Given the state of things at the moment, Arsenal’s season hangs in the balance. With all the talk of proposed takeovers, European Super Leagues, talented youngsters signing new contracts and a Europa League tie with a former manager that threatens Arsenal’s European chances next seasons, its understandable why the Premier League has been on the back burner this season.
Heading into Sunday’s game against Newcastle, it’s clear to see where Mikel Arteta’s priorities are at the moment. After naming a fairly understrengthed side against Fulham, it seems Mikel Arteta has once again placed all his eggs in the Europa League basket.
The team saw a number of key changes to the side, including Maty Ryan once again displacing Bernd Leno.
Arsenal started off well, creating chances and giving Newcastle plenty to be concerned about. Usually, in these instances, Arsenal start well and create plenty and then slump to an early and entirely preventable goal, but this was not the case this time around.
Clever work from David Luiz to find Héctor Bellerín meant that the Spaniard could easily pick out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the middle of the park, only for the Gabon captain to inexplicably miss the chance. It made no difference though as Mohamed Elneny was on hand to smash the ball home from outside the box to mark his first-ever Premier League goal.
It was a well-worked goal that would have likely been even better had the initial chance converted. Arsenal continued to create but never really tested Martin Dúbravka very much, but for a speculative effort from Granit Xhaka, which nevertheless forced the Slovakian goalkeeper into action.
The second-half saw more of the same. Newcastle seemed utterly uninterested and Arsenal never really needed to push out of second gear.
It wasn’t before long that Arsenal added their inevitable second. Good work on the left-hand side from Gabriel Martinelli allowed him to fizz a tantalising ball across the box and this time Aubameyang made no mistake with an acrobatic effort making its way into the back of the net to double Arsenal’s tally and round-off the scoring.
The rest of the game passed without incident, until the dying embers of the match, when Newcastle defender and former teammate of Mohamed Elneny, Fabian Schär needlessly threw himself into a tackle from behind on Gabriel Martinelli, ensuring that Mike Dean didn’t end a game without brandishing a red card.
It was a stupid, needless tackle and seemed to sum up the home side’s performance on the day.
Many have said that it was a stunning performance from Arsenal, but that feels like hyperbole. That’s not to say that Arsenal played badly, because they didn’t, but it did feel like Arsenal never really got out of second-gear and didn’t need to. Newcastle were so lethargic and so uninterested in the match that it was surprising that the even found their way onto the pitch.
In terms of performances, it was a good day for Mohamed Elneny. Though the midfielder is often maligned for his lack of ingenuity or his propensity to play the ball sideways or backwards, the Egyptian was virtually unplayable against Newcastle and his importance to the team was noticeable in the club’s recent Open Mic YouTube video.
It was yet another bravura performance from young Gabriel Martinelli as well. His assist for Aubameyang’s goal was simply stunning and a sign of just how talented Martinelli really is and it seems essential that the Brazilian simply must start against Villarreal on Thursday.
Thursday beckons now for what will be a season-defining game. Is Arsenal’s European fate sealed or are they about to bring off an unprecedented comeback against Europe’s perennial Europa League specialist who will be out for blood at his old stomping ground?
33.) Maty Ryan
2.) Héctor Bellerín
23.) David Luiz (Chambers 53’)
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
34.) Granit Xhaka
25.) Mohamed Elneny
8.) Dani Ceballos
11.) Martin Ødegaard (Partey 85’)
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Pépé 78’)
1.) Bernd Leno
22.) Pablo Marí
21.) Calum Chambers
17.) Cédric Soares
18.) Thomas Partey
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
7.) Bukayo Saka
19.) Nicolas Pépé
30.) Eddie Nketiah
Newcastle United team:
1.) Martin Dúbravka
23.) Jacob Murphy
18.) Federico Fernández (Schär 72’ 🔴)
2.) Ciaran Clark (Gayle 84’)
3.) Paul Dummett
11.) Matt Ritchie
36.) Sean Longstaff
8.) Jonjo Shelvey (c)
24.) Miguel Almirón (Joelinton 73’)
10.) Allan Saint-Maximin
13.) Callum Wilson
Newcastle United subs:
29.) Mark Gillespie
17.) Emil Krafth
5.) Fabian Schär
15.) Jamal Lewis
57.) Elliot Anderson
16.) Jeff Hendrick
4.) Matty Longstaff
12.) Dwight Gayle