A couple of weeks ago, the table looked very grim. It felt like we were something like 16 points behind Man United - we were 6 points Villa and within minutes of going 8 points behind them (thanks Stoke), a worse goal difference and an inability to score but after this weekend, we've scored three goals away from home, to keep ourselves unbeaten this year. We've clawed back 9 points on Villa to go three points ahead of them (they're playing United next) and have much better goal difference. What a difference a month makes in the world of football.
Yesterday was a nervy game, a game that we would have struggled with before - but did really well to come away with the win. Newcastle have been struggling and have found themselves in the bottom 3 - the game yesterday had a lot of importance for them and just as much for us, which made for a great game.
Our line up saw a familiar 11 with Diaby in for Song and Nasri and Arshavin starting on the wings. Eduardo was on the bench and good to see he's recovered from his latest injury - I'd expect him to start on the bench for a while as he's been suffering with a few injuries since he's been back in action.
Newcastle started the stronger team and for the best part of the first half, they were the better team. Damien Duff was inspired and with Duff, Martins and Lovenkrands they had invention, pace and desire. But our defence was up to the challenge and Sagna and Clichy both showed why they were named full backs of the year last year. A dodgy penalty for an innocuous challenge could have seen us go behind, but Almunia saved well from a half hearted Martins penalty.
The second half was much more interesting from our point of view and it was certainly a game of two halves. A free kick on the left of midfield and our new hero, Andrei Arshavin, who seems to be involved in everything good at the moment, swung in a great cross and Bendtner headed from close-ish range. It was less than 60 seconds later when Newcastle equalised through Martins. He was a livewire up front and a player above the team he was playing in, so as the ball bobbled for a split second past our defence, Martins snapshot ended up in the back of the net.
It was fitting that we regain the lead soon afterwards - especially when Steven Taylor was off the pitch - the Newcastle player having assaulted Andrei Arshavin earlier - as Diaby burst into the middle of the opposition's defence, finishing with aplomb. Within minutes, Nasri, from a tight angle, finished well, and the points were secure.
A few things to talk about - firstly, the rugby tackle on Clichy - how on earth did that go unpunished? Secondly, the clothes line attack on Arshavin - a definite red! And finally, why has nothing been done about Diouf's attack on Almunia? Answers on a postcard.
Arsene spoke after the game and said:
“I think it was a very good football game, one where Newcastle played well. They had a very good first half and put us under pressure and could have been in front, of course, with the penalty. They had two or three other good chances. In the second half we kept the tempo high, slowly took over and then won the game in a convincing way. I must say as well Newcastle were unfortunate to lose players, like Sebastien Bassong and Steven Taylor, at the wrong period of the game.”
“It was a good opportunity today, to close in on those at the top. You never know, even in a one in a billion chance, we want to come back and fight to get as close to the team at the top.”
“We feel that we are on a very good run and improving in every game. This is a young side and the spirit is great, the quality is there and we feel we can go forward from game to game. People don’t realise how young we are in the Premier League, and what we achieve. I think today you had six or seven players between 20 and 22-years of age.”
That’s very true – and just imagine if we win all our games from now until the end of the season, surely that would see us finish second? With the news that Walcott’s injury is not as bad as first thought, it’s been a good weekend for the Arsenal.
Newcastle: Harper, Steven Taylor (Owen 65), Coloccini, Bassong (Beye 38), Jose Enrique, Ryan Taylor, Butt, Nolan, Duff, Lovenkrands (Ameobi 79), Martins.
Subs Not Used: Krul, Smith, Gutierrez, Geremi.
Goals: Martins 58.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Toure, Clichy, Arshavin (Song Billong 74), Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Bendtner (Eboue 89).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Eduardo, Vela, Djourou, Gibbs.
Goals: Bendtner 57, Diaby 64, Nasri 67.
Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).]]>