After benefiting from an hilariously fortunate opening goal just before the break, Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner ensured Arsenal romped away with a 4-0 victory at St James’ Park.
The second-half finishing was particular impressive: Walcott producing two that had me rubbing my eyes and wondering if I was watching Thierry Henry and Bendtner adding a thumping strike of his own.
Down the other end Wojciech Szczesny recovered from an early mistake to put in a fine performance to register our second clean sheet in a row. He was commanding, brave and agile and his first big save, tipping away a fierce Alan Smith drive, was absolutely stupendous.
Only two players started from the Manchester City game – Johan Djourou and Denilson – as the manager shuffled his pack. The team was identical to the one I predicted yesterday with the only exception being Craig Eastmond’s selection in place of Henri Lansbury.
We struggled to find rhythm in the first half as Newcastle put up a very decent fight, but still we made chances. Without the assistance of a replay I can remember clear opportunities falling to Emmanuel Eboue, Walcott and Bendtner, amongst others. Newcastle also created their fair share as Laurent Koscielny was forced to save Szczesny’s bacon by blocking Nile Ranger’s shot and the Polish goalkeeper tipped Smith’s shot onto the bar.
The game turned on it’s head with the opening goal – a bizarre game of penalty-area ping-pong that resulted in Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul heading into his own net – and the second half was all Arsenal.
The most impressive aspect of the match was the combination between Bendtner and Walcott. The Dane was constantly coming deep to receive the ball, leaving space in behind for Walcott to exploit. It was intelligent forward play from a man who, in his first start for the season, looks physically and mentally sharp.
Meanwhile Walcott seems to have picked up where he left off before his injury. His pace was absolutely scintillating at times and his finishing was superb. Fears of him needing some time to get back to his best appear to be misplaced: his impact on the game was stunning.
As for other impressive performers, I thought Djourou and Koscielny were strong at the back, while Denilson was the best of our midfielders.
All in all a 4-0 victory away from home against Newcastle is a result to be proud of. We go into the quarter-finals of the competition now with Manchester United the only genuine threat to the trophy. I hope we win it and if Arsene Wenger can continue to field sides of this quality then it is a distinct possibility that we will.
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