NEWCASTLE UNITED 1
Arsenal suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season after a defensive mistake was punished for the third time in two games, yet their inability to win can be attributed to other areas of the performance.
The Gunners were not at their most creative despite forcing Tim Krul into a number of good saves. In contrast, when Joey Barton gave Lukasz Fabianski a decision to make, his rush-of-blood moment cost Arsenal dearly. From a Newcastle free-kick, and with half-time imminent, Fabianski raced off his line to compete with a number of his own defenders for the chance to stop Andy Carroll getting his head to the ball. The consequences of Fabianski hitting the self-destruct button were catastrophic- Carroll had out leaped all-comers and nodded into the now empty goal.
Theo Walcott was the player that Arsenal’s creative element were looking to supply in the opening stages. Cutting in from his right-hand starting berth, the in-form winger almost gathered Samir Nasri’s pass that had split the Newcastle centre-halves. And moments after half-time Jack Wilshere’s threaded ball searched for Walcott once more. This time he was first to get to the ball, and his shot rattled the Newcastle crossbar for a second time.
Struggling to get back into the game via their usual pattern of play, Arsene Wenger used his final substitution to supplement the lone striker with Nicklas Bendtner. With two in attack, Arsenal now had the option to deliver early crosses into the box in addition to them probing the edge of the area for the killer ball. The change worked the week previous in the win over West Ham, but the Newcastle defence defiantly repelled Arsenal crosses- with help coming from Andy Carroll, who by the closing stages had become the standout player in both penalty areas.
Despite Arsenal utilising a three-man central midfield – two of which were constantly on the move looking for possession – the visitors’ athleticism and discipline in midfield was a key factor in an excellent away performance.
Carroll and Shola Ameobi ably held the ball up or, when necessary, used their pace and power to further reduce the pressure on the Newcastle back line and in doing so gave the Magpies the option to counter attack when the opportunity to do so presented itself. As Arsenal chased a way back into the game, the physicality of the Newcastle front line prevailed once more. Substitute Nile Ranger harried Laurent Koscielny and stripped the defender of possession. Desperate to win it back, Koscielny lunged at Ranger- his mistimed tackle sending the young striker tumbling and giving Mike Dean no option but to reach for his back pocket and dismiss the French defender.
3 Sagna – 18 Squillaci – 6 Koscielny – 22 Clichy
14 Walcott – 19 Wilshere – 4 Fabregas- 17 Song- 8 Nasri
56- 23 Arshavin on for 8 Nasri
57- 10 Van Persie on for 29 Chamakh
73- 52 Bendtner on for 19 Wilshere