Arsenal 2 Newcastle United 1
We’ve earned some very satisfying last minute wins this season. To a list featuring a smash-and-grab job in Marseille, a deserved comeback at Sunderland and a rather fortunate victory at Anfield, we can now add Newcastle, when a night of frustration became one of ecstasy in the length of time it took Thomas Vermaelen to sprint from one box to another and smash in the winner.
‘Frustration’ is a recurring theme when you look back at the game. We’d dominated from the outset but had never been able to turn the overwhelming possession into shots on the Newcastle goal. The stats suggested we had 20-odd chances but this wasn’t an evening when Tim Krul pulled out a performance of a lifetime to deny us in the same way Wayne Hennessy did for Wolves earlier in the season.
Instead it felt we were fated to have ‘one of those nights’ regardless of how well we played up to the final third. Although Newcastle offered little in attack, they defended solidly and did enough to feel they would take a point back home.
You couldn’t argue with them if they had, but how annoying it would have been to let Spurs off the hook after their defeat to Everton. Here was our chance to really put the pressure on our neighbours and make the final 10 games of the campaign just that little bit more interesting.
And then came Vermaelen. Theo’s ball into the box was exactly what was required in the circumstances and you know the rest. A moment to remember.
Wenger reckoned it was Walcott’s best ever performance which seems a bit over the top to me. His crossing was definitely more reliable than usual (including creating the two goals) but his close control and ability to hold the ball up was, well, frustrating. Perhaps the manager thinks Theo’s confidence needs a boost – or maybe it will help in the contract discussions.
And frustrating is the best description for RVP’s performance too. Even though he scored, he must have thought his luck was out as the ball bounced off his knee or skewed off his foot rather than being at his usual beck and call.
It goes to show how reliant we are on him for goals, or even goal threat – defences are more than happy to let a midfield of Song, Arteta and Rosicky advance on them because they know they won’t back themselves to shoot. How we could do with one of those or our wingers to hit a Ljungberg-like hot streak in the run-in.
But let’s worry about that another day. Last night was a result to savour and keeps the pressure on. After the season threatened to succumb to another collapse and more introspection, it’s nice to just keep the momentum going.