Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle United: Comeuppance

Maybe you should have started time-wasting from the 10th minute instead of the 20th, huh lads?

I mean, seriously, there are few things in this sport more satisfying than having your opponents waste endless amounts of time, only for your boys to respond with a late winner that makes all of their cheating efforts in vain. I am forever indebted to the ESPN producer who got the shot of the dejected Newcastle defense after the goal went in. I would love to get a picture of that framed and sent to Alan Pardew.

Let's start from the beginning, though. A best-available Arsenal side was selected, as Mikael Arteta returned from his concussion. Also, Aaron Ramsey made a welcome return to contention on the bench after his most recent injury.

The two ongoing themes of the match were established early - Arsenal began an endless series of looping passes in to the penalty area that Fabriccio Coloccini and Mike Williamson easily cleared away, and Howard Webb stood there and did nothing as Arsenal players got fouled by Chieck Tiote. Both got old, real quick.

Newcastle had set out their stall to defend, which seemed a tad bit conservative from Pardew. The Magpies have played some decent stuff at points this season, and they are coming off of a string of good results against us. They did not have a single attack of note in the first quarter of an hour.

So, of course they scored first.

In the end, three of our lot were badly culpable for the goal. Thomas Vermaelen horribly gave the ball away right down the middle of the field. Tiote took the ball and passed it to Gabriel Obertan. His lay-off connected with the overlapping run of Hatem Ben Arfa, who was given all the time and space in the world with Kieran Gibbs nowhere to be found. He cut in and caught Wojceich Szczesny anticipating a shot across the face of goal. Instead, Ben Arfa went near post, and the wrong-footed Szczesny couldn't get over in time. It was an awful goal to concede, and we Gooners could be forgiven for thinking it would be another of THOSE games against the Geordies.

Happily, it would not be as bad as all that. The amazing Robin van Persie had scored the equalizer before the Newcastle supporters had so much as sat back down in their seats. It was an instant reply from Arsenal, who really have looked like a different team entirely in the last few weeks. If we'd had this Arsenal all season, we'd be coasting to the title by now.

A great run from Theo Walcott down the right-hand side left their various barcoded drones in the dust, and he crossed it in to RVP. The Dutch wizard eviscerated Williamson with a deft flick, leaving the Newcastle man on his ass. With him out of the picture, there was just the onrushing Tim Krul to beat. Krul may have had a chance if he went into the challenge with conviction. Thankfully for us, he pulled out of it and left our man with an easy finish into the near corner.

Besides evening the score, the goal also prevented any foreboding feeling from infiltrating into our mindset. This was a game that other Arsenal sides would have lost and lost badly - quite simply, the captain refused to let that happen.

The intervening 74 minutes were low on gilt-edged chances but high on energy and application. At 90+3 minutes or so, I had an outline for this report in my head where I would have mentioned that the result was unfortunate, but the drive and determination of the team were encouraging for the fixtures ahead. Our guys routinely gave that little bit of extra effort to win tackles, maintain possession after a poor first touch, or close down opponents in the rare time they had the ball.

Nobody exhibited this more than Tomas Rosicky. It would have arguably been a Man of the Match performance if he had stayed on for the full 90, but even still it is heartening to see Tommy continue his run of good form. His tackling and passing were first-rate today, though he did visibly tire a bit after the hour mark - in retrospect I think that was a perfect substitution from Arsene Wenger.

Meanwhile, Newcastle contributed almost nothing to the game besides their one goal. In fact, I don't remember Szczesny making any significant saves from the time it got to 1-1 until the end of the game. What they did do was waste time - endlessly so at that. You could read half of Shakespeare's works in the time it took Krul to take goal kicks. In fact, our wonderful captain began a war of words with him over it, taking the law into his hands when Webb refused to do so.

Honestly, I love it. I have long said that Arsenal need to get that edge back into their game if we're ever going to win anything again. You may note that we've won the square root of fuck all in the time that we've been the kinder, gentler Arsenal. Personally, I would love to go back to the days of pizza throwing, tunnel fracases, a good old scream at a time-wasting prick in the opponents' goal. If Robin stays, with Szczesny in the fold, maybe one or two other strong personalities coming in this gets a guy to dreaming.

Anyway, we weren't setting the world on fire, either. As mentioned, we largely sent aimless high balls into the Newcastle area, which were meat and drink for their center-halves. The approach work was good though and both Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were making good runs down the wings. Still, I would be lying if I said that I felt like a goal was coming. Other than two half-chances that RVP had which were turned aside by his ongoing nemesis Krul, there wasn't much end product from our guys.

Rosicky was eventually withdrawn in favor of the returning Ramsey, and the rust was obvious at times from the young Welshman. He had a few heavy touches and misplayed passes, but it'll be great to have him back as an option in the middle of the park as he works himself back into game shape.

A few minutes earlier, Gervinho had come on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who also was visibly tiring and had a bit of an off game. However, his replacement would be responsible for the worst miss of the game, in a growing collection of them from the Ivorian. A free kick from RVP bounced across the face of goal and out to the completely unmarked winger. The ball got crossed up in his feet, and he was only able to deflect it wide. He hasn't shown a wide range of finishing ability in his time with us so far, and this was the latest example of why The Ox is starting in his place these days.

Time was ticking away, and it looked like a draw was imminent. There was one last good chance in normal time though, as a fantastic cross from Alex Song was met with a thumping header by Vermaelen. Krul did very well to tip it over the bar one-handed.

There were five minutes of added time given, and Newcastle looked to have survived them with their desperate time-wasting tactics. Walcott wasn't having it though, and he rampaged down the right-hand side once again. His cross looked like it was intended for RVP, but the captain didn't connect. No worries though, as Vermaelen made up for his part in the Newcastle goal by tapping in at the back post.

Needless to say, we went bloody mental. In fact, I got injured in the celebrations when I jumped up and came back down chest-first onto the back of a chair. Absolutely worth it, though.

There was still some more to go though, as it took a minute or two to separate Krul and van Persie, the latter having indulged in some post-goal verbals regarding the rampant time-wasting his opposite number had done. That's exactly the sort of thing I was talking about before - maybe to a neutral it will seem like a dick move, but personally I thought Krul had it coming and I'm glad RVP did it.

Both guys got booked in the ensuing handbags, and then Webb added on another few minutes on top of it. Arsenal rode them out capably though, with three very important points in the bag.

You guys all know the drill. One point behind the Scum, 10 games to go. That is what we have to play for now, so come on you Gunners and get the job done!

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 5, Gibbs 6, Vermaelen 7, Koscielny 8, Sagna 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Gervinho 6), Song 7, Arteta 7, Rosicky 8 (Ramsey 6), Walcott 8, van Persie 8

Man of the Match: Like I said, it might have been Rosicky if he had stayed on. More likely though, I would have still picked the man who I give it to now - the incredible, the fantastic, the amazing Robin van Persie.