Saint James’ Park. Newcastle’s game plan had now been ruined and the Gunners sensed an opportunity to put the game to bed as they poured forward in search of a second.

First Podolski was sent clear on goal, but his effort was just deflected wide by the onrushing Krul, then the German saw a powerful header from Cazorla’s corner, tipped away by Krul, before Giroud was released through on goal by Arteta. The Frenchman however could not convert firing straight at Krul, picking up the rebound, only to fire straight at Krul once more. Fortunately, following Giroud’s second effort, the ball rolled through to Ozil who really couldn’t miss, to double Arsenal’s lead. It could have been 3-0 before half time as Cazorla jinked his way into the box, but saw his fine effort towards the top corner, well saved by Krul.

Arsenal were now in complete control, passing the ball with ease, performing little tricks and really enjoying themselves after what had been an extremely difficult and frustrating last few weeks. It was more a question of when not if the third goal would arrive, as Cazorla fired over the bar before Koscielny saw his powerful effort blocked by a Newcastle defender. Then in the 67th minute the Gunners sealed all three points with a beautiful goal. Ramsey’s reverse ball, not his first of the night, found Ozil on the left flank and the German picked out Giroud with a sumptuous cross towards the near post, for the French international to nod home Arsenal’s third of the night.

Podolski almost made it four a few minutes later as Ozil played the ball square to his compatriot, only for Podolski to steer his effort just wide of goal.

Following Everton’s defeat at Southampton on Saturday, the Gunners are now four points clear of the Toffees and with only two games of the season left, Arsenal know that should they equal Everton’s result against Manchester City, when the Gunners entertain West Brom, Arsene Wenger’s side will once again finish the season in the top four.  Following a campaign in which Arsenal have spent so much time at the top of the table, it is a real shame that the Gunners could not carry their form into the final weeks of the season and mount a real title challenge. Unfortunately, the loss of Ramsey for such a large part of the season proved far too costly. It seems to be a recurring theme for Arsenal to rue their bad luck come the end of the season, but what team could cope without their star performer for four months and still fight for the title?

The Gunners cannot afford to cry over spilt milk now. A top four finish is at least in their hands and they must concentrate on completing this job with a victory over West Brom at the weekend. Arsenal can then focus on the FA Cup Final and securing a first trophy in nine long years. It may be disappointing to only be fighting for a top four place, but there is still plenty to fight for this season.

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