Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United
A tricky tie, that was, and a win that was earned without too many bells and whistles attached. Perhaps not the best spectacle in terms of chances created and flowing football played, but a gripping game nonetheless.
A win’s a win, and that’s all that really matters in the grand scheme of things. Expect a liberal dose of the adjectives “gritty”, “stubborn” and “battling” to describe the way we went about our three points. The same could be said for our visitors I suppose, who fought hard, much of the time with ten men, and who were burdened by the additional handicap of a particularly ineffective front line.
That’s the way it works sometimes, but a game isn’t over until 90 minutes have elapsed (insert alternative footballing cliché if preferred), and we kept going until finally we earned just about the most giveable penalty you’ll see this season. Van Persie topped Henry’s goal off with a neat finish and that, as they say, was that.
Of course, Geordies (and their boss – who refused to talk to the press, so incensed was he), will lament long and hard the red card awarded to Jenas. I can honestly say it looked like a red’un from where I was sitting, but I haven’t seen it since – it’s the kind of incident the replay screens avoid like the plague. Some reports say it was harsh, but these things even themselves out over the course of a season. (It’s easy to say that when you’re on the right end of the decision – try it).
Particularly pleasing was the performance of Hleb, whose dribbling skills and vision bode well for the future. Fitting him into the side is a trickier conundrum when you’ve got the likes of Freddie, Bob and Jose who can all play out wide, but as conundrums go, it’s a pleasant one to be faced with.
The back of the programme reveals the other conundrum currently faced by Wenger – though he refutes it – the size of the squad. It currently contains just 24 players – and one of those, David Bentley, has had his transfer request accepted. The squad list in the programme for the last match of last season had 33 names on it – ten more, if you take Bentley out of the equation. Ignoring the players who would never have got a game anyway, we’re still looking at two in (Hleb, Song) and four out (Vieira, Edu, Aliadiere and Taylor).
I know quality is more important than quantity, but is 24 players enough to mount an assault on three fronts?