You really should listen to me.
Yet again, my powers of prediction come to the fore, as my match preview prediction of a 2-1 win for The Arsenal came to fruition.
This game had the potential to be a real danger to our hopes of climbing the table, despite Rafa Benitez’s side sitting in the nether regions of the table without a win. A trip to St James Park is often a tough cookie for teams, and Benitez has his side set up rigidly, as evidenced by their recent game against City, which could easily have resulted in points taken away from the Champions.
So, with our defence still suffering teething problems, we were going to Newcastle with more than a few worries.
Unai Emery continued with our two star strikers in the lineup, and Mesut Ozil made his first ever trip to Newcastle, as well as his 200th appearance for the Gunners. There was also the continuation of the Guendouzi / Xhaka pairing in the centre of the park - though this would change and with it - the match.
The first half was an insipid affair. Neither team registered a shot on target, entertainment was on short supply not only for our travelling fans, but also the home team. The only thing that could’ve broke the boredom was if you had to have a drink when possession was lost via a stray pass - if you were a Gooner then you would’ve been on the floor after ten minutes.
Unai Emery would not have expected that, and with Auba and Laca both on the pitch, the fact that we hadn’t tested Dubravka in the Newcastle goal spelled out that our attack were being stifled and may just be having ‘one of those days.’ When that is the case, then our other star players need to rise to the occasion.
The first half fizzled out and no doubt Benitez would have been happy with things at that point. Frustration would have been getting to the Arsenal players, but a change in lineup gave us the impetus we were lacking in the first half.
A half time change saw Matteo Guendouzi - blameless in the first forty five mins - switched for our midfield dynamo Lucas Torreira, and the impact in our play was instant.
This midfield partnership of Torreira doing the dirty work, winning the ball, moving things forward, and Xhaka linking things quickly, works, and the few occasions they have played together they have shown they could be the established in the future.
We broke the deadlock only four minutes after the restart. Mesut Ozil and Xhaka both stood over a free kick about 25 yards out, with the German expected to have a dig. A post-match interview with Xhaka revealed that Ozil had given him the free kick and that they both work on them in training. Obviously this has paid off, as Xhaka curled a precise effort toward the top corner, with Dubravka only capable of palming it into the net.
We were really working the ball well this half, and ten or so minutes later, it was two. Nacho had driven down the left and his cutback had found the busy Lacazette. His effort was blocked but the ball fell to Ozil just inside the box, who sidefooted the loose ball home emphatically, a tidy finish.
It also meant that our ten goals had been scored by different players, showing that we are improving our team movement. Emery’s methods ARE working.
Newcastle weren’t finished though, and a few shaky moments in the first half had given them the knowledge that they could hurt us. Cech tipped over a Joselu header to remind us of this, but time was ticking down and we were nearing the perfect result.
It wouldn’t be Arsenal without making things more difficult for ourselves, and Ciaran Clark’s late header gave the Toon some hope and us Gooners shorter fingernails, but we held on deservedly for the points, It was another win and we carry on rising up the table.
There are still points that need working on, as Emery is keen to stress in every interview, but we are progressing, and our players seem to know more of their lines with every game we play.
Next up is Europa League action, followed by a game against Everton.
If I make predictions, I suggest you take heed and put a cheeky fiver on them, because I’m on fire!