Negative Newcastle Get What They Deserve!

Arsenal (2) – (1) Newcastle United
Van Persie (15′), Vermaelen (90′+4)
The Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal have done it again.

We have set a new Premier League record – winning 4 games in a row after trailing in all 4 games. First against Sunderland, then Tottenham and then against Liverpool.

Tonight, Newcastle took the lead against the run of play when the talented Ben Arfa cut inside and lashed in a shot at the near post. Kieran Gibbs was poor on that occasion and Ben Arfa took full advantage.

From then on, Arsenal dominated.

There was only one team that was interested in taking all 3 points and it wasn’t the visiting team in the black and white shirts. For the entire second half, Tim Krul was intent on taking as much time as possible over every single goal kick and freekick to waste as much time as he could.

We have had teams try to frustrate Arsenal at The Emirates but the negativity from Newcastle in the second half was frustrating. Szczesny was hardly tested apart from the goal from Ben Arfa.

Arsenal struggled at times during the second half to break down a resilient Newcastle team but we were also guilty of missing some really guilt-edged chances. Gervinho, missed an absolute sitter and the in-form Tomas Rosicky got his bearings wrong and lashed an effort wide when he should have done better.

Mental strength is something that Arsene used to talk about and at the moment, this Arsenal team have that in abundance. To react like that have to going a goal (or two) down and still come out with the win is outstanding and all the players deserve all the praise they get. Against Sunderland, Liverpool and now Newcastle, Arsenal have unbelievably scored injury time winners.

Remarkable, outstanding, you can use any superlative you like.

And the end result after a fantastic run like that is we have managed to claw back a 10 point deficit on Tottenham Hotspur to a single point. That is amazing and a team tipped to not even be in the Top Four is in with a real shout to be in the Top Three.

19 points from losing positions this season tells you about the character and fight this Arsenal team has. We’ve been found wanting at times but at the moment this Arsenal team are fighting for the fans, fighting for the manager and more importantly fighting for themselves.

The winning goal tonight was special. With the last attack of the game, Arsenal managed to win the ball after Newcastle were trying to waste time in the corner, and once that happened 8 Arsenal players bust a gut to get into the penalty area and when Theo Walcott was played in he needed to make sure that he produce a decent cross. His delivery was good and Newcastle’s inability to clear meant the ball fell to Vermaelen, and there was only going to be one result. The outstanding Belgian ran his heart out in the last minute and thoroughly deserved his winning goal.

The momentum is with Arsenal and we need to keep fighting and making sure we keep winning games. You can accuse Arsenal of many things this season but being boring is not one of them.

Some people will say that the spat between Van Persie and Tim Krul is something you don’t want to see but I like to see passion, desire and fight in our players. It shows they care and want to win for the club. You might think it’s not how a captain should act but I say screw that, Van Persie is the man and it shows you don’t f*ck with us!

On a side note, I don’t think our recent good form and the absence of Per Mertesacker is a coincidence. Vermaelen and Koscielny have been outstanding together recently and that has to be our first choice defensive partnership. Sagna is solid and energetic as ever, Gibbs is improving all the time and our midfield now has real options with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Arteta, Song and Ramsey all in good form.

Our only problematic areas are in attack – losing Van Persie is something we can’t even thing about and Theo Walcott’s form is too inconsistent. And both Gervinho and Chamakh are just so off form it’s unreal. Hopefully Podolski does come in the summer and adds some bite and firepower to our wide positions because we are over-reliant on Van Persie for goals.

But that’s another discussion for another day. Let’s just enjoy another important victory and look forward to our next game – a tough away fixture at Everton.

Does Podolski In Mean Van Persie Out?

As ever with the t’interweb, there is no shortage of Arsenal news all over the place. You can read about Arsenal on football websites, Arsenal blogs, Twitter, Facebook – so much so that I pretty much shield myself from all of that. I don’t have time for rumour and gossip, and quite frankly it bores me. My Arsenal knowledge and opinion comes from watching the matches, the official Arsenal website, Arseblog and the BBC Football website.

So it peaked my interested when it was reported that Arsenal have agreed a deal for Lukas Podolski. Apparently we have agreed a deal with Cologne, although Podolski has yet to pass a medical or agree personal terms.

So it’s hardly a done deal.

But if all of this does happen, then what does this mean for Arsenal?

Essentially it can only mean one of two things. It means that Arsenal are finally bringing in quality players so they can compete at the very top, or it means that Arsenal are preparing to lose their captain Robin Van Persie.

The problem is that we have a reputation of losing our captains year after year. We lost Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, William Gallas and Cesc Fabregas while they were Arsenal’s club captain. I’m not sure whether giving a player the captains armband is Arsene’s secret way of telling the world that is our star player and they’re up for sale. With the exception of Gallas, obviously.

