Arsenal played at home to Newcastle yesterday in their last Premier League game of 2012. They had won their previous three league games and a fourth win in a row was needed to keep pace with the teams above them.
Arsene Wenger made only one change from the team which won 1-0 away to Wigan last week. With Per Mertesacker Ill there was a return for Laurent Koscielny in the centre of the Arsenal defence.
Newcastle had taken part in a very draining 4-3 defeat away to United on Wednesday while Arsenal didn't play due to a tube strike in London. If any team were going to have the legs to last the 90 minutes surely Arsenal were that team.
Arsenal started brightly and could have gone 1-0 up early on, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dragged his shot wide after a quick break. There was very lite goalmouth action in the first 20 minutes but Newcastle were having the better of the game at that stage.
The first goal came after 20 minutes when Lukas Podolski played Theo Walcott in behind the Newcastle defence. Walcott ran through from the left hand side and finished in true Thierry Henry style with a pass into the far corner of the net. Arsenal had the lead they wanted and I hoped they would build on it.
However, it was Newcastle who assumed control and kept pushing forward. It seemed like only a matter of time before they equalised but Arsenal did have a couple of chances on the break. Walcott should have done better twice when he should have scored and set Santi Cazorla up too.
As half time approached Newcastle got the break they wanted and deserved too. Bacary Sagna brought a Newcastle player down in a dangerous position outside the Arsenal box and Demba Ba scored the resulting free kick with more than a little help from Jack Wilshere. His free kick was probably going wide until Wilshere got his head in the way and deflected it past Wojciech Szczesny.
I thought Wilshere should have been braver and taken one for the team, but he ducked rather than let the ball hit him in the face. Mind you I can't understand why Sagna felt the need to take the player down either when he had already lost control of the ball.
I hoped to see Arsenal show more of an attacking threat in the second half and get on the faces of Newcastle in their own half. Arsenal regained the lead only six minutes after the break when Cazorla fed Chamberlain and he drove it home from just outside the area. The goal came from Arsenal putting pressure on a Newcastle defensive throw in and the signs were good for the rest of the match.
Unfortunately nobody told the defence that they had to keep their concentration and Newcastle took advantage on the hour mark. Gabriel Obertan got the better of Sagna and cut the ball across the goal for Sylvain Marveaux to tap in unmarked at the far post. Again it was Wilshere who didn't put in the defensive work required of him as he watched uninterested when Marveaux made his way into that position.
It didn't take long for Arsenal to regain the lead as the goals started to flow in the last half hour. Podolski put Arsenal ahead again when he headed into an empty net from one yard out after great work from Wilshere. He burst into the Newcastle box and hung up a cross with Fabricio Coloccini could only head against his own bar in the chaos and Podolski took advantage of the opportunity.
Only five minutes later the game was all square again when Ba was left unmarked at the far post to finish off after a great ball from Marveaux. Ba got the drop on Kieran Gibbs who switched off at exactly the wrong moment, but the pass to him was fantastic. There were 20 minutes left and Arsenal had it all to do yet again.
Thankfully Newcastle's exploits on Wednesday were beginning to take their toll and Arsenal took advantage. After 73 minutes they went 4-3 up and this time they managed to increase their lead rather than let Newcastle back into the game yet again.
The scorer this time was Walcott again after he was given far too much time and space in the opposing penalty area. Gibbs cut a great ball back from the left and Walcott stopped it before turning 180 degrees and shooting into the roof of the net. Arsenal were piling forward now as they went in search of the insurance of a fifth goal and Newcastle tired.
Chamberlain went off after that goal and he was replaced by the fit again Olivier Giroud for the final 15 minutes. Walcott moved into a wide role and Giroud played ax the central striker. It didn't take him too long to make an impact on the game.
With five minutes remaining Walcott put in a fantastic cross and Giroud stooped to head home and secure the points for Arsenal. It was a real centre forwards goal and one which only Giroud in the Arsenal team could score. Within another two minutes he had increased the lead even further.
Again the goal was made by Walcott, but his assist was quite so deliberate this time. He dribbled past a couple of defenders before falling over and the ball fell to Giroud who drove it into the net. Arsenal were 6-3 up with two minutes to play and both Walcott and Giroud on a hat trick.
It only took Walcott two minutes to complete his hat trick and the goal was all his own doing this time. He ran at the Newcastle defence on the left after a quick free kick between him and Wilshere.
Somehow he worked his way past four defenders before he was taken down for what seemed a certain penalty. Walcott had other ideas though as he got up again and clipped the ball past the advancing keeper for an excellent finish. There were five added minutes to be played and Arsenal looked likely to add to their seven goal tally.
At the very end Giroud almost completed his hat trick, but his left footed effort crashed back off the bar and the game ended 7-3 to Arsenal. Considering how well Newcastle had done in the first 70 minutes it was an incredible scoreline. Newcastle had come to the Emirates and dominated possession, scored three goals, and left with a real hiding.
It was a very strange game, but them again Arsenal have made a habit of being involved in strange games in recent seasons. Things are still far from perfect with Arsenal as a team, but they have now won four league games in a row and scored 15 goals in the process. They conceded five goals in those games and still look shaky in defence despite statistically having one of the best defences in the league.
Only United have scored more goals than Arsenal now with only City, Chelsea and Stoke conceding less. Of their 39 goals they have scored 23 of them in four crazy games and only managed 16 in the other 15 games. If only they could find a way to spread those goals out into other games where they are needed.
It was a great end to the year for all Arsenal fans with seven goals scored and some great attacking football. The performance was far from perfect but it has kept Arsenal slap bang in the middle of the fight for a Champions League spot. They play again in a couple of days away to Southampton and it's another must win game for Arsenal.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.