Earning his first goal in seven matches, forward Olivier Giroud spelled Arsenal’s recent spat of injuries with a second-half goal for a 1-0 victory over Newcastle on Sunday at St. James' Park.
Fighting off high-scoring Manchester City, Arsene Wenger’s side picked up three points and maintained first place in the Premier League behind Giroud’s eighth goal of the season, as both midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil sat out with injuries.
Beginning the year on a tear with five goals in Arsenal’s first nine matches, Giroud hadn’t scored since his brace against Southampton last month, but the French national pounded a header to the back of the net off an assist from Theo Walcott in the 65th minute for a 1-0 lead and eventually the match. It was the fourth assist of the season for Walcott.
The Magpies were fresh off two dominate victories over Stoke and Crystal Palace, outscoring them 8-1, thanks to two goals each from Loic Remy and Yohan Cabaye. But Newcastle couldn’t score as easily against an Arsenal back line welcoming back Laurent Koscielny from injury.
In light of leading scorer and breakout star midfielder Ramsey’s thigh strain, along with a shoulder injury to Ozil that prohibited the German from making the trip to Newcastle the Gunners at first struggled to find the net.
Both sides were slow from the start, notching three shots apiece in the first 20 minutes of play, but revved up their respective attacks for six total shots and two on target by halftime.
Newcastle closed the first half with two consecutive attempts from midfielder Moussa Sissoko and defender Mathieu Debuchy in the 45th, but Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny earned one of his two first half saves and the other was blocked up front.
Magpies keeper Tim Krul was tested far more in the second half, earning four total saves, only failing to hinder Giroud’s point-blank attempt.
Giroud was issued his first yellow card of the season in the 36th minute, following a rough foul on Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote. Fortunately for Arsenal, the mental mishap didn’t result in viable opportunity for the Magpies. Gunners midfielder Mathieu Flamini was also shown a yellow in 75th, and midfielder Tomas Rosicky followed him a minute later with his fourth yellow of the year.
Even with the victory Wenger’s side will have to muster new avenues of attack without several key contributors in the coming weeks.
Ozil is expected to miss upwards of two more games, while Ramsey’s status is a little more hazy as Arsenal prepares for the third round of FA Cup play against Tottenham next week.