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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
29 December 2013
• St. James' Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Referee: L. Probert
• Attendance: 52161
O. Giroud 65'
It's been a pleasure folks, bye for now.
The Gunners end the first half of the season and the 2013 calender year at the top of the table. It was the narrowest of narrow wins, but in the end Giroud's goal gave them the points they needed. 1-0 to the Arsenal, and first place to the Arsenal. Newcastle stay locked on seventh, 11 points off the pace.
90' + 5'
Arsenal see it through!
90' + 4'
Krul rises with Szczesny, but the latter gets a good strong punch on the ball in tons of traffic. Ben Arfa collects the loose ball, but again wastes a shot off target. And that may be that.
90' + 4'
Another Newcastle corner, and up comes Krul again...
90' + 2'
Ben Arfa makes a fool out of Flamini, freeing himself completely on the left...but he takes the selfish option of a shot, which goes into the side netting. The best and worst of the Frenchman there.
90' + 1'
...but Arsenal get the ball clear! Desperate times for both sides! Meanwhile, four minutes of time have been added.
90' + 1'
Mertesacker gives away a needless corner with a clearing header...
Newcastle laying siege to the Arsenal goal now. They're hoisting the ball forward at every opportunity. Dig in the heels time now for the Gunners.
Cabaye with a decent ball over the top to Debuchy, but he runs out of space against Szczesny, who is off his line to smother.
Ben arfa is past one...past two...but cannot sot out his final pass, and instead pings it right to Szczesny.
Santon with a delicious ball in from the right that no one attacks! Arsenal were struggling to defend that one!
Rosicky and Cazorla combine well, but Giroud makes a poor flick to Cazorla that concedes possession.
Arsenal shift to five at the back, and are clearly content to hold what they have. The invitation has been thrown down to Newcastle...
Raft of substitutions for both sides here. We could use a breather.
Yellow CardTomas Rosicky
Blood and thunder out on the field as Rosicky commits a foul, and Tiote gets himself involved in the ruckus. The Czech is booked, and referee Lee Probert does well to quell the fires quickly.
Flamini goes straight through the back of Ben Arfa and gets himself booked right away.
Yellow CardMathieu Flamini
Gibbs by the way has indeed made way for Arteta. Looks like Flamini will shift to a left back role for the remaining time.
WHAT A MISS FROM GIROUD! Oh my, it's quite a bad ham up. Walcott had stolen in, forced a kick save from Krul, then clipped the rebound back towards goal. Debuchy played a weak header off the line, but Giroud is in position to whack it in with his right...but sends it square.
Looks like Arteta is primed to appear, and word is that Gibbs is the likely departure. Interesting shuffle if that comes to pass.
Huge goal for Arsenal, and Giroud, who has been out of goals and form in the past few weeks. Having said that, what a cheap goal for the Magpies to concede.
Tiote gave away a reckless free kick, Walcott clips it in and Giroud ghosts in front of everyone to kiss a simple header into the back of the net!
ARSENAL HAVE THE LEAD!
Giroud again with a poor layoff from a good position, touching it to the right side with not a Gunners man in sight. Newcastle get the ball back with no trouble.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Sissoko is nearly caught in possession in a dangerous area by Gibbs and Walcott, but he is bailed out by an offside call on the latter, who challenged him from an illegal position.
One hour gone here, and it's not looking good as far as our prospects for an opener. Giroud wastes a good chance with a heavy layoff for Walcott, who recovers the ball then angles in an aimless cross to no one.
Now Debuchy clips the ball wide and out of play. It's just been that sort of game.
Oh dear. Flamini lets one fly on the run from 25 yards, but it goes nearly that same distance over the bar.
Not enough coming from Giroud and Walcott up front. Cazorla has seen a lot of the ball, but there is a conspicuous lack of movement in front of him to make things happen.
Szczesny comes and misses a cross, and Goufrann had what looked like an easy tap in in front of the static Sagna. However, he did not gamble on that ball, and the chance goes begging.
Newcastle continue to dominate possession, picking up where they left off at the end of the first half. Arsenal will have a lot of work to do to get something from this one.
Sissoko gets by Gibbs with a series of shimmies on the wing, but just when he sets up for the cross, he plays it out for a goal kick.
Here we go again!
Two efforts in quick succession at the end of the first half nearly give Newcastle the lead, but the Gunners held on. Not much goalmouth action to speak of, but it's been a fiercely contested game.
45' + 4'
Williamson nearly forces a late corner in as Arsenal survive the first half!
45' + 3'
Excellent block by Koscielny to block a Debuchy shot, but the ball falls kindly to Sissoko, who unleashes a vicious drive that, thankfully for Szczesny, goes just over the top!
45' + 1'
Giroud gets into an unmarked position and leaps dramatically to meet a Szczesny goal kick...and heads it out for a Newcastle throw. Whoops.
Fire in the belly of the fans now as Walcott goes down clutching his face from a Tiote challenge. The referee was right not to award a free kick, and the support are not shy to let Walcott know exactly what they think.
