Arsenal Loads – Loads But Not As Many Newcastle United
1 – 0 Walcott (20)
1 – 1 Ba (43)
2 – 1 Oxlade-Chamberlain (50)
2 – 2 Marveaux (59)
3 – 2 Podolski (64)
3 – 3 Ba (69)
4 – 3 Walcott (73)
5 – 3 Giroud (86)
6 – 3 Giroud (88)
7 – 3 Walcott (90)
You have to go back to 1948 to find Arsenal in such rampant form, Middlesbrough (7-0) and Grimsby Town (8-0) were thrashed in the space of five weeks. Travel to 1934 for the last time that Arsenal scored a brace of quicker high-scoring wins as Wolves and Leicester succumbed 7-0 and 8-0 respectively in a pre-Christmas fortnight, Liverpool having conceded eight at Higbury at the start of that season. There is still some way to go before topping 1932-33 when – common theme emerging – Leicester (8-2), Wolves (7-1), Sheffield United (9-2) and Blackburn (8-0) all tumbled inside fourteen weeks whilst 1930-31 saw Blackpool (7-1), Grimsby Town (9-1) and, yes, Leicester (7-2), defeated in a six week spell. If we get past Swansea and draw Leicester in the FA Cup fourth round, I might just be in the bookies.
Despite the emphatic scoreline, this was not vintage Arsenal. I suppose it was this season’s vintage to some extent. Three times Arsenal were pegged back but pulled away with two apiece from Walcott and Giroud in the final seventeen minutes. Demba Ba probably passed his audition to be Theo Walcott’s replacement, a pair as Newcastle sought parity won’t have done his claims for an Arsenal transfer any harm. To my mind, if Ba arrives, it means Walcott will leave. The England international was dismissively non-commital post-match about his future, contemptuous of the media or Arsenal? Or both?
Whatever his mood or intentions, the hat-trick kept Walcott centre stage. Had Olivier Giroud grabbed his maiden Arsenal treble, you wonder if the fuss over Walcott would have been as big. Probably, the English media has such little native talent to be joyous over. The Frenchman showed the alternative he offers, a cracking header from an inviting cross followed by a well-drilled finish both indicated a settled player, confident in his surroundings.
It might have been different. Arsenal’s defensive display was lacking, in confidence, in concentration. Newcastle might have taken the lead before Walcott broke the deadlock in the twentieth minute, Ba headed over when unmarked. It countered Oxlade-Chamberlain’s miss in the opening minute. The goal when it came rolled back the years, the curved run, the wide position, the curled shot. Two years ago, that opportunity could have gone either way but it is a sign of Walcott’s growing maturity that you expect him to score these chances now. A miss whilst not unthinkable, would have been surprising. It might have been two before half-time but for Krul’s save from the same player.
But Newcastle were level as the referee’s lips pursed on the Acme Thunderer. Szczesny had stopped an equaliser from Tiote but Sagna was not enjoying his evening, the distinctly average Obertan giving him a torrid night, drawing a silly foul. Arsenal were punished as Ba’s freekick connected with Jack Wilshere to send it into the net. There was nothing to indicate how events were going to unfurl.
Arsenal resumed scoring quickly after the interval. It might have been sooner but for Kieran Gibbs blinkered vision, spurning the opportunity to create for waiting teammates, instead failing from close range himself. Oxlade-Chamberlain slid an accurate shot across Krul following Cazorla’s perfect cross-field pass to restore Arsenal’s lead. It didn’t last as Obertan outpaced Sagna to create space, his deflected cross was tapped in by the unmarked Marveaux. It was poor defending on both flanks, Gibbs culpable for losing sight of his opponent.
Wilshere was a dynamic force in Arsenal’s midfield, none more so than when he laid crazy paving through the Newcastle defence to stand up a delightful cross into the Newcastle six yard area, Coloccini headed against his own bar and Podolski nodded home from centimetres out. Again, noses in front, Arsenal need cool heads to close the game out. Again, Newcastle equalised, Ba once more offering Wenger indigestion from his food for thought.
And then the visitors collapsed. Arsenal went up a gear with Walcott and Giroud taking over. The Englishman auditioned for next year’s Strictly Come Dancing with a pirouette of which Darcy Bussell would have approved, to hammer home Arsenal’s fourth. It was awful defending that afforded him so much space but that is Pardew’s problem. With Giroud arriving, Walcott moved to the flanks and delivered a perfect cross that was met with the perfect header. Next goal wins indeed.
Giroud buried the sixth and the race was on for the hat-trick. Walcott grabbed it, weaving into the Newcastle area, clipped to win a penalty, quickly regaining his feet to play to the whistle, draw Krul and spin the ball over the hapless Dutchman. Lucky seven indeed.
It’s hard on Arsène. The manager has made it clear that he wants Walcott to sign and the club find themselves chastised for not doing the deal sooner. Team Walcott‘s decision to walk away from talks last season is being forgotten as people are exceedingly quick to blame the club for the crisis. Yes, they should offer more money but as I stated yesterday, Walcott should be willing to accept a performance-related deal if he wants to learn his trade in the first team. Personally, I don’t think he will sign a new deal but that is me from the outside looking in. However, I think Arsenal need to make it clear to him that their priority will be a new striker this window and if that happens, Walcott will not be playing again this season. Tough love.
Of as much concern will have been the full back displays. The defence seemed unsettled by the absence of Mertesacker but that cannot have been the sole reason for the scatty positioning all evening by Sagna and Gibbs. Rarely have they both been so off-form, even rarer that it was in the same match. Gibbs miss brings to mind his reaction at Anfield when Giroud was given stick for shooting when the youngster was in a better position; has he learned from that? Tunnel vision suggests not readily enough.
It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance but there is a danger of over-analysing the faults. Let’s be honest, if you can’t enjoy scoring seven at home, you won’t enjoy much football at all. So, it’s a case of taking the positives overboard and noting the negatives. Southampton can wait as the result is savoured.