Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Scores, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
In a thrillingly open match that featured eight second-half goals, Arsenal convincingly beat Newcastle 7-3.
Theo Walcott continued to affirm Arsene Wenger's decision to give him time at centre-forward, and he opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a clinical finish that was reminiscent of a former No. 14 for the Gunners. Thierry Henry was in attendance and was quick to applaud the goal.
But Walcott's counterpart refused to let Arsenal take a lead into the locker room at half-time, and Demba Ba's powerful free kick in the 43rd minute ricocheted off of Jack Wilshere and into the back of the net.
With Walcott playing up top, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was given the chance to start at right winger, and he too repaid his manager's confidence. Arsenal retook the lead in the 50th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain drove the ball past Tim Krul.
Newcastle played with greater urgency after trailing, and a Gabriel Obertan cross found Sylvain Marveaux in the 59th minute to tie the match 2-2. But a brilliant run from Jack Wilshere resulted in an easy header for Lukas Podolski and another Arsenal lead just five minutes later.
The madness continued when Demba Ba earned a brace in the 69th minute after he was inexplicably left unmarked on a cross from Marveaux.
But Walcott was not to be outdone, and he knocked in his second goal in the 73rd minute.
Walcott capped off his two-goal performance with an assist to Olivier Giroud in order to seal a victory in the 84th minute, and Giroud added a second just three minutes later to turn the match into a rout. In the closing moments, Walcott finally earned the hat trick his performance deserved.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal: A+
Due to his position and the drama surrounding his contract, Walcott took center-stage in this match and delivered. He once again turned in an excellent performance at striker and got on the score sheet.
This is the third consecutive match in which Walcott has played centre-forward, and the second one in which he has scored. His three goals all featured fantastic finishes and this outing will earn him more time up top if he stays at the Emirates.
Demba Ba, Newcastle: A
Ba did everything possible to earn points for his team in this match. He was active and engaged up top and constantly slipped by the Arsenal defense.
His two successful strikes came when Newcastle was trailing by a single goal, and the Magpies will remain buried in the bottom half of the table despite Ba's performance, not because of it.
Santi Cazorla, Arsenal: B
This was a fantastic offensive output for the Gunners, and it had surprisingly little to do with the Spanish midfield maestro. While his passing and movement were completely adequate, he was not outstanding as he has been in many fixtures this season.
The other Arsenal attackers stepped up and led this victory. Cazorla's performance was perfectly acceptable, but he did not spend much time in the spotlight in this match.
Sylvain Marveaux, Newcastle: B+
Marveaux made a valuable contribution to the attack in this match and finished with a goal and an assist.
His intelligent run allowed for a simple finish on Obertan's cross, and a brilliant delivery of his own led to Ba's second goal. His production speaks for itself, and he deserves high marks for his performance.
Jack Wilshere, Arsenal: B+
While the budding star did not have a goal or an assist in this game, he provided a constant presence in the midfield for the entire match.
His potential was on full display when he won the ball in the midfield and made a run all the way to the goal line. He then chipped the ball across the face of goal, and the confusion led to one of the easiest goals Podolski will ever score. This was the highlight of a fine match from Wilshere.
Arsenal will jump up to fifth in the table after this result, while Newcastle will remain in 15th.
The Gunners will now travel to Southampton for a New Year's Day match. The Magpies will return home to host Everton on January 2.
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