That one felt good! Perhaps the most pride I have felt for this team this season? I don’t know, Liverpool at home felt pretty great too.
It was ninety minutes of fire, fight, and feisty behavior. The crowd was raucous with a blood-thirsty energy as the Magpie supporters attempted to turn St. James’ Park into a hostile colliseum fit for gladiatorial sport. The onus fell on Arsenal to deal with the heat, temper it with a calm composure, and defy Newcastle wishes to seize an important result.
I think most people were ready for this kind of environment. Why wouldn’t they be? Newcastle experienced the success of this hostility less than twelve months ago. They clearly had a game plan and belief that they count rattle the Gunners’ cages through sheer force of intimidation. It simply adds to my pride in seeing Arsenal rise above it and win their 12th away match this season.
It has been a hard month, a heartbreaking run, a frustrating stretch. The fight, that result, that fire – that felt rewarding. I found myself with A LOT of pride for this team yesterday. Matches and results like that remind us why we should all have a lot of time for these youngsters and any growing they have to still do.
Captain Martin Ødegaard hits a first-half crowd-silencer from 30 yards out to put Arsenal up 1-0. A perfectly placed, worm-burner nestles into the corner. In the second half, an own goal created by a nice piece of Martinelli dribbling was stabbed home by Schar to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead, a scoreline may give any non-viewer a misguided opinion of a pedestrian match, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
There were shots off the posts, hostile tackles, no bookings or reprimands, VAR calls, missed opportunities, and HUGE saves, as these two teams were left to sort out the result without refereeing intervention.
Ramsdale and two goalkeeping highlight reels
There were 22 quality shots between the two teams, 11 on target, 3 shots hit woodwork, and each team tallied 2 big chances missed. By the end of the first half, you knew that at least one of these teams would be walking away from this rueing their ‘what could have beens’.
Newcastle flew out of the gates to start the match but against the run of play Arsenal struck first. Before that, there was a VAR call executed spectacularly when a shot hit off Jakub Kiwior’s thigh and was whistled as a penalty. I don’t blame the referee for pointing the spot, the shot happens in the blink of an eye and it doesn’t look good the way Kiwior’s arm is right there. But it was pretty clear on the replay what had occurred. Any Alan Shearers out there that think differently have poor eyesight.
With Arsenal up 1-0 through Ødegaard, Newcastle ratcheted up the heat in the furnace, but it was Arsenal that create two 1-v-1 opportunities for Saka and Martinelli, dream moments. Instead, Nick Pope comes up big, getting a foot and his bicep to the Arsenal shots.
On the other end, the scoreline was still standing at 1-0, but felt as though a goal could break at any moment. Ramsdale shows Pope that he too can come up with the big moments when he makes himself big and gets a leg on a shot to keep Joe Willock out of the net from close range. He then makes a separate, splendid keeping play to rush out and push a dangerous loose ball away from Callum Wilson. It’s timed to perfection and needed to be.
Toward the end of the first half, Arsenal have a 4-v-3 break that fizzles into nothing but added to a frustrating search for the second. Then, right before the whistle, Arsenal get the chance of the half through goalscorer Martin Ødegaard once more. Saka pinches the ball in a dangerous position, finds Martinelli in the box, who sends Magpie defenders scrambling when he slots it to Ødegaard in acres of space.
Once more, Pope rushes out to thwart the attempt and get leg real estate on the ball to keep the shot out. I never like the trite opinion of “must score there” in discourse, but he really needs to score there. The first half ended and you’re left feeling the scoreline could have been 4-0 Arsenal, 3-1 Newcastle, 2-2, 1-1. Some moments felt controlled, other stretches like chaos.
The second half had keeper heroics once more. Ramsdale keeps Arsenal in the lead again, when he keeps out a powerful headed effort from inside the six-yard-box. Excellent reflexes.
Beyond the big moment saves, Ramsdales deserves a lot of credit for the role he played in slowing down the game and managing time, much to the hatred of Newcastle fans. I don’t think they can really get upset after the antics they pulled at The Emirates, only keeping the ball in play for 51 minutes of the 100 (counting injury time). A little bit of shithousery, a lot a bit of tactical game management, and it all packaged together as a splendid keeper’s performance.
Plenty of people will be left feeling as though their attackers let them down, and there is something to that, but you can’t express that in a way that takes away from the performance by both keepers. Ramsdale probably would have been my Man of the Match, if not for this next person.
Tempo, Tempo, Tempo
Coming into this match, I wrote that Arteta’s biggest decision — assuming Gabriel’s health allowed him to start — was centered around the defensive midfield role. Would he select Partey or Jorginho? Match the pace or slow it down? He had to get this one right or the match risked being lost in the midfield.
Arteta opted to keep Jorginho in the lineup. Only he knows if Partey’s health or fitness made this choice more difficult but this meant Arsenal’s intent was to slow this game down, take the sting out of Newcastle’s fast, physical, athletic midfield, and control the tempo of the affair. It come off perfectly.
Jorginho got the call and was absolutely fantastic. He slowed the whole game down, he marshaled the team, he (and Zinchenko) navigated and weathered the buzzing press attempts in the buildup phases, and his experience in positioning himself allowed him to win duels and fouls and clean up loose balls. There were a few moments in which the transition game showed Jorginho’s limitations, but he fouled his way out of trouble and had a lockdown pair behind him to help cut out any danger.
