Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
You know something’s afoot when you get Alan Shearer being effusive about an Arsenal performance in his own back yard on Match of the Day. He was right though (as was a chirpy-looking Kevin Kilbane) as it was a performance of determination and resilience that saw us through, rather than a joyous skipping-through-the-meadows skillfest.
That gritting of the teeth was a trait we lacked for some time – we had an infinite capacity to throw away a lead for some years – but defensively we are a different beast these days and I love it.
It’s been a good Christmas with seven jingly points from the festive nine – or looking at it from a different angle, it’s a 100% post-yuletide record after a sticky three-game pre-yuletide patch. Whichever way you cook the turkey, we’ll be top of the Premier League at New Year.
Now might be the time to wheel out the stat about how many teams who are top at New Year go on to win the title. But no, I’m not prepared to go down that route thank you very much. I will however toast the fact that Arsenal have the most points in 2013 (82, I think). That’s pretty good, albeit also a largely pointless thing to say given that a season goes from August to May. But it is a good indicator of this team’s progress.
Yesterday was Giroud’s day, glancing in an Alan Smith-esque header (though the Newcastle players weren’t surrounding the referee in their tight shorts on this occasion, Brian), a goal he really needed after a mini-drought and some high-profile chances missed.
Our midfield strength in depth came to the fore too. With no Ramsey or Ozil, we still had enough in the tank to leave Arteta and Podolski on the bench. It’s not a luxury we have up front, though Denmark’s finest* might disagree.
This team continues to confound many people, including myself at times – and how heartening is that? We might have stuttered a bit but we’ve learned the art of dusting ourselves down and re-focusing, and we’re increasingly resilient. One-nil to the Arsenal? Don’t mind if I do.
Are you happy, Arsene?
I am very happy
Will you rest Giroud?
I don’t know
Happy New Year.