Arsenal has been flying high for a few weeks now and Newcastle has stumbled out of the top four. This was a match important for both clubs as Arsenal need to maintain their lead over Chelsea while continuing to heap pressure on Tottenham, who are slipping. Newcastle would need this victory to maintain their European hopes as well as any outside hopes for the Champions League next year. Those hopes would fade fast with a loss.
Newcastle showed some desire early in the game and played with great intensity. This allowed the Arsenal forwards some space as Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie nearly connected on some early efforts. Van Persie made a mess of both opportunities.
The visitors saw much of the ball during the early exchanges as they rushed forward and then struck a goal in the 13th minute. Arsenal’s defenders gave the ball up early, and Ben Arfa was left by his lonesome. A smart pass and cut enabled him some space and he beat Szczesny on the near post for a goal.
Amazingly, Arsenal responded in only 53 seconds with Walcott laying the ball across to Van Persie, who wrong footed a defender and blasted it into the bottom corner. It was a goal of sheer determination for the striker who has maintained his red hot form for over a year.
The goal re-invigorated the Arsenal side who dominated the rest of the half’s possession. Newcastle sensed such and went into hibernation, dropping men behind the ball and sitting back. Goalkeeper, Krul, was even involved in a testy exchange with Robin Van Persie in regards to time wasting as he was merely hoping to see the game at a draw into halftime, which it remained.
The second half continued to provide more of the same. Newcastle scarcely had a chance and parked the bus as Arsenal pushed forward, more and more desperately as the match progressed.
Robin Van Persie had a few missed chances. Thomas Rosicky had a wide open effort that he shanked. Walcott had a shot blocked off the back of a defender and there was a momentary call for a handball in the box although the replay proved otherwise.
In the last ten minutes, Arsenal found many opportunities through corners and free kicks but it seemed that it was to be one of those days. However, deep into injury time, as Newcastle was busy trying to waste time in Arsenal’s corner, the Gunners got a break.
Walcott raced down the right side, lofted a final grand cross to the area which drifted over everyone and fell to Thomas Vermaelen of all people. The Belgian defender beat Krul to the ball and sliced it in for another dramatic Arsenal victory.
Krul had a heated exchange with Van Persie in the aftermath of the goal. Clearly many words were spoken and Van Persie was simply laughing at the enraged goalkeeper. Both players received yellow cards and play resumed for a nervous minute before time was called and the Emirates Stadium could exhale. The win gives Arsenal some breathing room in 4th position and heaps pressure onto Spurs, who we are now well-poised to overtake before season’s end.
Theo Walcott received the man of the match award for his 2 assists and quality play down the right forward side. He confused defenders all day and played beautiful crosses across the goal. Fortunately, two of those were able to result in goals for Arsenal.