Newcastle lost at home for only the second time this season as Arsenal walked away from St James’ Park with all three points on offer.
The close scoreline reflected a close match which could have gone either way although a draw would have probably been a fairer result.
Having said that, the difference between those challenging at the top of the table and the best of the rest is the ability to take chances. On the day we didn’t but Olivier Giroud did as he took advantage of some lax marking from Davide Santon and Fabricio Coloccini to ghost in and head home the easiest set-piece goal he’ll likely score all season.
Arsenal enjoyed some decent early possession but couldn’t carve their way through a stubborn United defence and eventually the home side started to get to grips with the game, although in much the same way as Arsenal, we failed to really threaten Wojciech Szczęsny in the Arsenal goal. The best chance fell to Mathieu Debuchy who fired wide when well placed.
More chances fell for United just before half-time as Yohan Cabaye’s blocked effort fell to Moussa Sissoko who fired a rasping shot towards goal only to see Szczęsny get a hand to it and deflect the ball over the bar. The resulting corner saw Debuchy again threaten as his far post header rebounded off the crossbar before Arsenal could clear. That was to be the last action of the first period.
Half-time: Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal
Both sides pressed after the interval which led to some tasty challenges flying in from both sides, the majority of which were waved on by Lee Probert who rankled the home fans with some strange decisions throughout the game.
The winning goal came just after the hour mark after a contentious free-kick award to Arsenal saw the ball chipped into the penalty area for Oliier Giroud who applied the merest of touches to the ball which was enough for it to go past Tim Krul. Neither Fabricio Coloccini or Davide Santon (the two closest to Giroud) picked up the Arsenal striker allowing him an unchallenged effort at goal which Mike Williamson was clearly unhappy about as he led the inquest as the Gunners celebrated.
The home side did try and conjure up an equaliser but Hatem Ben Arfa wasted a few chances when well placed and Shola Ameobi having another mare in front of goal. In fact arguably the closest we managed to get to a leveller was when Szczęsny’s clearance hit Loic Remy in the face and rolled narrowly wide of goal.
Despite all the pressure the home side put Arsenal under no equaliser was forthcoming and in the end it was Arsenal who celebrated as they resume top spot in the Premier League as we head into 2014.
Full-time: Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
There are a lot of positives to take from this. Alan Pardew said in his post-match interview that if Arsenal are top of the league we aren’t far behind them on the performance today and I actually agree with that. The players tried and got clapped off after a defeat at St James’ Park so the effort was clearly there on show for fans at the game.
But as I said earlier, the difference between us and a top side is that the top sides will take chances when presented. Arsenal did that today and won the game. On another day it might have been totally different but I’m not too downhearted at all by either the performance or the result.
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Mathieu Debuchy, Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon; Vurnon Anita, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye; Moussa Sissoko, Loic Remy, Yoan Gouffran
Subs: Rob Elliot, Massadio Haidara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Sammy Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi, Papiss Cisse
Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud
Subs: Lukazs Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Mikel Arteta, Ryo Miyaichi, Nicklas Bendtner, Serge Gnabry, Lukas Podolski