We’ve had an issue scoring goals this season, and that trend continued at St James’ Park this past Saturday morning. We had to rely on an own goal to separate us from ten man Newcastle, with a sub par performance still seeing us bring all three points back down to London.
Many were expecting the same team that lined up against Liverpool in our goalless draw last Monday, but Arsene Wenger made three pretty big changes. Laurent Koscielny came back into the side for Calum Chambers, while Theo Walcott replaced Olivier Giroud up front. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also got a start, with Mesut Özil absent with a minor knee injury (via the Mirror).
It was a bright start from our point of view, with a pacy counter-attack looking certain to give us an early breakthrough. Aaron Ramsey’s final ball to the Ox was drastically over hit though, and the ball shot out for a goal kick with the young Englishman through on goal.
Wenger’s team selection looked to be spot on, with our pace causing Newcastle real problems. Hector Bellerin was up and down the right flank, and his superb ball into Walcott’s path deserved a finish – rather than being struck tamely at the keeper as it was.
The Spaniard was involved again moments later, and should have had a penalty when Newcastle new boy Florian Thauvin took him down in the box. The referee failed to see Thauvin standing on Bellerin’s heel though, and nothing was given.
Arsenal fans were understandably furious, but not as angry as the home supporters were when Aleksander Mitrovic was given his marching orders after just 16 minutes. His vicious stamp on Francis Coquelin was a deserved red, and the way he raked his studs down the Frenchman’s shin was truly disgusting.
Despite the challenge being a clear red, the Newcastle players were evidently irked. They looked to take out their frustration on our boys, and a flurry of yellow cards followed.
You would have hoped being up against ten men would spur us on, but if anything we dropped off a little. We only created one more chance of note in the first half, with Tim Krul failing to hold onto an Alexis Sanchez shot and Theo Walcott blasting over from a matter of inches – a truly shocking miss.
We went into half time goalless, and despite our domination we were lacking creativity and attacking intent.
Thankfully we got the breakthrough early in the second half, although we needed a little luck to do it. Another Alexis shot was blocked, but it dropped to Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman rifled a shot of his own goalwards, and Krul was only able to palm it straight to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He blasted a shot towards the far corner – a shot that may have been drifting wide – and it snuck into the net via a Fabricio Coloccini deflection. 1-0.
We really should have doubled our lead shortly after, but Krul was in fine form. He made a superb save to deny Alexis Sanchez, while Nacho Monreal’s pull back for the Ox was just too far behind him.
Walcott was a ghost in the second half, and was rightly replaced by Olivier Giroud. He didn’t offer much more of a threat though, and we really looked toothless for most of the second half.
The Frenchman should have scored late on, but went for a delicate dink over Krul when he really should have just gone for something simpler.
The game finished 1-0, although it wasn’t the most thrilling. We never really looked like losing our lead, but it was a disappointing display despite the victory.