By Richard Clarke
Normal service has been resumed.
While this straightforward victory over Newcastle in the FA Cup Fourth Round may not obliterate the memory of that 5-1 beating at Tottenham in midweek, it will at least help Arsène Wenger's side settle into their old and familiar winning groove.
Kevin Keegan's side arrived at Emirates Stadium with ambition, determined to take advantage of any Carling Cup hangover. Their industrious game-plan worked to an extent and this lively tie was well-balanced until Emmanuel Adebayor rifled home the opening goal five minutes into the second period.
But, after that, Arsenal took over and the Togolese frontman secured a berth in the Fifth Round with a second seven minutes from time. Then, just before the end, Nicky Butt touched Cesc Fabregas' free-kick into his own net.
The scoreline was harsh on Newcastle who played a full part in proceedings. But, at full time, the home side's now traditional huddle was back in evidence - as was Arsenal's efficiency.
Wenger's men move onwards and upwards - not only in the FA Cup but from Tuesday night.
The manager retained four players from midweek - Abou Diaby, Justin Hoyte, Theo Walcott and Willaim Gallas. Philippe Senderos returned at centre back, Mathieu Flamini and Fabregas were restored to central midfield with Tomas Rosicky on the left while Emmanuel Adebayor was back up front. Jens Lehmann took over the No 1 spot at the expense of Lukasz Fabianski.
Well that is the way Arsenal started anyway. Within 10 minutes Rosicky was forced off with an injury and Eduardo came on. The Croatian joined Adebayor up front and Walcott dropped to the right flank.
It was a not massive change. The game had barely settled down. Newcastle had caused slight consternation from a corner and the stretching Fabregas had nearly touched Gael Clichy's chipped through-ball past Shay Given. But that was about it. Still, there was drive and ambition in abundance from both sides.
Keegan's return had hardly been triumphant last weekend against Bolton. Gary Megson's underrated outfit had held them to drab goalless draw at St James' Park. Today they were much more vibrant.
In the 14th minute, Charles N'Zogbia's run won a corner. He took it himself and Alan Smith's first-time shot was headed off the line by Gael Clichy. A couple of minutes later Stephen Carr and Smith combined on the right only for the resulting cross to flash across the area with Michael Owen in close attendance.
The game was starting to sparkle. Clichy's shot was batted away by Given and then Diaby cracked an effort well wide.
In the 23rd minute, Diaby's attempted pass was half-blocked. A steepling bounce fooled Steven Taylor and Eduardo pounced to lash a shot goalwards. Given saved spectacularly. In the minutes that followed the Irishman made a more mundane stop and an unmarked Eduardo miscued his header at the near post.
Arsenal's response had been heartening and it was shaping up to be a wonderful FA Cup tie. While Havant & Waterlooville were doing their best to play out the classic David and Goliath scenario this was more like Clash of the Titans.
On the half-hour, Fabregas cleverly sent Walcott through on the right of the area but the winger's teasing cross trickled unconverted across the face of goal.
Duff's tenacity won a corner at the other end as Newcastle threatened once more but Arsenal's response saw Adebayor nudge a header just wide. It was end-to-end stuff.
However as the game neared half time, the visitors' end came under more pressure. Fabregas fired an angled shot wide and, on the whistle, Given tipped over from Diaby's piledriver.
The interval had come at the wrong time for Arsenal. They were just building up a head of steam and, if anything, Newcastle had enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges when the home side took the lead in the 51st minute.
Eduardo received the ball in space on the edge of the area and cleverly opened up his body to curl an effort against the base of the post. The ball rebounded to Adebayor who cut inside his marker and rifled a shot into the far corner of the net.
The Togolese striker has had a tough week and his sliding knee celebration had all the hallmarks of a relieved man.
It was also Arsenal's 100th goal at Emirates Stadium.
Adebayor nearly added another second soon afterwards but, after collecting Diaby's pass in the area, he was dispossessed at the vital second.
The goal had seemingly dented Newcastle's self-belief and they spent the next 10 minutes on the back foot. Once they had gathered themselves Damian Duff continued to menace the Arsenal defence. However there was now an ominous air about the home side.
In the 69th minute Fabregas touched on a Clichy cross and the swivelling Eduardo had a goalbound shot blocked. Newcastle were now spent force. They had played their part in a lively tie but the latter stages of the game were dictated by Arsenal's pursuit of a second goal.
It arrived six minutes from time when Adebayor skipped past a couple of Newcastle defenders and drilled a low shot past Given.
As full time approached, Nicky Butt nodded a Fabregas free-kick past his own keeper.
That was harsh on the Keegan's side. But, as Tuesday night had proved, the scoreline does not always entirely reflect the nature of the game.
- Diaby 76
- Walcott 76
- Rosicky 9
- Adebayor Goal! Goal!
- Hleb 76
- Silva 76
- Eduardo 9
- Cacapa Yellow Card
- Jose Enrique 77
- Duff 82
- Rozehnal 77
- LuaLua 82