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 clichÃ© 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 â€“ 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 havenâ€™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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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?