- 69 touches
- 44/53 (83%) passing
- 2 created chances
- 6 passes into the final third
- 2 clearances
- 2 interceptions
- 9 recoveries
- 6/11 duels won
- 4 fouls 1
Plus Jorginho collects the assist on Ødegaard’s goal and a Man of the Match award to boot.
Arteta had a list of reasons to turn to Thomas Partey for this match. To keep up with Newcastle, because he’s been the starter all year, because he’s got the higher ceiling of talent, but it took a bold call and a little risk from Mikel to put in Jorginho and it pays off. Plenty of fans angry when the lineup came out and all of them eating humble pie when the final whistle blew.
Newcastle were so up for it today, so rampant, I actually believe that if Arsenal simply tried to match them and get suckered into that type of script, they walk away from St. James’ Park with fewer points.
All the right choices
Arteta has been under scrutiny the last month because of the role he played — or didn’t play — in Arsenal’s title stumble. Only he will know how ready Kiwior was to step into the right center back role, or how much training time it took to get him to the place we witnessed yesterday, which opens the door for plenty of fans to push Arsenal’s shortcomings in April onto Mikel.
Yesterday, the match demanded he get things right, and I believe Arteta got just about everything right.
- He makes the call to play Jorginho, who gets the Man of the Match
- He slots back in Martinelli for Trossard, Martinelli was dangerous all game and forces the issue on creating the Own Goal
- Arteta sticks with Kiwior (perhaps not the most difficult choice) and Kiwior answered a lot of questions about his quality being down to more than just an abysmal Chelsea
- Finally, Arteta’s substitutions felt spot on. Great timing, great sense for where Arsenal’s trouble lay, and he made the adjustments
He had to set up this team for success, he had to urge them to keep their heads in the heat of hostility and get them to keep things calm. He suggested after the match that he was intentional in his pre-match press conference with his vague responses, in an attempt to squelch more fire to the media storm surrounding this heated game, and I think that pays off. He gets everything right and it rounds out a complete team victory.
Arsenal set the record straight after last year’s crushing embarrassment and it was done by a very complete team performance. However, there were four players I believe really stood out above the rest as they help Arsenal past the Magpies.
Talked about Jorginho above, and the decision to play him, and it’s he who goes out and seizes the opportunity. That’s two straight wins for Arsenal and two performances that he’s in the mix as a standout performer. Yesterday, he collects the MOTM award and, now, it forces Arteta to consider what to do for the remainder of the year. A big match against Brighton, another midfield with a lot of quality, and Jorginho has plenty of argument for getting the call again. Simply put, hue was instrumental in Arsenal’s ability to execute the tactical game plan they wanted.
Another player talked about in more depth above, but who has to be included here. There remains a vocal minority of fans that want people to believe that he is not good enough to play in this side and I just cannot understand why. At 24, he is in the running for Keeper of the Year awards, he comes up with some absolutely gargantuan saves, and he has helped Arsenal win a lot of points. I won’t deny that there is room for growth in his consistency and improvements to his positioning, but he is quintessential to this team’s attack with his feet and he — like many on this team — has yet to hit his prime or ceiling. Every reason to believe it only gets better from here. What a day for him, yesterday.
He takes a lot of heat for ‘disappearing in the big moments’ or against the top teams, but there was no disappearing yesterday. He helped Arsenal beat Newcastle’s press over and over and over again. He gets the better of Guimaraes, he scores his 15th goal of the season — a record tying goal, depending on who you ask or how you slice it — and he looks every bit the “captain, goalscoring, attacking” threat package people dreamed he could be. This season he has broken from the criticisms of being all work rate, no production and put it together. Joint top-scorer, 22 G/A, and a fantastic year of learning what it takes to truly lead a team. He was outstanding in hostile, enemy territory.
Coming into the Newcastle game, many people — myself included — were wondering if his success versus Chelsea forshadowed a player ready to consistently performa at Premier League levels, or was simply the result of an embarrassingly impotent Chelsea attack-force. Questions asked, Kiwior answers. It was a strong, composed performance. Yes, there are a few areas of improvement, and one images at age 22 that the opportunities will be there, but his technical ability shone through and you can start to see the relationship between him and Gabriel taking a similar form to Saliba-Gabriel. Gabriel steps up and imposes himself while Kiwior reads the play and cleans up where he has to. On the whole, he handled the big moment with grace and you’d imagine stands to play the remaining matches this season.
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One reply on “Arsenal Fight the Fire and Deliver Rewarding Win Marked as Revenge”
Great report have to agree with everything you said. I was, like yourself, pleased Kiwior started again, and boy did he provide all game. When Arteta signed him, he was one of those Viera type signings, nobody had really heard of him and wondered whether this was money well spent. In the case of Viera I think he’s still lacking some bulk and strength but with preseason I expect this to change for next season. Viera has a habit of letting the game go by being in the wrong place and the wrong time often but then he sparks into life and threads a sublime assist to answer his critics. I have little doubt he will come good. But Kiwior, yes we all wondered but with the past two performances he’s already given us enough to know we have a great player in the making. It does beg the question now whether our greatest squad servant Holding still has a future at Arsenal. I for one would be fine with him staying just because he deserves to be there from loyalty alone. But with Kiwior and no doubt other better playmaker CBs coming through Hale End and available in the transfer market, I wonder whether his time is finally coming to an end at Arsenal.