Non-Vintage Arsenal down Newcastle: Report, thoughts and ratings

A comfortable win sees us qualify for the quarterfinal of the Carling Cup for yet another year, 9th successive season.

We started brightly as Vela tested Krul in the opening minute followed by Bendtner who was denied thrice in succession, twice by the defence and once by the keeper. Eboue, Walcott and Gibbs all had shots on goal in the opening 10 minutes as we meant business.

Newcastle however survived the early onslaught and they themselves had a chance to take the lead in the 14th minute. Nile ranger brushed past Djourou and then side stepped Szczesny but his shot was calmly blocked by Koscielny and a corner was conceded. From the resulting corner, Alan Smith unleashed a fierce shot, as the ball was cleared towards him, only to be denied by Szczesny when he tipped it onto the bar and over.

After the early frenzy of strikes the game settled down as we continued to look for goal and Newcastle kept pace with good organization at the back. We had good buildups but it ended in weak shots on goal. It looked like the half would end in a stalemate. It didn’t come to happen as we were gifted by Newcastle with a goal under bizarre circumstances. The corner kick, by Walcott,  was half cleared by Newcastle when Rosicky sent the ball back in towards Bendtner whose goal bound header was cleared on the goal line but it was deflected by the back of Krul’s head into the net.  Funny, bizarre, unlucky, cruel whatever you want to name it as we went into the break leading by a goal.

The second half saw us looking for the second goal which we got 8 minutes after the restart, this time you may say controversially. Walcott raced on to Sagna’s forward headed ball as Bendtner, coming back from an offside position, collided with Williamson who was trying to chase Walcott. Walcott continued his run and lifted the ball over Krul for his first goal after injury.

We then started our keep-ball play that further frustrated Newcastle. Near the end we decelerated a bit as Newcastle, encouraged by the home crowd put some pressure on our goal. Our backline and keeper were up to the challenge as the clean sheet was kept. Bendtner eliminated what little hopes Newcastle had after an excellent finish saw him score his second of the season. Fabregas released Bendtner down the flank from where he cut back and curled the ball into the far corner.

The match was sealed at that moment. Still we were not finished as Walcott again scored another on a through ball from Koscielny for his second and our fourth of the night. Szczesny made a couple saves near the end as we finished with four goals to nil.

This wasn’t a vintage Arsenal performance but it had its moment. Some of the buildup play was really good but the finishing wasn’t. It might be due to that some of the players were starting after sometime and that they were rusty. Because the finishing got better as the time elapsed. There were a few mistakes committed by some players but it was good to see that the whole team was covering each other.

As for the offside, the new rule states that the player must be interfering with the play to be given offside.  Now, I feel that Bendtner was interfering with the play as he accidently collided with the defender who lost his momentum and Walcott run unhindered toward the goal. But the problem is at the moment IMO interference has been limited to the player actually getting the ball. So there are a few loop holes in the rule which can be exploited.

Something like this happened in the ‘Everton vs Liverpool’ match a couple of weeks back in which Arteta’s scored the second goal. On that occasion an Everton player, I don’t remember who, was standing right in front of Reina in an offside position and blocking his view. The goal was allowed to stand although that too was inference in the play. I feel that the rule should be reverted back to its original form or it will always lead to controversy. If the goal last night had been scored against us I would have complained a lot.  I do believe the ref was wrong on the occasion but he made a similar decision before that in the match, so he just might be trying to be consistent.

The positives for me are the return of Koscielny, who didn’t seemed to have been out of action. He was excellent yesterday, barring a few early nervous moments. His interceptions were brilliant, his distribution was awesome, his reading of the game was superb and he held the defence admirably.

Szczesny showed us what he is capable of. He was awesome in goal; he was confident and commanded his area well. He had one bad moment early on but I won’t blame him for that. Apart from that that our defence was motivated to get the clean sheet as they held their composure till the end.

It also seems that Walcott hasn’t lost his touch for goal. His start was a bit rusty but his finishing was immaculate. And he played the full match. Bendtner too has improved and some of his movement was really good. He seemed to exude confidence last night which was good to see and the goal he scored was just awesome.

The bad aspect form the match is just the injury to Gibbs as he limped off in the first half. I hope it’s not a serious injury.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny: A confident and commanding display of goalkeeping. Made a few excellent saves and some good clearances. His distribution was also great.  7.5

Eboue: Started on the right but shifted to left as Gibbs got injured. Made a few good runs but as our other full backs the final ball wasn’t good. Was good at the back and excellent in one-on-one situation. 6.5

Koscielny: Great performance by him. It simply didn’t looked like he was returning from injury. Composed, Solid and aware throughout the match. His distribution under pressure was excellent too. 8

Djourou: Shaky start by him but settled and made some good clearances and interceptions, especially the one in the 78th minute. Was good on set pieces. An improved performance but still needs to work on his positioning and reading of the game.  6.5

Gibbs: started the match but got substituted due to injury. No ratings.

Eastmond: A decent performance by him. Some of his tackles were good and some late as he gave away a few free kicks. Lost possession on some occasions too. It was his first match so I won’t complain much. 6

Rosicky: In my opinion he also had an excellent game. Made our midfield ticking with some good passing, distribution and runs. Dropped deep down to get help the midfield and was always creating openings. Completed the full 90 minutes too. 8

Denilson: decent performance by him as he wasn’t up to the performance level he has shown this season. Lost the ball on few occasions and positioning was questionable on few occasions. Still kept the game ticking.  6.5

Walcott: Two goals in his first start after returning from injury. His start was slow but improved as he made some good runs. He was let down by his crossing though but his finishing was awesome. 7.5

Bendtner: Great game for him too. Good movement, good passing, not afraid to shoot on goal and always working hard. And to top it off scored a beauty. 7.5

Vela: Not his bets performance. His crosses were poor as his runs down the flank ended up in nothing. 5

Subs:

Sagna: Came on for Gibbs and made good runs down the right flank and delivered some excellent crosses. At the back he was solid but did commit a few mistakes. 6.5

Fabregas (6.5) further improved our hold on the midfield and in the process got an assist. JET didn’t have much time so no ratings for him.

I am going with Rosicky for the man of the match because he kept our play ticking and created a plenty of openings. I know most people won’t agree but you can tell me whose tour man of the match in the comments.

Another game out of the way with plenty of goals scored and yet another clean sheet away from home. The momentum for sure is with us and hopefully we will continue with it for the whole season. Next up is West Ham at home.

Thoughts!

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