Goal: Koscielny (52)
Arsenal Line-Up (4-3-3). Szczesny (GK), Sagna (RB), Koscielny (CB), Mertesacker (CB), Gibbs (LB), Ramsey (CM) Arteta (CM), Rosicky (CM), Walcott (RF), Cazorla (LF), Podolski (CF).
Arsenal finished their remarkable 10 match run by beating Newcastle and clinching a CL spot ahead of Spurs. When Arsenal lost to their bitter North London rivals on March 3rd, Spurs had opened up a 7 points gap, and their manager Andre Villas-Boas has diagnosed Arsenal as a team stuck in a negative spiral of results. Since that remark, Arsene Wenger’s men have won 8 and drawn 2 games, collecting 26 points in the process overturning that 7 points deficit, and conceding only 5 goals (2 of which were penalties) in 10 games. In the meanwhile, AVB’s football philosophy since that diagnosis has mostly been waiting for a Bale wonder goal in the 86th minute.
I will not go through my regular tactical analysis of the game. It suffices to say that especially in the first half, Newcastle looked fresh and free of any stress; and made it difficult for the Gunners. Cisse missed a good chance after left back Mbiwa’s good run and cutback. Arsenal’s most presentable chance in the first half came to Cazorla who shot wide and high after good work by Gibbs.
Wenger started the game with Arteta who had a calf problem, but the Spaniard cool-head only lasted for 23 minutes. It looked like a strange substitution when Oxlade Chamberlain (but not Wilshere) replaced him in the central midfield position.
The crucial goal came shortly after the restart for the second half. Walcott’s set piece delivery from the right was headed into the danger zone by Podolski, and Koscielny volleyed home in a difficult position. The French centerback was simply majestic all game long winning every tackle, making interception after interception all around the defensive end and closing any gaps that emerged behind Gibbs.
It was a truly remarkable, gritty 10 match run where unlike previous seasons, the defensive know-how and maturity of the team was examplary. All the credit to Arsene Wenger and his assistant Steve Bould, for turning things around since early March!
I will finish this post by an observation that made me smile all day long. It turned out that Tottenham are not able to finish ahead of the most mediocre looking Arsene Wenger side even despite breaking their club record for the points collected throughout a season. No wonder Spurs fans want Wenger to stay at Arsenal!