The other problem is if you had to name another player in the game today that is most similar to Van Persie, then it’s Lukas Podolski. You can be as pedantic as you like, but they both have a a truly wicked shot with their left foot and can bury a chance when the opportunity presents itself. They are both technically excellent on the ball and both of them have 5 letters in their first name. The only difference from what I’ve seen, is that Podolski has more natural pace.

And the key question is, can you imagine Arsenal playing Van Persie and Podolski together?

The answer is yes, but will Arsene use Podolski out wide or down the middle? Podolski is equipped to play down the centre, in Van Persie’s position or with his pace, on either wing. Does Arsene see him more of a provider or a goalscorer?

The answers to these questions won’t be answered until he starts playing for us (if he does come) or when and if Van Persie leaves.

Has Arsene had enough of Gervinho and Walcott?

The possible arrival of Lukas Podolski poses more questions than answers.

Valiant Arsenal Just Miss Out (w/ Player Ratings)

Arsenal (3) – (0) AC Milan
Arsenal lose 3-4 on aggregate
The Emirates Stadium, London

Arsenal never fail to put you through the emotions. At the end of the game, you felt proud, frustrated, disappointed – this game had it all.

First of all, I have to mention the referee. Tonight he was a complete disgrace. In a game where so much was at stake, he pulled up for so many unnecessary fouls and was blatantly supporting the away side. Some of the decisions were diabolical and all he succeeded in doing was slowing the game down and playing into AC Milan’s hands.

But onto the performance tonight. In the match preview all I asked was that Arsenal give it everything and tonight they did just that. Despite the frustrating second half, Arsenal were sensational for the first hour. Unfortunately, we tired and the first half heroics took their toll.

Arsenal had the perfect start, scoring from a brilliant Oxlade-Chamberlain corner converted by Koscielny. It clipped his shoulder on the way in but as I said earlier today, I didn’t care how the goals came. That early goal was vital and set the tone for the rest of the first half.

That first goal planted the seed of doubt in AC Milan minds and a mistake from Thiago Silva was punished by Tomas Rosicky, who was excellent in midfield tonight. He deserved his goal and made some gut-busting runs into the attacking third.

At 2-0, Arsenal still pushed AC Milan back and a beautiful run from Oxlade-Chamberlain resulted in a blatantly penalty. The referee had second thoughts but finally had the sense to award the penalty kick. Antics from Mark Van Bommel and the referee proved futile as Van Persie smashed home the penalty and gave Arsenal a barely believable 3-0 lead going into half time.

The second half started in the same vain, but unfortunately – and frustratingly – we only mustered one clear chance in the second period. Gervinho was played in by Rosicky, and his deflected shot was saved by Abbiati. The ball rebounded to Robin Van Persie, and instead of putting his foot through it he tried to chip the keeper who looked relieved to have the ball fall into his hands.

And that was our only real chance.

The second half was frustrating but having a little time to put things into perspective, you can only be proud of the performance tonight. Sure, Van Persie really should have buried that second half chance but in all honesty it’s impossible to be upset by a man who has pretty much single-handedly put Arsenal into 4th place in the league. It was written in the stars for Van Persie to be the hero and score that all important 4th goal but it wasn’t to be.

The fact was the boys were dead in the second half and we can’t ask for any more than that. We can’t dwell on this game, we need to put it behind us and now just have to focus on getting 4th place. We’ve had fantastic victories against Tottenham and Liverpool, and even though we have gone out tonight we beat AC Milan 3-0, and that’s the bottom line.

And defensively we were excellent. There were a few shaky moments but Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs were top draw. AC Milan were found offside on several occasions – whether that was down to good defending or sloppy Milan play – but they kept a clean sheet and that is a massive positive.

We need to take this win and carry on the momentum. Perversely, winning 3-0 tonight might have been the perfect result. Yes, the fans and players will be disappointed about just missing out from the next round but with Barcelona and Real Madrid in such fantastic form you can’t really see anyone else winning the Champions League this season. We don’t have the distraction of Europe now and can solely concentrate on the league which is the most important thing.

Massive credit must go to Arsene Wenger, the players and also the fans that supported the team for the entire 90 minutes. There’s no point dwelling on the disastrous first leg, that’s in the past now, and all we can do is put everything into the rest of the domestic campaign.

The media might try and stick the knife in but that shouldn’t detract from a superb Arsenal performance which was almost enough to make history in the Champions League.

Tonight I’m proud of the team and every Arsenal fan should be too.

Arsenal Player Ratings

Wojciech Szczesny: 8/10
Made some good saves but also made a couple of mistakes with his distribution, which were thankfully unpunished. Did well to keep a clean sheet and was commanding as usual.

Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Up and down the right hand side all night and helped Arsenal stretch Milan when Walcott was found wanting. Defended well against Ibrahimovic who drifted out wide at times and was solid all night.

