Well I thought that was a thoroughly enjoyable performance last night. It was composed, assured and one of the simplest of three points we’ll get this season.
On a weekend where a victory could see us get in to the third spot by overcoming the Geordies, it could have been a tricky encounter against a team managed by a manager who is astute and knows how to set up an organised Newcastle United team.
Benitez knows his onions and he set up Newcastle to be compact and ensure that when we got the ball in positions out wide they squeezed the central areas. As a result we got plenty of the ball, had possession in the centre in the middle of the park and out wide, but I don’t remember Dubravka making a string of saves to keep them in it in the first half.
Newcastle knew what they were doing and they limited space in certain parts of the field whilst in other areas it felt like we had acres. Which is why players like Ramsey and Özil had a lovely old time in places; they got space and were able to dictate and as I said yesterday morning this was exactly the type of game Özil flourishes in.
But he wasn’t the main man in my opinion. That accolade we have to give to the opening goal scorer, Aaron Ramsey, who was unplayable tonight. He dictated play from the first minute and it never seemed like he was more than three Arsenal passes before he was on the ball. It’s games like last night that will make us all realise that we miss him and I thought he was superb as well as taking his goal excellently. He should have had a second as well, were it not for Antony Taylor doing his ‘Taylor thing’ and refereeing the game in the worst possible way.
In a way it makes our victory more impressive, because he was shocking all night disallowing that goal and then also given a strong of poor decisions, mostly in Newcastle’s favour.
But let’s gloss over that and focus on an Arsenal team that showed the kind of resolution that many of us thought was long gone. It was easily the most comfortable three points we’ve got all season. Forget the final score line, when you look at the fact that the first half had a half-chance from Rondon and the second had a shot slightly over from Muto, it serves to show just how controlled Arsenal were from start to finish. Not just going forward but at the back as well and I thought all of our back five were great. Maitland-Niles put in another good performance on the right and certainly in the second half looked to grow in to the game.
On the other side Kolasinac had another good game whilst the back three looked as comfy as an afternoon in a big cushioned armchair with a blanket, some hot chocolate and a fire with a good book.
In front Guendouzi did well alongside the excellent Ramsey and in front of them Özil pulled the strings. Iwobi was ok – struggled a bit at times – but ultimately the job was done and it happened with a superb goal from Aubameyang and Lacazette combining. The head was good from Auba but watch that flick from Lacazette again. He has a split second to make his decision, he has but a millisecond to react to the onrushing ‘keeper, yet his flick was absolutely inch perfect. A fantastic finish from a world class striker.
The game was seen out and we are now two points clear in third.
Unai has his team playing well at the moment and just at the right time.