It’s often stated that teams perform best when their backs are up against the wall.
Let’s make a clear statement though – this was not a comforting victory – nowhere close to the term ‘best’ as stated above. It was scrappy, it was terse, it was even nerve-racking for the Gunners’ supporters. However, Arsenal satisfyingly got over the line and at the end of the day that was all that mattered for Arsene Wenger.
The home side’s attack really stood out thanks to the addition of Alexander Lacazette. His chemistry with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez is continuing blossom and the Ashburton Grove-based side must take advantage of the trio’s time together, whatever may be left of it.
Applause must be reserved for the German number 11 as well. His goal was exquisitely placed and the result of magnificent summoning of technique. Once the volley left his boot, goalkeeper Rob Elliot really didn’t have a chance of getting near the bullet.
Ozil’s influence was significant - he nearly scored another, before setting up Lacazette, who failed to capitalise. His deliveries from corners also produced distress for the away side’s defence.
However, Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ performance will have provided Wenger with a spring in his step. The 20-year-old is versatile despite being a predominantly right sided player as he’s taken to his newly deputized left-back slot like a duck to water.
The Godmayes-born Arsenal number 30 may have a bright career ahead of him, but he almost got off on his fourth start for Arsenal in the silkiest way possible with a low, long-ranger after dodging multiple challenges from about 40-yards out.
For most of the game, the home side’s defence stood were relatively comfortable despite the odd chance for Newcastle. This will hearten Wenger, who will see his first choice central defender Shkodran Mustafi return to the side next week.
Another fact that will bring Christmas Cheer to the offices at the Emirates is the form and return of Jack Wilshere. He’s carried himself well in two important games for the Reds and heading into the festive period the doggedness of Arsenal’s once ‘Wonderboy’ will be key again.
His link-up play with the fab three up ahead of him was there for all to see and his movement up and down the pitch to support attack and defence will have been valued by his manager.
Newcastle’s fans can be proud of their side’s somewhat resurgent display despite fears of a relegation dogfight appearing on the horizon. Rafael Benitez’s team now are in the 18th position with all lot of festive decorations needed to lift the mood at St. James’ Park.
Despite Elliot’s good saves, the value of the Magpies’ performance can only be counted on the sheet. Their return empty handed for the EIGHTH time in nine games.
At the end of the day, no matter how close Newcastle got to Arsenal’s goal, the only significant story left to tell in the game, was woven with the magic foot of a certain number 11. The rest was mere detail.