Welcome to Talking Heads.
Before and after every first-team fixture, our co-commentator and an Arsenal blogger will have their say on the game.
Arsenal took on Newcastle in the Premier League on Saturday and our Talking Heads for this game were former Gunner Adrian Clarke and YW from A Cultured Left Foot.
ADRIAN CLARKE, CO-COMMENTATOR
What an amazing match, pure entertainment. From a negative aspect Arsenal had more lapses in concentration than I’ve seen from them in a long time, and they didn’t get tight enough to the Newcastle midfield. That’s why three goals were conceded. However, let’s focus on the positives – which were absolutely fantastic.
Going forward we were an irresistible force at times. I thought Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski were excellent, as was Olivier Giroud when he came on, but the star of the show was hat-trick hero Theo Walcott, who was outstanding. Theo’s hat-trick is one of the best I’ve seen, and all three goals showcased what great improvements he’s made to his game this season. To score seven goals for a second time this season, and bag six in two other matches too, goes to show that the Gunners have a lot of firepower.
Yes, Newcastle tired late on, but let’s not get hung up on that because it was still a fabulous attacking display.
It seems a while since Arsenal played at home, and I hope the side starts where they left off against West Brom a few weeks back when they put in a really committed, high-octane performance.
Alan Pardew’s men are under pressure and are lacking some confidence, so if the Gunners begin fast and play with a high tempo they could blow Newcastle away. The big danger man is Demba Ba of course, and he’s a player I’d love to see in the red and white of Arsenal one day. He’s a real handful on the deck and in the air, and will need watching very carefully. Hopefully the side can work hard to stop the Magpies getting the Senegalese striker into the game.
Arsenal may have been hit and miss at home this season, but if they play to their potential I can only see one result, and that’s a home win, which would be a lovely way to end the year.
YW, A CULTURED LEFT FOOT
A great win to finish off the year. There didn’t seem to be any inkling that the final score would be anything like that with what was a pretty ordinary first half. The second 45 minutes was like playground football, as if someone had told the players that the next goal wins; defending became an optional extra. That shouldn’t detract from the goals that Arsenal scored, each had a technical merit and some, such as Giroud’s header, were things of footballing beauty. What was impressive was the measured attacking play, even at full speed; passes were accurate and thought through as Arsenal got into the final third of the pitch. The midfield was good in that respect, even by their standards.
Defensively, it might be a case of the less said the better, Sagna and Gibbs not covering themselves in glory for some of the Newcastle goals. It feels a bit churlish to criticise after a high-scoring win but, for all the second-half positives, there are issues to work on. Presumably the manager will be pleased that the players never gave up on the game each time Newcastle scored while questioning how we let the lead go three times - especially since you wouldn’t say that any of their goals were from mesmerising passages of play.
Focus was drawn to Theo Walcott’s situation by the hat-trick and it’s a situation that the club needs to resolve quickly. For the moment, that circus rolls on to St Mary’s and let’s hope he can make clowns of the Southampton defence too.
The win at Wigan was excellent. Arsenal needed to win ‘ugly’ and they proved that they had the application to do so. The results are more important than performances at the moment, a long unbeaten run will bring the confidence back to the squad enabling a return to the fluid passing of which they are capable. The postponement of the West Ham match might prove beneficial, hopefully the players will be chomping at the bit to get at Newcastle. It would be nice if victory was achieved with a scintillating performance but points are all that matter right now.
Arsenal need to be wary that Demba Ba doesn’t make this an opportunity to audition for Arsène before the transfer window opens. Newcastle’s away form has been abysmal this season with only four points taken out of 27. The defeat at Old Trafford will have been as encouraging as debilitating; scoring three there will have given them hope that they can take advantage of any slackness from Arsenal. But Newcastle's own defending will be a concern while conceding in the last minute to settle the match must be destructive to confidence.
Overall, this is a match that Arsenal ought to win if they have realistic hopes of Champions League football next season. And I am confident that they will.
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* The views expressed in Talking Heads do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Broadband LtdCopyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 31 Dec 2012