|Giroud now has 17 goals in 26 games this season|
I think it's safe to say that Olivier Giroud is one of the most under appreciated players in this Arsenal side and in the Premier League. His finishes against Newcastle yesterday were both very instinctive and they showed exactly why he's in the form of his life. Both goals weren't really Arsenal type goals but nonetheless Giroud found the positions and duly obliged in front of goal. The first was from a Cazorla free-kick. The ball was flicked on by Welbeck and then Giroud stuck out a knee to find the back of the net. Four minutes later Cazorla's corner found the French striker who muscled off Williamson to head home. They were two very well taken goals and hopefully he'll continue it to the end of the season. He now has 8 in 6 against Newcastle and 9 in his last 9 outings in all competitions. His form really has been paramount in 2015.
I feel as though that praise from me for Olivier Giroud has been long overdue but unfortunately we have to move onto the negatives. It was a very intense first half but we managed to go into the break two ahead. Because of the amount of effort we had put into our second leg against Monaco in the week I think the players lacked that extra burst of energy required to convincingly get us over the line. Instead we just about made it to the final whistle with all three points.
We were pegged back massively and that didn't help by conceding almost immediately after the break. Ryan Taylor and Remy Cabella were allowed all too easily to link up down the right hand side and then find Sissoko who was bizarrely unmarked on the edge of the area. He consequently slotted the ball past Ospina. From that moment on it was an upward struggle. We couldn't get a hold of the ball and if it wasn't for some desperate defending and some crucial Ospina saves then we probably would've drawn the game. I don't think we were necessarily bad in defence but Calum Chambers was definitely a weak spot. Hector Bellerin needed to start for me but for the first time in a while both full backs seemed to be exposed. Monreal didn't have the greatest of games by his standards recently whilst Chambers continues to be vulnerable out wide rather than in the centre. I did think Gabriel had a good game though and he made himself busy, especially in the opening exchanges.
One aspect of the way Newcastle got back into the match though was through seemingly over crowding the midfield. From my point of view it was the first time in a long time that we exposed ourselves in that area of the pitch. Francis Coquelin had his customary good game but Aaron Ramsey's return to the starting line-up today brought about a number of problems. Santi Cazorla has operated well beside Coquelin and they have formed a very good partnership in the middle of the pitch. However yesterday away from home when both Cazorla and Ramsey were trying to get forward it left a lot of space in the middle of the pitch.
Ramsey was a very frustrating figure yesterday. He had scored in consecutive games before this match and when he offers that kind of option he has a good game. Yesterday it was a different story though. He can perhaps be guilty of over playing at times and trying too hard to do something rather than going simple. His late runs offer a lot but when it goes wrong, like it did yesterday, he denied what could have been Giroud's hat-trick by taking the ball on instead of letting it run for his team-mate.
Saying that, I don't think we need to dwell on performances like Ramsey's yesterday too much. We're in good form and we managed to hold on for a good three points even when we weren't at our best. We now head into the international break off the back of 9 wins in our last 10 Premier League matches. Liverpool at home awaits and here's hoping all our players come back from the break fit and fighting.
The team's line-ups:
Newcastle: Krul, Taylor, Janmaat, Williamson, Colback, Sissoko, Anita(70), Gouffran, Cabella, Ameobi(88), Ayoze.
Subs: Elliot, Satka, Kemen, Obertan, Gutierrez(70), Riviere, Armstrong(88).
Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monrael, Coquelin, Ramey, Welbeck(88), Cazorla(70), Sanchez(70), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Bellerin(88), Flamini(70), Rosicky(70), Walcott.
My man of the match: Olivier Giroud.
Referee: Mike Jones.