Arsenal Forced To Work Hard To Stay Top Of The Premier League

A meeting with Newcastle United at the Emirates generally means good news for Arsenal and a decent amount of goals. From their last 10 fixtures in the Premier League in North London, Arsenal have scored 26 and conceded just seven, resulting in eight victories, one draw and one loss. With history on their side, Arsenal fans could only hope for history to repeat itself, but it proved to be tougher than usual.

The hosts had more possession throughout the match (52.6% – 47.4%), but that didn’t really represent what was happening on the pitch. For Arsenal fans at the Emirates and all of those watching on TV like myself, we were all on the edge of our seats. It just didn’t look like Arsenal was going to be able to breakdown this Newcastle defense, and while the Magpies were resolute and organized, Arsene Wenger’s lads were struggling to create anything offensively. Too much champagne on New Years Eve?

Connecting passes in the final third proved to be extremely difficult, and it took over 45 minutes to get their first shot on target. Many would ask how the hell this squad was currently at the top of the table, but the truth is that every champion has matches like that. It’s nearly impossible to always play beautiful and free-flowing football the entire season. So when you come across these fixtures where you aren’t at your best, coming away with three points is extremely important, and that’s exactly what the Gunners did today.

Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle (Stats)

According to WhoScored, Arsenal had only three corners in the match. Not a great number for a club that has dominated this matchup over the years, and they were playing at home. How about the fact that the hosts had a shocking three shots on target, while the visitors had six, and a few times Petr Cech had to come to the rescue. That is why it’s important to have a world-class shot stopper.

Inconsistencies going forward and some shaky moments at the back had me and I’m sure many others thinking the Magpies were going to steal a point, maybe even three.

Cech was keeping us in the game and Oxlade-Chamberlain couldn’t get anything going offensively, leading to Joel Campbell replacing the young Englishman after 68 minutes. I was confident this would be the year that Ox would make a name for himself, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened, yet.

With the lack of offense, who would have thought that the goal would come from Koscielny, and it wasn’t even a header.

Hats off to Olivier Giroud who went up for a head two times, not giving up on that play. Eventually the ball dropped in the six-yard box, allowing Koscielny to sneak around the Newcastle player, poking it into the bottom-right corner of the goal. While celebrating the goal and watching the replay, did anyone else notice how lost Per Mertesacker looked?

The ball was crossed in, Giroud jumped up for it, and while the ball was still up in the air, BFG starts walking back towards midfield as if he thought the ball had been cleared. He had absolutely no idea what was going on. Fortunately the ball ended up in the back of the net because had he needed to take part in that play, it likely wouldn’t have happened. Hey guys, where the hell is the ball?!

It could have been one of the worst performances for Arsenal this season, although I think the match against Southampton was much worst, but at least the lads came out on the winning end. With a two point cushion on Leicester, and three on City, their next match at Anfield against an inconsistent Liverpool will be very important.

Happy New Year Fellow Gooners, and enjoy the top of the table!