Arsenal made sure they remained at the top of the table by claiming their ninth win in a row over Newcastle in the first game of 2016.
Arsene Wenger brought Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny back into the side while Mathieu Flamini recovered from his injury and replaced Calum Chambers. I was pretty sure we’d see Joel Campbell restored to the starting lineup but the boss stuck with the Ox and it was the Englishman who had the second Arsenal chance shortly after kick-off.
It was a fast start from the Gunners, something that belied what was to come in the rest of the match. Hector Bellerin rampaged down the wing but his excellent crosses counted for nothing in the first few minutes as the Ox screwed his effort well wide when he could, and perhaps should, have scored.
After an initial flurry of chances, things settled with Arsenal enjoying the majority of possession but Newcastle looking to hit on the break, a pattern we all became accustomed to at the Emirates a number of years ago.
The biggest talking point of the first half was undoubtedly the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who kept his place in the side after a decent showing against Bournemouth. Sloppy, rushed and erratic, he was clearly trying too hard but nothing was coming off for him.
In fairness, the first half was awful for the whole side. A bright start was soon forgotten as Arsenal ended the first 45 without a chance on target. Fatigue from a busy Christmas schedule and inability to rotate properly due to injuries really showing, but this is where title challengers need to dig deep and a response was needed in the second half.
But that wasn’t how it started. It was Newcastle who were on the front foot, Arsenal having to say a massive thank you to Cech for saving them once again. Then another chance came and Arsenal were rocking.
With 50 minutes on the clock Arsenal finally had their first chance on target; Mesut Ozil finding Ramsey who toe-poked a tame effort towards Elliot’s goal.
With 72 minutes on the clock Arsenal finally found the breakthrough, scoring after a Mesut Ozil corner wasn’t cleared by Newcastle and Olivier Giroud fought for the ball allowing it to fall to Laurent Koscielny to slot home his third of the season. It was probably undeserved, but who cares about that? [watch his goal here]
— AFCPressWatch™ (@AFCPressWatch) January 2, 2016
3 – Oliver Giroud has been involved in 3 of Arsenal’s last 4 goals in PL (1 goal, 2 assists). Spark.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 2, 2016
Cech was called on once again to save from Mitrovic again with just 10 left on the clock but the Gunners were able to hold on and steal all three points with a display that was far from exciting, promising or even competent at times.
Arsene Wenger turned to his bench in order to secure the points, taking off Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud to bring on Kieran Gibbs and Calum Chambers. That’s what it was all about now – saving the game against despite playing like morons.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 2, 2016
The game was far from pretty and, for the most part, was boring as f***.
But top of the table we remain as Leicester drew 0-0 and that’s all that matters. Right?