I very rarely toot my own horn. I also very, very rarely get predictions right (I predicted Welbeck, freshly recharged at a new club, would score 20 this season!). Which is why I take a very perverse amount of pride in getting this game pretty much right when Coming Home Newcastle asked me about it on Thursday:
I think a tired Arsenal will be able to win this game, but it'll be much tighter and more tense than it probably should be thanks to Arsenal's Monaco adventure. I'm thinking either 2-1 or 3-2.
So yeah, that's about what happened. Let's go over it! Sort of!
1. Mental fortitude. It's a very fuzzy subject, it's not quantifiable, and I generally try not to discuss it in a tremendous amount of depth, because it's not something we on the outside can see, or measure, or even determine how much of an effect it has on a team or a game. This game had all the hallmarks of a Massive Letdown - coming off the heels of a game that Arsenal won by playing at an unbelievable tempo that still saw Arsenal exit European competition, no one would have been surprised had Arsenal gone up to a struggling injury-wracked Newcastle and lost, or at least thrown away two points.
But they didn't; instead, they Dug Deep, Gave 110 Percent, and did whatever other ridiculous old sports cliche you want to apply. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't comfortable, but they did what they needed to do, which is something that Arsenal haven't done a lot in the past few seasons. Winning against the big teams is something Arsenal are getting better at, but less visibly, so is winning games like this.
2. Olivier Giroud. I absolutely hate the constant "is he or is he not world class" questions that swirl around Olivier Giroud. First off, what does that phrase even mean? It is by definition elusive, vague, and subjective, and has no actual science backing it up, so when someone accuses Giroud of not being world class, all I can do is roll my eyes and pay it no mind, because it's a meaningless classifier.
Secondly, world class, nation class, or small municipality class - who the hell cares? Olivier Giroud is a hell of a striker who pretty much carried Arsenal on his back in the first half yesterday, scored both goals, and keeps on doing things to prove the doubters and the haters wrong. Don't be a doubter or a hater.
3. Gabriel. He's settling in well - he's got a ways to go still, but what I saw yesterday was a confident player, not afraid of the physical side of the Premier League, which for someone who has only been around for a few months is pretty impressive. He knows where to be, he gets there, and he stays involved. He's off to a great start.
1. Deflation. Once Sissoko scored, the wind vanished from Arsenal's sails pretty quickly, and for a big chunk of the second half, Newcastle didn't look like a team that had only won two games since January. Arsenal chased the game for a good half hour, and didn't look particularly confident in doing so - whether that was exhaustion or fear, I have no idea, but it wasn't pretty. Fortunately, it didn't cost Arsenal at least two points.
2. Danny Welbeck. I am, and will continue to be, a big fan of Danny Welbeck. It's just tremendously frustrating to watch him be presented with great chance after great chance, only to waste most of them. I don't know what his issues with finishing are, but I had hoped that a change of scenery to London would help cure them; it doesn't seem to have. I'm still glad he's an Arsenal player, but I'm beginning to think he'd be better as a substitute or a Cup specialist, because for whatever reason, he's not getting it done.
3. Mathieu Flamini. Get the ball, get in trouble trying to get the ball away, lose the ball. That was Flam's day.
Still, six in a row, and Liverpool up next, after a badly needed international rest break.