As the January window rears its ugly head once more, Arsenal are faced with the prospect of being linked with every player under the sun (usually Julian Draxler as well for good measure). But while the January window is still a big area of consideration for Arsenal, the results on the field need attention and ahead of their second match against Newcastle in seven days, any potential signings would need to be pushed to the back of the mind.
Following Thomas Partey’s return from injury, Arsenal were able to stop the usual midfield merry-go-round of who will be partnering Granit Xhaka and start working on a potentially deadly midfield pivot.
The first half was a solid affair from Arsenal. Defensively, Arsenal looked unlikely to concede and in midfield, Newcastle were barely bale to get a foothold, it was upfront where the issues laid.
Though Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe continued to create chances, Arsenal were unable to finish them effectively, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming the closest with a chance that glanced off the crossbar from an acute angle.
It seemed as though Arsenal knew they would have chances, but making those chances count was the hard part, especially when Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have been yo-yoing in and out of form for the most part this season.
The second-half saw the final pieces of the jigsaw click as Arsenal began to click into gear. Thomas Partey’s excellent ball forward allowed Aubameyang an untroubled run at the one-man Newcastle defence and though he was shown onto his far weaker left-foot, that didn’t stop the Arsenal captain from rifling home the game’s opening goal.
Ten minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead. Superb work down the left-hand side from Emile Smith Rowe saw the young midfielder break into the penalty area and then lay the ball on a platter for the in-form Bukayo Saka, who slotted home from close-range. A goal made in Hale End.
For their third goal, Arsenal switched their attacking preference over to the right instead, with Cédric Soares’ fairly heavy touch being compensated for by his wonderful cut-back for Aubameyang who rounded off the evening with the Gunners’ third.
Though Arsenal were certainly rampant in the second-half and were playing more of the kind of football that fans have wanted to see for a while now, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Newcastle were not at their very best.
There were plenty of positives to take from the match, namely the return of Thomas Partey.
Since his switch from Atlético Madrid, the Ghanian has found it difficult to cement a place in the Arsenal midfield, owing mainly to his injury issues, but Monday night’s match served as a reminder as to why Arsenal were so keen to sign him and why his £45m switch is so important for the Arsenal midfield.
Partey has long been keen to work alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield and Monday night’s match seemed to show why the pivot has the potential to work so well. Partey was everywhere, cleaning up messes all around him and his progressive passing was exactly what Arsenal have been missing in the past few weeks and is a huge part of Arsenal’s first goal.
The continued rise of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka is another encouraging sign for the club as well. Smith Rowe was at the heart of everything good about Arsenal’s performance, frequently finding himself jinking in and out of tackles and creating space for the attackers to run into. Saka, on the other hand, seemed to be everywhere, his quick feet and penchant for spotting runs made their link-up a joy to watch.
Though it is unlikely that Arsenal could rely on Smith Rowe for the remainder of the season as their sole attacking presence (especially given his injury record), there are positive signs that Smith Rowe could be the internal solution that Arsenal have been looking for.
Elsewhere, Cédric Soares’ performance gained praise as well. The Portuguese right-back was a constant threat on the flank and was near impossible to get past as well. Though it is true that Newcastle didn’t really offer much in the way of an attacking threat to Arsenal in many ways, Cédric’s defensive performance was very promising to see.
The attention will now turn to Arsenal’s FA Cup match against Southampton on Saturday as Arsenal look to continue their defence of the competition.
1.) Bernd Leno
17.) Cédric Soares
16.) Rob Holding
23.) David Luiz
3.) Kieran Tierney
18.) Thomas Partey (Elneny 67’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Willian 79’)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Martinelli 81’)
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
2.) Héctor Bellerín
25.) Mohamed Elneny
28.) Joe Willock
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah
Newcastle United team:
26.) Karl Darlow
17.) Emil Krafth
6.) Jamaal Lascelles
2.) Ciaran Clark
15.) Jamal Lewis
24.) Miguel Almirón (Anderson 87’)
8.) Jonjo Shelvey
4.) Matty Longstaff (Hendrick 78’)
7.) Andy Carroll (Murphy 69’)
13.) Callum Wilson
Newcastle United subs:
1.) Martin Dúbravka
19.) Javier Manquillo
22.) DeAndre Yedlin
14.) Isaac Hayden
16.) Jeff Hendrick
23.) Jacob Murphy
11.) Matt Ritchie
36.) Sean Longstaff
57.) Elliot Anderson