Newcastle finished 5th last year. They're contenders for top four this year. This game was the first of note we've had in a while. 3 points were imperative, but as I said before the game, finding our style and confidence was of equal importance.
My oh my did we deliver. The ten goal thriller didn't go all our own way, defensive frailties were exposed as is par the course for this side. What did go our way was an attacking master class, the likes of which we've seen a few times this season (from my records, that's the 6th game we've scored five or more).
There were stand out performances up front from a number of the boys. Theo Walcott easily had his best game in the red and white of Arsenal last night. Based on what he turned in yesterday, I'll be eating humble pie by the truck load. He played off the last man with intelligence, he helped us break at pace and he showed world class ingenuity at times. He was totally unplayable.
His first goal opened the scoring, he was played in with a low hard pass from Podolski, he held the line perfectly, steamed into the box and slotted into the bottom corner with confident precision when he could have opted for the pass to Santi.
His second came from a Gibbs cross, he controlled it in the area, swivelled and powered into the top corner. His third was goal of the season so far, after a quick freekick with Jack, he jinked into the area past two players, he was chopped down, fell to his knees, got back up and chipped the ball past Krul... all in one slick move! A masterful demonstration of what you can do if you stay on your feet.
Chamberlain also had a very solid game, he used his skill and ability to go round players on numerous occasions to great effect. His goal was courtesy of Podolski intercepting a throw in, Cazorla bringing the ball down with some tight control, he played it across the box, Chambo controlled it and drilled it low and hard back across Krul's goal into the net.
Podolski seemed to be the man at the heart of everything. He's finally starting to deliver on his big reputation, but far more as a provider... even if he's not directly offering the killer pass, he's often involved in the build up like Hleb used to be. The German was credited on the score sheet after Jack found his way into the box from a smart one two, he then chipped delightfully to the back post, Krul made a hash clearing, leaving Lukas free to slam home.
The final two goals to talk about came from Giroud who came on for a cameo appareance. His first goal was courtesy of a viscous cross from Theo into the 6 yard box, the big Frenchman slammed home his header with ease. His second was a more individual, he powered a near post shot past the down beaten Krul. He was over the moon... he needed to justify his place in the side and he certainly did. That's 11 goals and 9 assists for his half season. Pretty impressive you have to say.
Things didn't go all our way. We were pegged back three times. Demba Ba levelled with a Frank Lampard like deflected freekick. He slammed his shot at Jack, who turned his back on it, the ball ricocheting into the middle of the goal. Any other day I'd be taking Jack to town over that... you take it in the face at any level of the game. The second came from Marveax after Obertan easily beat Sagna, passed across the six years box where an untracked Marveax was on hand to tap in. The third was Ba again. Gibbs went to sleep, Ba slipped in behind him and slammed home for an easy goal.
Our full backs were poor defensively yesterday. Simple mistakes that shouldn't happen, happened. For all the joy of beating Newcastle with a 7 goal tally, we can't ignore the simple fact that conceding sloppy goals is not going to help us long term.
However, for the time, we'll just pretend that attack is the best form of defence.
It's crazy that from a stats point of view, things don't quote correlate. We had less possession, our pass completion rate was lower than Newcastle's and we only managed ten shots on target... a 70% conversion rate!
What yesterday proved is that we can still be a devastating force when it comes to playing attacking football. It showed that we're capable of a plan A and a plan B with our style. Giroud is the polar opposite to Theo, but in certain games, just as effective. It also showed how much we've missed pace and decisiveness up front. Theo allowed
us to stretch Newcastle all evening. If we sign another striker, they have to have pace and power. Demba Ba looked like the missing ingredient we don't have. However, as it seems unlikely we'll take a risk on a dodgy knee, we need to find someone similar. Pace is the prerequisite.
What last night can't do is act like some sort of vindication Wenger doesn't need to spend. Our squad is still desperately lacking quality back up. Diaby needs replacing, we're a striker and a back up keeper short. If Theo is moving into the middle, I think it's fair to suggest we need a winger... someone who likes playing there. A Nani or a Zaha would suffice.
The important thing is that the core of the team are gelling. Jack Wilshere is an immense driving force. He's getting sharper as each game passes and he's starting to control the middle of the park. He turns an interception to an attack with great speed, once he starts adding goals to his skillet he'll be we'll worth the massive contract he's on.
Things are looking good, if we make the right moves in January, we'll make third at a canter and definitely win the Champions League.
Have a great day, and if you get the chance, crop me a picture of Alan Pardew's smacked arse face when he started getting pounded! It makes me smile so, so much!
Have a great day!