Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle
Firstly, an apology. After the World Cup of Christmas songs (congratulations to the Pogues for pipping Wham to the post) I had my heart set on inserting a cheesy Christmas song into the title of this blog post.
It’s a terribleÂ pun
Yes, yes, I know. But here’s the pun-manufacturing thought process: Obviously the word â€˜Christmasâ€™ would fit the bill here for obvious contextual reasons. Then with Ozil having scored, I was thinking Mesut this, Ozil that (â€œThe Mesut wonderful time of the year?â€). And then the Mistletoe and Wine lightbulb went off, and goddam it wouldnâ€™t go away even though I hate that song, though for the life of me I couldnâ€™t make the last bit work. But lo! – manna from heaven! – I read that Wayne Rooney thinks Wenger should have sold Ozil in the summer. So thereâ€™s the angle I needed, folks, to make it sort of work – I have nothing to *actually* say about what Wayne Rooney thinks about selling Ozil, because we didnâ€™t, and Iâ€™m glad, but Iâ€™ve shoehorned it in anyway.
But the goal was good
Onto the game. Letâ€™s start with the tortured subject of the aforementioned tortured blog post title. Because it would be the highlight of any game, let alone one without that many highlights. Beautiful technique, and it was the kind of game that was going to need something special to break the deadlock. Overall, Ozil had a fine game: languid, understated – not exceptional, but very good.
That aside – it was all peak late-era Wenger Arsenal, with the kind of wastefulness weâ€™ve grown used to. Players always looking for the extra pass – you know the drill. Once the goal went in, the win never looked much in danger because Newcastle were so poor, especially in attack, but the inevitable period of nerves duly arrived thanks to only being a goal up. Still, we survived that and scuttle up to fourth in the league.
More oomph needed
A little bit flat, to be honest, and the crowd responded to that lack of intensity by largely keeping shtum. It wasnâ€™t off-your-seat stuff, but then these days it only ever is in short bursts, or for the odd game.
Easy to blame the crowd for sitting there semi-mute, but it takes two to tango, which is why the noise level finally rose when Maitland-Niles (playing very well at left-back) shot off on a mazy run that ended with the side netting rippling. You see, the formula for getting us excited isnâ€™t that hard: take the bull by the horns and put the opposition under some real pressure.
Take a few risks, run at them. Run at them! Play like we did against Spurs! Ozil did something similar later in the game, and the decibels rose again. Look, you canâ€™t boil down the essence of football into one word, because itâ€™s a hundred things at once, but for me going to the ground and getting a buzz of adrenalin from seeing my side assaulting the ramparts of the opposition like a stormy sea against the harbour is one of the things I love the most. And we donâ€™t see that enough at the moment in my humble o. The storms are few and far between.
Up for grabs in the middle
Jack deserves a shout, because he played well and in Ramseyâ€™s absence that slot is his. Iâ€™d wager that Xhakaâ€™s the one who needs to worry, because he was his usual lackadaisical self. To that suggestion I will merely say â€˜yeah but Wengerâ€™. Thatâ€™s to say, Jack might deserve to play but second-guessing Arsene is a mugâ€™s game and he remains pretty loyal to Xhaka.
So a winâ€™s a win and there were bright periods, but it was the kind of Arsenal performance that gets us relegated to about fifth on Match of the Day.
A 6/10 kind of a day, with special nods to Ozil for scoring a glorious goal, to Maitland-Niles for being young and being bold and doing well, and to Jack for slowly getting better and doing some simple things well.