Mertesacker, of all people, takes aim with a half volley from the top of the box, but somewhat predictably, he scuffs his attempt, and it goes well wide.
The game getting a bit scrappy towards the end of the half as a series of mall fouls break up play.
Walcott just can't seem to get himself into the game, and he misses his control on a good diagonal from Rosicky.
Giroud is back and booked, and Cazorla is on the field of play again as well.
Yellow CardOlivier Giroud
Cazorla has gotten trodden on by Debuchy and is down, then Giroud cones in with a late challenge on Tiote, only to come off worse in the ordeal, as he writhes in pain clutching his ankle. Looks like a yellow for the Frenchman when he recovers.
Giroud sets up a shot at the top of the box, but rushes his attempt, sending it wide of the goal.
Cazorla weighted a shot up with his right, feints, and shifts onto his left before eventually letting fly from 25 yards, but Krul is well positioned to smother.
Giroud is down after a meaty challenge by Williamson. I have to say that it was the Frenchman's own clumsiness that caused his pain, as he dangled a lazy foot in the way and could not get it out of the way in time.
ROSICKY! First shot on target for the visitors, who move the ball quickly around the edge of the box, where the Czech midfielder tests the handling of Krul from 20 yards.
Debuchy for the umpteenth time gets into space on the right, and flashes a volley on the bounce towards goal, but thankfully for a slack Arsenal defence, he drills wide.
Much better from the visitors, as Cazorla forces Newcastle to back pedal on a counter attack, and Walcott digs a dangerous cross out from the right.
Arsenal could do with a change of pace here. They're being dominated by Newcastle at the moment, and are having to deal with a lot of balls thrown into the box.
Good chance for the Magpies, as Remy stands a ball up to the far post after beating Mertesacker for pace, but Sissoko's header is right at Szczesny. He towered over Gibbs on that leap though!
Debuchy is increasingly being used as the main outlet in attack for the hosts. Twice in the last two minutes, he's picked out crosses from the right, but each time his delivery is too powerful, and Sagna has mopped up on the opposite side.
Debuchy has twice gotten free down the flanks, and has nearly exposed the Arsenal defence. Gibbs and Cazorla could do with some more communication defensively.
Arsenal are knocking at the door around the Newcastle area, but so far, the final ball has been lacking. Giroud has been swarmed by the defence, and the Gunners really lack a target in the box.
Flamini wastes a great counter attacking chance with a diagonal ball to the flanks that goes between the frustrated Sagna and Walcott.
A risky header back from Santon, which looked unintentional. Walcott is racing it down, but Krul comes off his line well to catch.
Some real pressure coming in down the Arsenal left flank. Gibbs has three bites of the cherry to put a good ball in for Walcott or Giroud, but cannot pick out the forwards on any of the attempts.
Cazorla is dropping extremely deep, and is showing a lot of appetite for the fight. Despite Ozil's absence, he's been shifted to a wide role to start the match.
Nice tempo to start this game, as Arsenal ping the ball around with some speed. Giroud tries to flick one in for Rosicky, but Coloccini reads it.
The match kicks off!
These two crews are no strangers to mind boggling results. Another one for the collection (though not for Arsenal fans), was the extraordinary 4-4 draw at this very stadium in 2011. Pardew played his first game in charge of the Magpies after he was chosen to replace the popular Chris Hughton. The Gunners raced into a four goal lead, but after Abou Diaby's red, Newcastle came back with four of their own, capped off with a volleyed Tiote stunner with a minute to go.
Lest we forget, exactly one year ago, these two sides met at the Emirates in an insane 7-3 splatter to the Gunners. Walcott heped himself to a hattrick, and there were braces for Giroud and Demba Ba, with the former coming within an inch of registering a treble of his own. Please sir, can I have some more?
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger makes four changes from the side that dispatched West Ham 3-1 on Boxing Day. Aaron Ramsey misses out as expected with injury, Thomas Vermaelen is sick and Mikel Arteta is rested. In comes Flamini, Koscielny and Rosicky. Oh yeah, good on you if you were counting because I missed one...Mesut Ozil has not travelled to Tyneside, which spells the return for Jack Wilshere to the XI.
Alan Pardew has named a pretty standard lineup, save for the absence of Hatem Ben Arfa from the XI. The French winger has only been named among the substitutes, despite strutting his stuff against Stoke recently.
ARSENAL: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Arteta, Ryo, Bendtner, Gnabry, Podolski.
ARSENAL: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Rosicky, Wilshere, Walcott, Cazorla; Giroud.
NEWCASTLE: Elliot, Haidara, Yanga-Mbiwa, Sammy Ameobi, Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi, Cisse.
NEWCASTLE: Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon; Anita, Tiote, Cabaye; Sissoko, Remy, Gouffran.
Let's take a look at our teams, shall we?
Hello and welcome to another festive football feast, where Arsenal look to retake the lead at the top of the table with a win away to Newcastle. Bringing you the action from St James Park, I'm Keeghann Sinanan.
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