Last week’s version of their annual drubbing at Anfield, was the only real blotch on Arsenal’s so-far impressive vein of form. A trip to Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool was always going to be a tough ask, but to lose 4-0, Arsenal knew that they needed a big response to be in with the chance of breaking into the top-four.
The surprising changes to the team at kick-off where that Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares, whose sloppy backpass led to Liverpool’s 2nd goal were kept in the starting XI, while Alexandre Lacazette dropped to the bench in favour of Martin Ødegaard, meaning that all of Arsenal’s summer signings were on the pitch from the off.
Arsenal didn’t start as well as they normally do. The main fixture of Arsenal’s play in recent weeks has been the rather lacklustre 70 minutes that proceed a break-neck opening 20, this time, Newcastle started to really control Arsenal’s play, no doubt the tutelage of new boss Eddie Howe, undoing the woeful patterns of play of former manager Steve Bruce.
Arsenal still created chances and but for all of Newcastle’s defensive solidity, Arsenal smothered them with possession.
The best chance of the half fell to the talismanic captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After a great cross from Bukayo Saka, Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka was quick to keep out Emile Smith Rowe’s header, only for the ball to fall to Aubameyang, who, from point-blank range smashed the ball against the post.
It was an unbelievable miss and surely one that will feature in the annual “Miss of the Season” compilations from Sky Sports’ YouTube channel.
Half-time gave Arsenal the chance for a much needed talking to from Mikel Arteta and gave Arsenal the chance to recharge their batteries.
The break seemed to benefit Arsenal who really began to start turning their fortunes around. Some good work was still failing to represent a clear cut chance, however.
That is, until Bukayo Saka drifted over the left-hand side, wherein he linked up beautifully with Emile Smith Rowe and Nuno Tavares to dance around Newcastle’s woefully ill-disciplined defensive line and smash a first-time shot into the far corner of the net to give the hosts the lead.
It was the sort of football that would have no doubt had Arsène Wenger on his feet in applause.
Saka was the victim of an unfortunate challenge later on, which meant that Gabriel Martinelli came on in his place and after a somewhat controversial penalty call at the other end (Callum Wilson not being given one), Arsenal broke forward.
Martinelli stayed on the shoulder of the last man (or second-to-last, since Matt Ritchie was so far behind them) and directed Takehiro Tomiyasu to play him in. The Japanese full-back dutifily obliged, playing an inch-perfect ball into Martinelli’s path, who deftly dinked it first-time without it hitting the ground into the net to double the lead.
It was a near-perfect goal, the kind that Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud.
Arsenal held on well for the remainder of the game, Aaron Ramsdale occasionally being called into action, but the solid defensive duo of Ben White and Gabriel Magalhães stood firm to ring out the final whistle.
It was a good win for Arsenal and a much-needed one following last weekend’s misery, but there should have been more. Arsenal wasted so many chances in the first-half and the continued misfiring of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still haunt the team’s forward line.
There were some very encouraging performances however, not least from Nuno Tavares. After a first-half that almost led to Luton Airport putting out a warning for low-flying aircraft, Tavares turned his fortunes around and turned in a performance of real quality. The Portuguese fullback was at the heart of every attack and was effectively working as a full-time forward. Kieran Tierney has got some competition ahead of him, but it would likely be a sensible choice to opt for the Scotsman against Manchester United.
Elsewhere, Albert Sambi Lokonga put last weekend’s misfortunes behind him and showed why he is preferred in midfield alongside Thomas Partey. The Belgian midfielder was pinging balls over the field like it was a training session and held his ground in a crowded midfield, making his older compatriots look a little jaded.
Arsenal will be delighted with all 3 points as they now look forward to a very tough match against the old adversary Manchester United, who will, by then, likely be under the watchful eye of the ever-impressive Ralf Ragnick, following the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
4.) Ben White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
20.) Nuno Tavares
5.) Thomas Partey (Elneny 85’)
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
7.) Bukayo Saka (Martinelli 64’)
8.) Martin Ødegaard
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Lacazette 76’)
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
3.) Kieran Tierney
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
25.) Mohamed Elneny
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
Newcastle United team:
1.) Martin Dúbravka
17.) Emil Krafth
6.) Jamaal Lascelles
5.) Fabian Schär
11.) Matt Ritchie (Almirón 67’)
21.) Ryan Fraser
8.) Jonjo Shelvey (Hayden 89’)
28.) Joe Willock
10.) Allan Saint-Maximin
9.) Callum Wilson (c)
7.) Joelinton (Murphy 67’)
Newcastle United subs:
26.) Karl Datlow
2.) Ciaran Clark
19.) Javier Manquillo
12.) Jamal Lewis
14.) Isaac Hayden
36.) Sean Longstaff
16.) Jeff Hendrick
23.) Jacob Murphy
24.) Miguel Almirón