Monday, 30 December 2013

Mertesacker and Kosiclney ensure Giroud's goal wins Arsenal all three points

Morning Gooners.

Top of the league going into 2014 and I think very few people would have believed that would be where this team was had you asked them for their predictions following the opening day defeat against Aston Villa.

I don't think you can say it shows how far we've come because I think we already had a good team, as the closing run in of last season proved, when we went on an unbeaten run after the defeat to Spurs in March.

But lets not play down the significance of yesterday's 1-0 win at Newcastle. Before our visit to the north east, the home team had won four, including their 2-0 win over Chelsea, and drawn two in the six home games. As last season's result showed, St James Park is not an easy place to go.

During a pretty dire first half, the goalkeepers had little to do. Neither side wanted to commit too heavily to an attack which would then lead them vulnerable to counter-attacks. Arsene Wenger had deployed the Per Mertesacker/Laurent Koscienly partnership once more following the Frenchman's return to fitness and the pair made sure Loic Remy didn't have a chance.

Newcastle's best efforts came at the end of the half. Wojciech Szczesny had to make a fine save from Moussa Sissoko to ensure the Frenchman's shot didn't end up in the back of the net. And then moments later  Mathieu Debuchy's effort hit the frame of the goal.

I thought we came out after half time and looked the better team, much like we had done in the opening 15 of the first half. The goal came from a set piece. Theo Walcott placing the ball down and striking it into the Newcastle box. It was the kind of balls that goalkeepers hate because the flight of the strike would have taken it into the back of the net if no one got a touch to it and if a player got a goal-bound touch, it was likely to go in.

Giroud got that touch. The slightest of headed touches... and we scored what would end up to be our final goal of 2013.

It set up what would turn out to be a final 20 minutes where we would put in yet another solid defensive display, with Wenger admitting afterwards that when Carl Jenkinson replaced Theo Walcott, he reverted to a five man defence.

It's quite a change of mentality from the Frenchman. We're now more used to seeing a defensive substitution once we have the lead in a "what we have, we hold" philosophy. Something which has been missing from our game plan in recent reasons.

But in Per Mertesacker, we have a defender able to lead the defensive unit and it seems he is on a one man mission to ensure it won't be the defence who let this team down. Both he and Koscienly and the rest of the defensive unit were fantastic yesterday. Giroud's goal won it but the team's defensive work ensured we didn't let it slip.

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