By Michael Clements
Newcastle aren't the sort of team that send shivers down your spine when you see them on the schedule, and when Giroud put us 2-0 up before the half hour mark it looked as if it would shape into a comfortable win, starting my Saturday off in an enjoyable way. It turned out to be a little more complicated than that.
One of the things going through my mind as we worked our socks off in Monaco was how exhausted our boys looked towards the end, and how they might feel come the weekend. I think our jaded performance answered that question, and while it's tough to blame the lads after exerting themselves so much in our Champions League match, it's also not something we can excuse. By barely showing up in the first leg against Monaco we put ourselves in the position of having to bust our balls in the second leg. We rotated slightly for Newcastle - and thank the footballing Gods our injury list isn't as long as it usually is - but realistically knew the Premiership was a far more realistic priority for us.
I found myself cursing Welbeck for his missed chances in the first half, but as the ame went on it seemed evident that the reason he kept losing the ball was because nobody was making space around him. That was the story of the entire second half, really. Nobody was moving - or at least very few, Chambers looked ready to go out there - we just didn't seem to be playing for each other. There were far to many arms thrown up in the air in frustration when a ball wasn't played or a chance went begging. It wasn't a good representation of the cohesive football Arsenal have been plaing lately, the team mentality just wasn't there.
In the end, we got the three points and that is by far the most important thing. If we had played the way we played in the second half against almost any oher opposition I think we would have found ourselves with 3 less points this afternoon. We were lucky (and the ref didn't helf with his favoring of that diving knob-end, Perez) to hold onto our lead, but ou know what? Let's just take it and run.
We're still a single point behind Man City with a couple of weeks until our next game versus Liverpool at the Emirates. We've got a few of our lads called up to their respective national squads for the International break, but this is a break I'm not going to complain about. Instead of nursing our injuries, we might just have an even stronger squad when we return on April 4th, with Arteta, Chamberlain and perhaps even Wilshere close to returning.
Today was one the defenition of grinding out a win. Perhaps not the 4-0 that we'd have liked as we relax on a Saturday afternoon, but we won. Let's take it.
Up The Arsenal!