Post by Football News on Dec 16, 2017 18:43:28 GMT
Arsenal 1 - 0 Newcastle
Mesut Özil’s moment of brilliance carries lethargic Arsenal past Newcastle
Home team scorers Mesut Ozil 23
Theoretically, fans of a team who win games of football should be happy at the end of them. But at the close of Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Newcastle, the most positive emotion you could sense around the Emirates was relief.
Many of those present had shuffled out to do something rather better with their Saturday evening before the end: after the final whistle the PA announcer’s suggestion that the highlights of the game would be available on the big screen wasn’t met with any great enthusiasm.
A moment of brilliance decided the game, with Mesut Özil’s superb first-half volley not really representative of the other 89 minutes of action. Beyond that, Arsenal displayed what has broadly been their problem for much of the season, namely not taking the chances they created. By the end they were almost clinging on, not the sort of thing that you expect from teams this far apart in quality.
As for Newcastle, their players decided among themselves this week that, in deference to their terrible recent results, they would cancel their Christmas party. On this evidence, they look like they need a drink. It’s not that they were desperately poor, but equally this defeat was their eighth in the last nine, and they’re only heading in one direction. Amanda Staveley’s proposed takeover must come soon.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, the first exchanges were pretty open, Newcastle sitting deep and defending tightly, but with enough attacking intent on the counter to suggest that they weren’t just there to dig in. Nevertheless, it was Arsenal who had the best early chances, Alexis Sánchez and Alex Iwobi shooting just over and wide respectively, while Ashley Maitland-Niles went on an extraordinary diagonal from his position at left-back, but his effort was saved by the recalled Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliott.
But Arsenal took the lead after 23 minutes. A Sánchez shot was blocked, it looped up in the air and Florian Lejeune won the second header, but it only went as far as Özil just inside the area. The German was off-balance, tracking slightly backwards so a controlling touch seemed like the most sensible, safe option. But players like Özil have the ability to make the safe look foolish, so instead he swivelled on his right leg, languidly swept his left to around thigh-height and sent a brilliant volley into the top-corner. It was as perfect an exhibition of technique as you’re likely to see.
Arsenal dominated the rest of the half in the sort of laid-back way a team in their position tends to, with the expectation that more goals were just around the corner. But none came in the rest of the half, despite Héctor Bellerin, Granit Xhaka and Özil all going close.
The crowd briefly feared a much hoped-for renaissance would disappear when Jack Wilshere, who had been quiet up to that point, went down under a heavy challenge from Isaac Hayden. Bitter experience has taught Arsenal fans that when Wilshere goes down he often doesn’t get back up again for a few months, but this time he walked away, if a little gingerly.
Newcastle were given a little injection of hope after the break. The Arsenal defence, perhaps joining their forwards in the presumption that the three points were in the bag, allowed Jacob Murphy to pick his spot from the edge of the area, but luckily for them Petr Cech had continued to pay attention and saved well to his left.
Wenger tried to poke his team out of a lethargy that seemed to take over as the half went on by introducing Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck for Lacazette and Iwobi, the latter limping off. It seemed to work: both substitutes took part in a move shortly after their introduction that saw Wilshere shoot straight at Elliott from about 12 yards out when a slipped finish either side of the keeper would have ended the game.
As it was, Arsenal were left to hold on: not that Newcastle had offered a huge amount by way of attacking threat, but when they did venture forward Arsenal’s failure to kill things off meant nerves spread around the stadium like a winter cold in an office.
No more so than when Mikel Merino was offered far too much time on the edge of the box, his shot took a deflection, time seemed to slow and everyone froze as it skipped just wide of the post. Ayoze Pérez went close with a header not long after that, and from what should have been a routine, comfortable win, Arsenal looked like they were going to, well, be Arsenal about things.