Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle United: Happy St. Totteringham's Day!

St. Totteringham's Day never gets old, does it?

We now find ourselves needing just one win out of matches with West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City to lock up Champions League football heading into the all-important FA Cup Final. But, it didn't look like we'd get there early on in this thing. Still, the little extra bit of class that guys like Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla provided was enough to get us over the line in the end.

It was a strong Arsenal lineup, the starting 11 essentially picking themselves after a long period of rest. Newcastle, despite their status as an active six-alarm dumpster fire, conducted themselves well in the early going. They were clearly trying to pull a Chelsea, with ten men behind the ball while the Gunners did their usual glacially-paced tippy-tappy nonsense. Ozil was the first to show any intent, his direct run down the right requiring a fabulous sliding block from Fabricio Coloccini to clear away the resulting cross.

There wasn't much joy for Arsenal in open play, but the visitors consistently looked ropey when defending against crosses and set pieces. Santi Cazorla's dead ball deliveries were a constant threat, as shown in the 17th minute when his cross was punched away well by Tim Krul. It only went as far as Ozil on the edge of the area, the Dutch keeper clearly relieved to see the German's low rasper go wide of the far post.

Our boys were beginning to feel it, but the Magpies could so easily have taken the lead against the run of play. A silly pass out into touch by Aaron Ramsey gave Newcastle a throw-in. They took it quick, and Moussa Sissoko won it easily with Mikel Arteta refusing to get stuck in. The Frenchman easily skipped around an oddly-tame challenge by Per Mertesacker, and had a yard of space. Thankfully, he opted for an ambitious curled chip shot, where he might have been better off just belting it hard and low. His chip ballooned high and wide, taking their best chance of the match with it.

Six minutes later, the Arsenal made them pay for it. A needless foul by Sissoko gave us a free kick in a dangerous area. Cazorla whipped in a beautiful curler, placed in an awkward location for the keeper. Still, Krul should have been far more decisive in coming for it. Instead, both the back line and the goalie stood there and let Laurent Kosicleny run on and deflect it in. The Grove collectively exhaled, and honestly there was only one winner in it from there. I can't say I was too impressed with Kos taking a ridiculous yellow for his goal celebration, but thankfully it didn't cost us in the end.

 Photo: Reuters

The next few minutes were the Lukas Podolski Show, as the social media maven fashioned two excellent chances to extend the lead. First, he ran onto a long ball over the top and did well to take it first time, but Krul was quick off his line to block with his knee at the edge of the area. Next, he stole a yard from his marker off a corner - another excellent delivery from Cazorla, for the record - but Krul's positioning was perfect and he was able to palm it away.

Newcastle had a few half-chances in response, the scariest moment probably the backpass to Wojciech Szczesny that the Pole was just quick enough to clear away from the onrushing Yoan Gouffran. They never did seriously threaten though, and the match was largely over just before halftime when we managed to find a second goal.

The long ball had worked for our opponents once before to create a scoring chance, but this time we were the ones to use it to devastating effect. Arteta was the one who played it, his pass inch-perfect into the path of Olivier Giroud. The offside trap was on, but Mathieu Debuchy badly lagged behind to play him on. Krul came out well to cut the angle, and Paul Dummett also did well to shepherd him into the shooting lane that the keeper was blocking. Giroud could only shovel it into Krul's body (the nutmeg was probably his only chance), but he stayed with it and fired another shot on net. The Dutch stopper recovered quickly to block that one too, but his rebound control let him down a bit, the ball going out to the side. The defense had neglected to check Ozil's run to the back post, and the German (despite arguably being offside) was there to tap in at the third time of asking.

As mentioned, there was little sting in the game from that point on. The Gunners, for our part, also largely didn't overextend themselves in the second early Cazorla drive that Krul had to be good to tip away otherwise.

Still, the Magpies did manage one chance to haul themselves back into it, but the play was a shining example of how fine the margins are at this level. Newcastle won a throw-in, and they again tried the long ball off of it. Loic Remy's pass sprung Gouffran, who went in alone on Szczesny. It was a mirror image of Giroud's chance, Szczesny coming off his line and Koscielny shepherding the attacker into the shooting lane the keeper was covering. But, Szczesny was just that one iota better with his rebound control, and Koscielny was a shade better in his anticipation and positioning. There was no second shot, let alone a third. Koscielny cleared to safety, and that was that.

There was time out from the procession that was the second half for one more goal, though. Arteta did well to win the ball in midfield, and the Arsenal were away. Ozil played in Ramsey down the left, and the Welshman played a one-two with him. Ozil's resulting cross was perfect, and Giroud did brilliantly well to anticipate the flight of it and head it powerfully past the helpless Krul.

If the match was largely over before, it was definitely over then. Newcastle well and truly gave up the ghost, and Arsenal were content to play out time and conserve energy for potentially more difficult challenges ahead. West Brom will likely be a much harder match than people are assuming it will be, and Norwich will be playing for their lives. We are so close to achieving the minimum aims of our season (as Groundhog Day-esque as it may be, and as bitterly disappointing as it is given our position a month ago), but concentration is needed. Complacency is now our only enemy.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Monreal 7, Koscielny 8, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Arteta 8, Ramsey 7 (Rosicky 7), Podolski 7, Ozil 8 (Flamini 7), Cazorla 9, Giroud 7 (Sanogo N/A)

Man of the Match: NBC reckoned it was Kosicelny, and I can dig it. Mesut Ozil also has a decent shout with a goal and an assist. But, for me, Santi Cazorla eviscerated the visitors with his set piece deliveries, and was a constant danger otherwise as well.