Thomas Vermaelen: 9/10
Was brilliant alongside Koscielny and kept Ibrahimovic and Robinho quiet all night. Made some great interceptions and tried to push the team forward whenever he could.

Laurent Koscielny: 9/10
Fantastic tonight and really showing how good a defender he is. Gave Arsenal that all important early first goal and defended excellently tonight.

Kieran Gibbs: 8/10
Did well in at the back, and opted to clear the ball instead of trying to pass the ball from the back which relieved the pressure. Push on well but was let down by the lack of support by Gervinho down the left.

Alex Song: 8/10
Was clearly exhausted at the end of the game and gave everything. Did well with Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain and made some excellent tackles. Was a victim of some terrible refereeing though.

Tomas Rosicky: 8/10
Was excellent, particularly in the first half. Made some midfield splitting runs and made things happen. Took his goal well and was all over the pitch.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 9/10
This kid was fantastic in the middle. Wasn’t fazed at all and bust a gut to join the attack and help out at the back. Taken off on 75 minutes which was hardly surprising as he had given absolutely everything. His passing and decision-making was spot on and shown he is useful out wide and in the middle.

Theo Walcott: 6/10
Theo was disappointing tonight. He couldn’t really contribute like he did against Tottenham and even being against a poor left back in Mesbah he struggled to make the impact we really needed. Lost the ball too many times.

Gervinho: 6/10
Had another poor game. Clearly has pace but didn’t stretch the AC Milan back-line enough, opting to come inside instead of going wide and in behind which would have been more successful. His wastefulness didn’t help tonight and he needs to be more decisive.

Robin van Persie: 7/10
The man on from got his customary goal and – rightly or wrongly – will be remembered for missing that guilt-edged chance in the second half. Was let down badly by the lack of service from Gervinho and Walcott, and only had 3 real chances tonight which is not good enough. Needed more chances to score which would have made the difference in the end.

Arsenal Can Upset The Odds And Qualify Tonight

AC Milan (The Emirates Stadium, London)
Champions League (Last 16) Second Leg
Tuesday 6th March 2012
Kick Off: 7.45pm

As soon as Arsenal lost 4-0 in Milan, I must have been one of very few who still thought we were still in the tie. We had been completely outplayed by AC Milan, our defending was shambolic and we were never in the game as a contest.

A good, old fashioned battering.

Since then, we’ve comeback from 2-0 down to beat Tottenham 5-2, and “nicked” a result against Liverpool.

And those two games make me even more confident that Arsenal will progress tonight.

In both of those games, we were ultra clinical. We made chances and scored most of them. Against Liverpool and Tottenham, Van Persie was his usual self and scored vital goals at vital times. The man is in the form of his life.

And that’s exactly what we need tonight.

Over 90 minutes Arsenal can create chances against anyone. If Arsenal make some clear cut chances and they fall to Robin Van Persie then who knows?

Arsenal play at their best when they have nothing to lose. You saw it against Tottenham – we were just all out attack.

You can talk about all the deficiencies in the squad, how the team can’t defend, and so on, but the way Arsenal play and Arsene Wenger’s philosophy means that this current Arsenal team, are capable to producing the extraordinary.

People talk about having managers like Mourinho at the helm but no-one other than Arsene Wenger could produce at team that wins 5-3 at Stamford Bridge, or wins 5-2 against Spurs.

When things click, then they really click.

At the same token, this same Arsenal team are capable of losing games 8-2 like they did at Old Trafford. And that’s the point – if we were a team like United, Tottenham or Chelsea then I’d say we’ve got no chance tonight. But this Arsenal team can do the impossible – whether it’s terrible or fantastic.

Tonight, we could lose 5-2, but we could also win 4-0. Anything is possible and I just think Arsenal will be so up for it and with nothing to lose then we have to believe. AC Milan might score twice in the first 10 minutes and kill the tie off but we have a team in a rich vain of form who know that it’s all or nothing tonight.

More important than the result tonight, is the performance of the players. If they play their hearts out, and we narrowly lose on aggregate then I won’t be upset or angry.

As long as Arsene puts out a team that give 110% then that’s all I want.

A bit of brilliance, a deflected goal, a dodgy penalty decision – I couldn’t care less how the goals come. As long as we give it everything that’s all we can ask for tonight.

If Liverpool can come behind from 3 goals down in 45 minutes, then 4 goals is not completely inconceivable. Yes, I’m clutching at straws but you have to believe.

AC Milan are 1/150 to qualify for the next round tonight. Let’s give them something to worry about.

And if you needed any inspiration for tonight, here’s an awesome compilation on RVP, Arsenal’s MVP.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1gslSoxzrY[/youtube]

Credit: GeoArsenal