Newcastle United 1 – 3 Arsenal
0 – 1 Bendtner (57)
1 – 1 Martins (58)
1 – 2 Diaby (64)
1 – 3 Nasri (67)
An amazing burst of positive thinking has engulfed the world of Arsenal following the weekend’s matches. Whilst Liverpool’s drubbing of Aston Villa extinguishes the faint hope of second place, the defeats of the two teams directly above and below Arsenal consolidate the long road into the top four and perhaps even the top three.
The victory at St James Park was achieved through a mixture of determination and some scintillating football. Chief protaganists were Diaby and van Persie. The former had another immense performance away from The Emirates, providing a directness in the centre that even Arsene likened to Vieira-esque after the match, a comparison that he had previously been at pains to avoid making this season. Diaby dominated the centre of Newcastle’s midfield, Butt and Nolan were chasing shadows for most of the afternoon.
van Persie meanwhile was at creative best, his finishing might not have been up to his high standards but that was largely due to Harper and Taylor performing heroics. He was the chief provider with two assists, as the statto’s like to note. Commendable also was Bendtner’s performance, rewarded with a well-deserved goal. Unable to hit a barn door since the visit to The Hawthorns, I did wonder that had Walcott been fit, I doubt Nik would have started. As it was he rose well to meet Arshavin’s flighted freekick to break the deadlock. Prior to that he had set van Persie twice for sights on goal.
A curious refereeing performance though. If Almunia conceded a penalty following his flap at the ball, Sagna equally conceded one when he bundled over Duff earlier on. Whatever the rationale, it did not matter as Martins proved that having a crap penalty technique is not sole preserve of the English national team, Almunia moving smartly to save a ball placed too close to his body and underhit. Can’t think of any more criticism of the penalty.
Where fans get overly annoyed is the inability of referees to produce consistency from game to game. The only defence that can be offered for Taylor’s forearm smash on Arshavin was that neither Referee or Assistant saw it, in which case it is incumbent upon the Football Association to act for the red card should have been shown to the Newcastle defender. It was a pity in some respects that he should mar his performance with thuggery because up until that point, he had been the major barrier to Arsenal taking the lead. Reverting to the stereotypical thuggish acts when he had proved that it was possible for a typically English centre half to play without consistently resorting to foul play. May be Taylor could teach John Terry a few lessons on that front.
The second goal was the epitomy of everything good in Diaby’s game. Picking the ball up in the centre circle he played it off to van Persie whose touch was perfect as the Frenchman strode into the path of the return pass to drive home from the edge of the area, ten seconds from inception to completion and proof perhaps of how good a fit Diaby could be.
Completing the win was Nasri’s drive inside Harper from another van Persie lay-off. The woodwork and Harper denied the scoreline from being more emphatic but nonetheless deserved. The only downside was the nature of the Newcastle goal. It was slovenly defending all around, something like fifteen seconds after the restart following Bendtner’s opener. Gallas is being criticised for failing to clear properly but credit should be given to Martins for the constant pressure he put Gallas under and the controlled finish he put in.
But I’m not dwelling on the negative, for some have had a Damascene moment and are believing that all is not as bad they feared and harped on about since day one of this season. ’til Tomorrow.