Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Arsenal do have mental strength! -Rosicky and Walcott superb -Vermaelen a hero

Morning Gooners.

I have to admit to being emotionally drained following last night's match. Who would have thought a game of football could be so physically and metally draining and I was only supporting from the side lines.

To win in the last minute against a team who were timewasting all game is so satisfying. It was great to take three points of them, especially after what happened on Tyneside earlier in the season. Our old "friend" Joey Barton might not play for them any more, but the manager and his anti-football tatics didn't deserve to take anything from the game.

I have to laugh about the sour grapes which the Newcastle players and backroom staff were serving up post match.

Why should a team who play ten men behind the ball, a team who have asperations to play in Europe next season and to play imaginative football expect to leave north London with anything other than their tails between their legs.

Pardew and his team can do one. They deserved nothing. Two shots on target in 95 minutes of football compared with our eight. They had 39% of possession... that's how much they wanted it. But let's not focus on them.

It was this Arsenal team who wanted it more. They finished the game with such energy and drive. All 11 players wanted to push us over the line and in the end it was a defender who was there to smash the ball home. Vermaelen wanted it. He knew how vital three points was to our cause. The win pushing us within touching distance of third place.

Let's have no doubt about how well this Arsenal team performed against the negative tactics employed against them. Newcastle's game plan was to leave with a point and if they could nick all three, that would be a bonus.

This team's mental strength has often been questioned. I have called it into question myself, on several occasions. But it seems the manager has instilled something in this group of players who want to run that extra yard to win the ball, play for their team mates, and fight to the final whissle. that kind of attitude has been missing in the past. Not any more.

Being the first Premier League club to come back and win from being behind in four successive matches shows this team has resolve to win. And who knows how important Vermaelen's goal will be come the end of the season.

Let's be honest, the first half was nothing to write home about. Hatem Ben Arfa got in behind Kieran Gibbs and beat Wojciech Szczesny at his near post. A smart finish but I would question whether the defender or goalkeeper should be beaten like that.

Arsenal's response was immediate. Who else but Robin van Persie, scoring when he wants, after turning Mike Williamson with a Bergkampesq touch and placing the ball past Tim Krul. A first half were both teams scored with their only shot on target.

But the time wasting had already begun. Krul taking an age with any sort of dead ball. But Howard Webb didn't take action all game.

The second half - attacking the North Bank - was much better. Tomas Rosicky was again at the centre of things. He seemed to be a player with a point to prove - although he'd signed a contact extension earlier in the day. Give him a new contact every week if he's going to play like that.

Theo Walcott was a constant threat, more so when he was played in behind the Newcastle defence. His pace scared the Toon backline who seemed to move deeper and deeper to cope with the pressure.

Also having outstanding games were Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen. They prevented any meaningful shots going anywhere near Szczesny's goal and i didn't think we werein trouble at any point during the second half - in fact Pardews men only had one shot on target during the second 45 minutes.

As time wore on it appeared more and more likely that the Gunners were going to end up with a frustrating draw. A point when we deserved all three. But when the five minutes of stoppage time was displayed, I wondered if there would be a sting in the tail for the visitors.

And so it proved. Vermaelen getting on the end of a cross across the box and all three points were ours.

Again, the atmosphere at the Grove last night was immense. I'm sure the players felt the energy from the supporters who give their all to push this team over the line.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
"I believe that shows we have quality, we have spirit, which I have never questioned. It was a relentless effort again tonight from the first to the last minute. The tempo was absolutely top level tonight. We kept going until the last second and just managed to win the game."

Had we failed to win we'd be left disappointed for the next nine days until we take on Everton. But we go into this break with our momentum still in tact and those lot down the road with our breath on the back of their neck.

A fantastic night to be at the Grove and a fantastic night to be a Gooner. We're no longer in a race for a place in the top four. Third place can be ours.

Until tomorrow.

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