Newcastle v Arsenal
St James’ Park
Kick off: Saturday March 21, 2015 – 3.00 PM BST
We love to do things the hard way, and after threatening to run away with the game in the first half, we had to fight to hold on to a slender lead in the second period in order to claim three vital points.
There were a handful of changes for our trip to St James’ Park, with Mesut Özil, Hector Bellerin, and Per Mertesacker all dropping out. Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista slotted into the defence, while Santi Cazorla was pushed forward to accommodate Aaron Ramsey in midfield.
Olivier Giroud scored twice in the first half to give us a lead going into the break, but a goal from Moussa Sissoko and a stream of Newcastle pressure made it a hard fought 2-1 win.
It looked set to be an open game, with both sides looking to go for the jugular. We were looking the more dangerous, but a counter from the home side required a superb Gabriel block to keep Ayoze Perez out.
We were starting to threaten, but were yet to create any clear cut chances. This changed in the 24th minute however, when Giroud earned a free kick in a dangerous area.
Santi Cazorla fired it into the box, and Danny Welbeck got his head on it to direct it goalwards. It was never going to have enough on it to beat Tim Krul, but Giroud’s quick reactions saw him flick the ball past the helpless Dutch shot-stopper to make it 1-0.
Welbeck should have made it two moments later, after some fine work from Alexis Sanchez provided him with a golden opportunity. The Chilean left a defender for dead in the box, before cutting back for Welbeck. His volley was skewed wide however, and he really should have done better.
We were piling the pressure on at this point, and the England international could have had a brace in a matter of minutes if his touch hadn’t have let him down – Alexis once again putting him through on goal.
It was the HFB who got the brace however, powering a header past Krul after out-muscling Mike Williamson. Santi Cazorla put a delicious ball in from the corner, and Giroud continued his fine goalscoring form – making it 8 in 9 for himself, and 2-0 on the night for Arsenal.
He should have had his hat-trick, but Aaron Ramsey intercepted a ball that was meant for the Frenchman. He was visibly frustrated, but the way we were playing you would have thought he would get plenty more chances.
We went into half time looking dominant, but it was Newcastle who came out firing on all cylinders in the second period.
The players were acting like the game was already won, and we were far too complacent in the second half.
We were giving away possession far too easily, and the Magpies soon grew in confidence and began to apply more and more pressure.
The warning signs were there, but we didn’t heed them and were soon made to pay.
Some good work down Newcastle’s right side saw Remy Cabella in far too much space, with Francis Coquelin falling asleep and allowing his compatriot in behind him.
Cabella cut the ball back perfectly for Moussa Sissoko, who smashed it past a helpless Ospina to make it 2-1 and put us under some pressure.
It was all Newcastle for much of the second half, and we were lucky not to concede. Ayoze Perez and Yohan Gouffran both should have scored at times, but neither kept their composure to apply the finish.
Our substitutions were extremely negative, and we retreated into our shell early on when Cazorla and Alexis were replaced by Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky. Welbeck was then replaced by Hector Bellerin, and we had very few attacking outlets.
Ospina made an unbelievable save to keep us ahead, adjusting mid-air to a deflected shot, and narrowly keeping it out with his leg.
Bellerin had a great chance to set up Giroud for his hat-trick and put the game to bed, but a combination of good goalkeeping and an imperfect pass meant the ball never reached the big striker.
We made hard work of a game that should have been smooth sailing after half time, but three points is three points.