We may have gone two points clear at the top of the table with a win over Newcastle this past Saturday afternoon, but we made things unnecessarily difficult for ourselves with a thoroughly poor performance.
Things started as you’d expect, and we were dominating the ball, looking to get forward quickly, and get off to a fast start to put the game to bed early. When that didn’t come off however, we seemed to shrink back and let the Magpies grow into the game.
We were given plenty of time and space down the wings, with Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular seeing plenty of the ball. Their end product was truly shocking though, and their crosses were closer to the crowd and the corner flag than they were to the head of Olivier Giroud.
It was a fairly drab affair for quite some time, with Newcastle starting to look like the better side. Petr Cech was called into action on a number of occasions, with Aleksandar Mitrovic firing an overhead kick straight at the keeper in what was arguably the best action of the half.
We were expecting better things in the second half, but if anything we actually played worse. Newcastle really should have been ahead when they countered through Geprginio Wijnaldum, but Cech was out quickly to make a superb save and deny the Dutchman.
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Totally against the run of play though, we snatched a goal from nowhere. Olivier Giroud showed good strength to win the second ball from a Mesut Özil corner, flicking it on to Laurent Koscielny. The French defender stabbed it past Rob Elliot from close range, giving us a somewhat undeserved lead (no complaining obviously). 1-0.
We really came to life after the goal, and looked likely to snatch a second. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil both had chances, but neither could apply the finish.
The German’s chance was all about his own excellent work, and he was unlucky to see his reverse shot strike the side netting. It was Özil’s pass that put Ramsey through though, and after beating two players in the box he had just the keeper to beat. Second half substitute Joel Campbell was up alongside him to provide support, but Ramsey went alone, skewing his shot wide of the post; an unbelievable wasted opportunity.
We really should have put more past Newcastle in the dying stages of the game, but to be honest we shouldn’t even have been in that position in the first place. If we want to be taken seriously as title contenders we need to put together a string of more reliable performances, and playing like that will not get us our first title in over a decade.
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A win is a win though, and with Leicester drawing – and Manchester City drawing 0-0 with Watford at the time of writing – we’re currently two points clear at the top of the table.
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