The Stoke Three are the vocal minority who made a name for themselves on YouTube by berating Wenger at the train station after the previous weekend’s capitulation at Stoke City. A few others have recently displayed banners against the most successful manager in the club’s history.
Wenger has raised expectations to a level he is finding hard to sustain. So, it is hard to imagine how the anti-brigade felt when the vast majority of the crowd at this match repeatedly stood in unison to chant the French manager’s name around a ground Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes should be renamed the Arsene Wenger Stadium.
The margin of this victory mirrored Arsenal’s midweek win away to Galatasaray and served as the perfect response to Wenger’s critics. Maybe it could be argued they were trying to provoke such a reaction and everyone was happy after all.
Wenger was so glad he decided to give his players a few days off and sent them out to have a Christmas party in the knowledge they will be working hard throughout the heart of the festive season.
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini acknowledged it was the perfect way for the players to get in the party mood by displaying their support for Le Boss.
He said: “Criticism is part of the game. When you come out of a bad performance, everyone has a right to have an opinion and we accept the criticism of the fans, especially the game against Stoke.
“It was important for us to give a very good answer and I think we did that on Tuesday in Istanbul and now we did it again. It was very important for us personally, but also for the fans; they are travelling everywhere to support us and we have to give 200% for them. [The criticism] is never easy for a manager, but we are pleased that we got a good result. Everyone is behind him, because he really deserves it.”
Wenger is going nowhere. After 18 years of high achievement he will not be hounded out, walk out or be sacked. He thanked the chanting fans for their show of support after the match and said he can handle the criticism in equal measure. Speaking of his players, he said: “They will not have Christmas so I gave them some days off for Christmas and then we come back on Wednesday and prepare for Liverpool on Sunday.
“A break is important sometimes. When you count the number of games we’ve played, with the eight Champions League games, it’s very important to have two or three days over Christmas at home.”
Newcastle do not have the best of records against Arsenal, but came to north London on the back of a great run of only one defeat in 10, including a victory at Manchester City, and fresh from defeating previously unbeaten and seemingly invincible Chelsea in relatively comfortable fashion.
For manager Alan Pardew it was no time to be despondent ahead of a week which features a League Cup quarter-final at Tottenham and the north-east derby with Sunderland.
He said: “Other results have gone well for us because we are still in a great position so can look forward to Sunderland and maybe get ourselves into the top six, which is one good thing, and the cup will be tough but we will go there very strong. Every Premier League game can be decided by small margins — apart from this one — but we have the spirit to think something can be achieved this season, and if we can beat Tottenham it will be another step nearer a final.”
Pardew felt his side took too many risks trying to get a positive result from this match, but there was little his defence could do to cope with Arsenal in this form. Olivier Giroud scored two classic strikers goals with a towering header and a deft near post flick. Back-in-form Santi Cazorla got the other two, with a world class finish and a cheeky chipped penalty either side of an unmarked header from Newcastle’s Ayoze Perez for their only goal.
ARSENAL: Szczesny 6, Bellerin 7, Debuchy 7, Mertesacker 7, Gibbs 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Flamini 6, Cazorla 8, Sanchez 9 (Coquelin 87, 6), Welbeck 7 (Maitland-Niles 90, 5), Giroud 8 (Podolski 73, 5)
NEWCASTLE: Alnwick 5, Janmaat 5, Williamson 5, Coloccini 5, Dummett 5, Perez 6 (Armstrong 82, 5), Colback 5, Tiote 4, Ameobi 5 (Cabella 56, 5), Gouffran 5, Cisse 5 (Riviere 56, 5).
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).