Arsenal produced their best performance of the 2014-15 Premier League season to date as they thrashed Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United 4-1 on Saturday.
A brace each from both Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla handed Newcastle their biggest defeat since mid-September.
One week ago Arsène Wenger was receiving abuse from Gunners fans at the train station in Stoke following their 3-2 loss to the Potters.
Back-to-back 4-1 victories have got the French manager back into the supporters’ good books.
Arsenal were on the front foot from the start of this game, pressing high up the pitch and forcing Newcastle into mistakes.
Per Mertesacker came the closest early on when his flicked header from a corner beat Jak Alnwick before rebounding off the underside of the crossbar.
The home fans did not have to wait long for the opening goal as Alexis Sánchez produced an excellent cross from the right wing for Olivier Giroud to leap high into the air and head into the corner of the Newcastle net.
Newcastle simply did not threaten Wojciech Szczęsny’s goal in the opening 45 minutes. The Arsenal goalkeeper was back in goal after missing the previous three Premier League matches through injury.
The Magpies had at least been expected to test the makeshift defence that saw Mathieu Debuchy facing his former club for the first time, as a centre-back.
Whilst Arsenal did lead 1-0 at half-time, they perhaps could have expected a greater scoreline. This was only the third time they have lead during the break in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal began making their possession count in the second half. First, Santi Cazorla received a pass from Sánchez inside the penalty area, stumbled over Fabricio Coloccini’s slide tackle and finished superbly from a tight angle without even looking where the goal was.
The match was out of sight five minutes later when Olivier Giroud made it 3-0 with a cheeky flick at the near post, set up by Héctor Bellerín.
Arsenal’s 19-year old right-back had an excellent game, both attacking, tackling and blocking crosses. Bellerín is one player who has certainly benefited from the injuries and suspensions in defence this season.
Héctor Bellerín will be competing with Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers for that right-back spot in the future though and it will certainly be disappointing for Arsenal fans not to see the young Spaniard get a run out in the first-team based on Saturday’s performance.
Poor defending from a set piece by the home side allowed Ayoze Pérez a free header to reduce the deficit to 3-1 with just under half an hour remaining.
The goal wasn’t even a lifeline for Newcastle who had been outplayed all match and created very few chances before or after their consolation.
Danny Welbeck had not been much of a goalscoring threat all match but the England striker did draw a penalty from Paul Dummett late on from which Cazorla cheekily dispatched with a chip down the middle as Jak Alnwick dived out of the way.
The Chilean was Arsenal’s star man once again this weekend as he provided the cross and pass for the opening two goals that put the home side on their way to three points.
Alexis Sánchez barely put a foot wrong all game as he terrorised the Newcastle defence, creating chances and winning free kicks.
Every player on the pitch had reason to be pleased with their performance – the defence allowed very few chances for the visitors, the midfield dominated possession, were involved in three of the goals, and striker Olivier Giroud netted twice.
Giroud has now scored six goals in five Premier League appearances versus Newcastle as the Gunners recorded their sixth successive victory over their north east opponents.
Arsenal have some tricky matches between now and the third round of the FA Cup in the New Year.
Wenger’s side will face Liverpool at Anfield next weekend before hosting Queens Park Rangers on Boxing Day. Two days later they go to high-flying West Ham and then to Southampton on New Year’s Day.
The Gunners can ill-afford any more injuries or suspensions in their defence over the Christmas period. The same can be said of their midfield and Olivier Giroud up front. They have not been blessed with players availability so far this season and it could really hurt them during a period in which they play four games in 12 days, three of which are away to current top half sides.