Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle
Perhaps it was the chilly, early start, but yesterday’s first half felt like the quietest (and most empty-seated) of any game this season. Perhaps, too, it was the slim pickings.
It did feel very one-paced, not helped by the league’s basement team staying behind the ball in numbers. So it wasn’t really a half to remember, which is a good job really, because I don’t remember a large part of it already.
It wasn’t without incident, as Match of the Day reminded me. Decent free kick from Odegaard, stonking miss from Aubameyang and another trademark acrobatic save from Ramsdale.
The scoreboard was back to normal though, with both teams’ line-ups shown at the same time: a triumph for Andrew Allen’s dogged campaign to highlight the iniquity of only being able to see one team’s line-up at a time. I know there are more important things in the world, but like I said, it was a half of slim pickings.
I don’t pay much attention to opposition squads full stop, so it’s pretty useful for me to be able to see that, no, their goalie isn’t Tim Krul as I thought, because in fact Tim Krul plays for Norwich. Joe Willock was back, and completely ineffective. Then again, his team is all sorts of average right now, so it’s hardly fair to pick him out.
The second half though – now you’re talking. It didn’t blow the doors off or anything, but it was much more front-footed and we were rewarded with two outstanding goals. Tavares, who was straight back in the saddle after a tough gig at Anfield, assisted Saka with a smart reverse ball. Then Tomiyasu evened things up on the right for Martinelli, who was probably the only player in the team who would ever have scored that goal.
Full-back heaven at the Emirates, which is lovely to see, though it does highlight the contrasting problems we have. On the right, the back-up to Tomi is not good enough. And on the left, the back-up to Tierney is too good. I mean, obviously it’s a nice problem to have, but while nobody would have been surprised to see Tierney reinstated for this game, after a performance like that from Tavares, what does Arteta do at Old Trafford? Play Tavares again, I suspect. Penny for Tierney’s thoughts.
So overall, a good result and a patient performance, though Arteta is right to say “We have to go to a different level”. We’ve had enough against the lesser sides, but it’s been brought into sharp relief against the better sides.
On to Old Trafford, to what is always a very tricky fixture. And probably more so now than ever given their managerial change.
Can Arteta get that elusive tune out of his team for this one? I always go into these fixtures fearing the worst, mostly because the team has often delivered the worst on these occasions. Some serious thumpings over the years (although I have just been reminded we won there last year. Somehow forgot that).
Sorry to leave it like that, but don’t tell me you’re not thinking the same. If you’re bubbling with confidence, kindly bottle it up and pass some my way.