Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Flamini, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Chambers, Campbell, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide
Arsenal struggled in the rain and had Petr Cech to thank as they extended their lead at the top of the table with a 1-0 win over Newcastle at the Emirates this afternoon.
There were three changes from the team that beat Bournemouth with Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Flamini coming back into the side in place of Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel and Calum Chambers.
The Gunners started brightly with Hector Bellerin twice finding space down the right, and the Spaniard really should have done better with a cross for Oxlade-Chamberlain that the England man could do little with but screw the ball wide.
Bellerin continued to have success down that side as the rain began to pour, while at the other end Petr Cech saved a glancing Wijnaldum header and the subsequent follow-up from Jack Colback. Perez shot wide in the 25th minute, the game from an Arsenal point of view had gone very flat, and the most interesting thing was how Oxlade-Chamberlain stayed out of referee Anthony Taylor’s notebook for a couple of challenges that seemed worthy of a yellow card.
Colback picked up a yellow for a cynical foul on Giroud, and the Frenchman saw a shot blocked wide after good work from the Ox to set him up inside the Newcastle area. Mitrovic was presented with a good chance by a Bellerin mistake, and the forward had an overhead kick saved by Cech.
The Arsenal keeper had to be alert to prevent Wijnaldum putting the visitors ahead after he was presented with a sight of goal from a Ramsey mis-control in the box. Certainly Newcastle looked the brightest, but the teams went in level at the break, putting an end to what was a pretty dismal break.
At the break my Internet went down, and from what I could gather on Twitter Newcastle could have been ahead in the opening minutes of the second period. They may have hit the post. I don’t really know.
Then my internet came back and I continued to enjoy the feast of football that was being served to us. Of course, I kid. The conditions were as awful as the Arsenal performance, with little on the bench to spark life into Arsene Wenger’s team.
There was another chance for Newcastle when Mbemba thumped a header over the bar from close range, before the Arsenal manager made his first change, bringing on Joel Campbell for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 68th minute.
He was about to send on Alex Iwobi to try and find a goal but before he could do that Laurent Koscielny put the Gunners ahead. Arsenal won a corner, it came over, Giroud headed it on, and Koscielny got behind the defender to poke home from close range. 1-0.
A scrappy goal, but a very welcome one all the same. A Nacho Monreal cross sat up invitingly for Walcott but he couldn’t keep his shot down, while at the other end Mitrovic headed over from close range, and Wijnaldum also nodded over without testing Cech.
Ramsey had the chance to make the game safe, doing brilliantly to create a chance with just the keeper to beat, but he curled his shot wide – much to the frustration of Joel Campbell who was outside him for a tap-in had he made the pass.
Ozil hit the side netting, and in the final minutes Cech had to make a save from de Jong to ensure the three points were won. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t much fun, but it was a great win on a day when we didn’t play very well.
The lead at the top of the table is now 2 points as Leicester drew.