Let me first say that I have never felt more anxious about a half of football than Sunday's second half at Emirates. But, I'm on record saying how well this team plays when it is the first to score a goal, and I had faith in not only that, but Hughton's ability to manage that slim lead to the end. After four minutes of stoppage time, it turned out that my faith was not misplaced.
Match reviewers from the major sources will have you believe that story of this game can be summed up by Arsenal's underachievement. I am here to offer the dissenting opinion. This match was not a simple case of Arsenal's lethargy or sloppiness. That isn't to say that they weren't lethargic and sloppy at times but it most certainly is to to say that there are reasons for Arsenal's uncharacteristic play on Sunday; the 11 lads on the other side of the pitch.
This Newcastle side has over the last few weeks grown into one that rests its head on sound strategy, determination, and reliance on one another. In no other game this season was that more evident than on Sunday. The Gunners seemed sloppy and sluggish at times because Hughton had a strategy in place that, when it works, give fits to teams like Arsenal. I like when it's called a "Reed in the Wind." We bend but don't break, we absorb the counter attack, control the midfield, and come forward when it is prudent. Arsenal were not having fits because they were off their game, they were having fits because we were giving them fits.
I'll not have Arsene Wenger tell me that those Gunners beat themselves out there, and I'll not have it because it simply isn't true. Let me be clear that I am not saying that NUFC played AFC right off the field, or that we dominated the game by any means. What I am saying is that we went into Emirates with a strategy that could nick us a win, and I'd like some credit given to the architects and builders of that reality. Wenger won't even give us an obligatory, "not to take anything away from that NUFC side...."
-It must be said, we've taken 3 points, away, at Emirates.
-Tim Krul looked very good. Harper will have a real fight on his hands when he's healthy.
-I am not one of the James Perch detractors, but I will say that Danny Simpson is quite a defensive improvement over him.
-Can enough be said about how Mike Williamson has risen to the occasion of being a full time Premiership fullback? He and Coloccini are defusing experts back there. At this rate Big Sol may never get on the pitch.
-Our midfield as it is formed now is quickly becoming top class. I have gushed ad nauseoum about the prowess of Cheik Tiote, but every week he gives the same performance, and until he gives me a reason I won't be changing my tune. This week he battled all game long and made Cesc Fabregas a non-entity in the long run.
-Joey Barton is looking amazing out on the right. I do sometimes miss the pace of Routledge, but Joey makes up for it with great crossing and good vision.
-I hope to see a lot more of Shola and Carroll up front together, though one thing that does confuse me is how often Carroll gets stuck out on one side or the other. Maybe something in the game that I didn't see dictated that wide position, but it really takes him out of the attack. Of course he'll always be there on the set pieces.
-A quick note on the red card: Said Wenger after the game, ""It was not a goalscoring opportunity and he was not the last man because Squillaci was covering." This is blatantly untrue. Had Ranger not been mauled he would have indeed had his goalscoring opportunity. Squillaci was behind the play and Ranger would have had the Keeper one on one from 12 yds or maybe closer by the time Squillaci got there to cover. If it had been a hockey game it would have been a penalty shot. The red card was not only warranted it was required by rule to be given. Wenger is simply pouting, and he did a lot of that in postgame interviews.
Man of the Match: Allow us to go outside the box and give this to One Chrissy Hughton for inspiring and implementing the strategy and tactics that won this game.
Howay the 5th place Lads!