Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle: Grading the Gunners at the Emirates

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentMarch 12, 2012

Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle: Grading the Gunners at the Emirates

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    Thomas Vermaelen's winning goal against Newcastle United could be the defining point of Arsenal's season. 

    Arsène Wenger's men have dented Newcastle's hopes of UEFA Champions League football. 

    The Gunners must aim for third place to ensure direct qualification into the Champions League. 

    Here are the grades for the Arsenal players at the Emirates. 

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Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczęsny

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    Grade: B-

    A goalkeeper of Wojciech Szczęsny's quality shouldn't be beaten at the near post. 

    He distributed the ball well as he completed 85 percent of his passes. He looked solid when coming out to claim high balls and didn't really have to make many saves. 

Right-Back: Bacary Sagna

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    Grade: B+

    Bacary Sagna shut down Jonás, who didn't complete one successful dribble. 

    Sagna was industrious going forward, providing five crosses, with only one being on target. 

Centre-Back: Laurent Koscielny

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    Grade: B+

    Laurent Koscielny soldiered on after being hacked down by Demba Ba. Even a clash of heads didn't deter the Frenchman. 

    The Arsenal centre-back read the game really well as he intercepted the ball four times.

    Koscielny's only blemish was a pulling down of Ba but you can make that case that it was a smart foul as it stopped Newcastle United's momentum. 

Centre-Back: Thomas Vermaelen

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    Grade: B-

    If Thomas Vermaelen hadn't given up possession, Hatem Ben Arfa wouldn't have had the chance to run at Kieran Gibbs.

    Vermaelen needs to be more solid in defending because he has been a liability as of late.  

    He would have received a C+ if not for his goal. This goal is so important and could be the defining goal of their season. 

Left-Back: Kieran Gibbs

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    Grade: C+

    This is the issue when you have a defender that can't defend. Kieran Gibbs was beaten too easily by Hatem Ben Arfa as Newcastle United went ahead one-nil. 

    Thankfully for Gibbs, no one had enough time to mull over his defensive mishap because Robin van Persie equalised immediately. 

    Ironically in the 79th minute with Ben Arfa defending, Gibbs dispossessed the Frenchman, which led to another van Persie shot. 

Defensive Midfielder: Alex Song

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    Grade: B

    Surprisingly Alex Song only made one tackle and didn't make a single interception. 

    From an attacking perspective, he was neat in possession and played several incisive passes. 

Defensive Midfielder: Mikel Arteta

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    Grade: A

    Mikel Arteta won back possession seven times, completed 94 percent of his passes and was solid. 

    People expect a creative Arteta, but he is playing a different role at Arsenal: one that is more restrictive, and requires more discipline and more graft. 

Right Attacking Midfielder: Theo Walcott

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    Grade: A+

    A few months ago I named James Perch as the most incompetent footballer in the Premier League.

    Today he was humiliated by Theo Walcott. 

    Maybe it's karma because Arsenal supporters have had to put up with Johan Djourou. 

    Perch is Newcastle United's answer to Djourou.

    The poor lad couldn't deal with Walcott as the Englishman created five shots for his teammates, including the vital cross that led to Thomas Vermaelen's goal. 

    Not exactly sure why Davide Santon was taken off for Perch, but if it wasn't injury related, then Alan Pardew might have just thrown away UEFA Champions League football. 

Attacking Midfielder: Tomáš Rosický

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    Grade: A

    TomአRosický was sliding into tackles, throwing himself at crosses whilst orchestrating play. 

    It was his diagonal pass which released Theo Walcott, who provided the assist for Arsenal's first goal.   

    Rosický's vital tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa stopped a Newcastle United counterattack that could have led to a goal. 

    Rosický averages 1.5 tackles per game but he completed five tackles today. 

    He was surprisingly subbed off with the game still in the balance. 

Left Attacking Midfielder: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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    Grade: C

    If you were watching the first half, you wouldn't have guessed that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the field. 

    Twelve minutes into the game he had only touched the ball once, and after half an hour, he had nine touches. 

    Chamberlain had a bright start to the second half when he cut through the Newcastle United defence. Unfortunately, he sliced his shot well wide. 

    That shot summed up his frustrating night. 

    He was rightly subbed off for Gervinho. 

Centre Forward: Robin Van Persie

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    Grade: A

    Forget about the goal 30 minutes into the game; Robin van Persie was leading Arsenal in completed tackles. 

    Another statistical anomaly was that van Persie put in seven crosses but it underlies how complete of a forward he is. 

    He can score, he can create and he can cross whilst leading the line as a lone forward. 

    He engaged in some handbag antics with Tim Krul but importantly van Persie didn't do anything stupid.

    A few years ago, Thomas Sørensen goaded van Persie into getting himself sent off. Perhaps Krul was attempting to do the same. 

Last Comment

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    Fourth place and UEFA Champions League football is imperative for Arsenal. 

    Why?

    If they don't qualify for Champions League football, Lukas Podolski would be well within his rights to not sign for the Gunners. 

     

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