Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle United: Moment of genius from Mesut Ozil lights up poor game
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal beat Newcastle United 1-0 in a dull and uninspired performance at the Emirates on Saturday.
A moment of sublime skill from Mesut Ozil on 22 minutes saw Arsene Wenger’s side win for the first time in four Premier League matches.
Arsenal made one change with Alexandre Lacazette coming in for Olivier Giroud after the disappointing goalless draw at West Ham on Wednesday. Aaron Ramsey is out for three weeks with a hamstring strain and Shkodran Mustafi was still missing after picking up an injury against Manchester United last month.
Rafa Benitez made five changes from the side the lost 1-0 at home to Everton in midweek, most notably reinstating keeper Rob Elliot in place of Karl Darlow.
The sense of displacement from Arsenal fans, feelings still fractured by the move from Highbury, never seems more pronounced than during a bad run of form.
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With two points from the last nine, allied with poor performances lacking in attacking verve and, at times, intent, has led to a resurgence of a malign undercurrent.
A win would only momentarily placate the majority who believe the long-serving Frenchman has simply passed his sell-by date, back four or no back four.
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But judging by social media the pro and anti camps are entrenched as ever, with only Wenger’s removal or retirement satisfying those who, quite reasonably, query why the move from Highbury took place if seventh place was the best the club could hope for 11 years later, going into the busy Christmas break.
Perhaps it took a wonderful man to attempt to unify the fans on club’s annual Arsenal Foundation day.
Where those of a red and white persuasion – players, managers and staff included - are asked to dig deep to help raise funds for such a force for good. Not only in our North London community but further afield.
This correspondent had the good fortune to spend an hour this week listening to Bob Wilson.
The Arsenal legend, who played 308 games for this mighty club spoke humbly and with warmth about his time at Highbury. ‘Arsenal gave me everything’, said the man who now runs the Willow Foundation, started in honour of his much-loved daughter Meg, who sadly lost her brave fight with cancer 19 years ago this month.
Bob is also the ambassador of The Arsenal Foundation, a worthy fundraising and grant-making organisation which helps young people near and far attempt fulfil their potential while helping communities thrive.
The hugely-respected former Arsenal keeper paid tribute to the club and the large number of helpers and volunteers who fans attending the match will have seen in their festive jumpers and Santa hats in an around the ground.
The Arsenal Foundation have also helped Bob and his wife Megs charity, The Willow Foundation, the only national charity working with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to provide an incredible and heart-warming 1,400 special days in 2017 alone.
No wonder such a dignified man praised the work of the Arsenal Foundation.
Perhaps the unity stemming from such worthy endeavours backed by such a true Arsenal man would help unite Gooners, if only for a day.
The team did their best early on. On 11 minutes Alexis Sanchez fired over Elliot’s bar after firing off a snap shot.
Moments later Ainsley Maitland-Niles powered through before drilling a low shot just the wrong side of the Magpies net.
Bearing in mind, prior to kick-off Arsenal had won nine successive Premier League games against Newcastle, scoring 22 goals and conceding just six, with the Magpies losing their last five away matches in N5, a win was something both desired and required.
With Newcastle’s tally of 15 points their lowest after 17 matches of a top-flight season it was perhaps no surprise the home side went ahead on 22 minutes.
A superb strike from Ozil can never be classed as a surprise, his sublime shot allied with excellent technique and a vision mere mortals simply don’t possess combined to put the Gunners 1-0 up with a sweet strike which flew past Elliot.
What is a surprise is his contract only has six months to run.
Whether his dreadful performance in the 4-0 rout at Anfield is still fresh in the mind, and the still-all-too frequent days when he simply cannot influence proceedings the way his talent demands, is not the issue.
What is the issue, is the advisers of such a talented – and expensive – acquisition should never be allowed to dictate terms to a club which, through a scandalous abdication of responsibility by those whose job it is to look after players contracts, have allowed this regrettable situation to flourish.
A lot will depend on whether Barcelona or Manchester United are prepared to meet his demands. If they are, then Ozil in an Arsenal shirt and goals similar to the one he scored today will be a distant memory.
Another memory of a dull first half on a raw winters day saw him combine well with Lacazette.
It came after a flowing sprint with the ball supplicant at his feet in which he didn’t so much run as glide. The Frenchman played him in but even the German proved he is mortal by taking an extra touch which narrowed the angle before an alert Elliot blocked his shot.
Sanchez – another whose contract will expire in a few months – showed his class, moments before the break, when he poked a shot just past Elliiot’s right hand post. It was indicative of such a spontaneous player when hemmed in by defenders on all sides.
As the second half commenced Lacazette had an effort which flew over, before Iwobi, who had a stuttering day, found him, but the attempted chip from the record signing from Lyon lacked accuracy.
Another shot which lacked accuracy – albeit through a fortuitous deflection via Laurent Koscileny’s ankle - was from Joselu as the ball squirmed wide with Cech beaten.
The talented Ayoze Perez then saw a header fly wide with the Arsenal marking non-existent as the visitors finally decided to go down with a fight.
As the clock ticked down there was time for another Ozil vignette as he powered past his opposite number 11 Matt Ritchie before embarking on a lung bursting run down the flank. He the played the ball into Sanchez but the promising break came to nothing.
It was a moment of breathtaking skill interspersed with a sense of disappointment.
As metaphors go it was a perfect way to describe Ozil’s Arsenal career.
As was the whole match.