Given their disappointing defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby on Thursday, Arsenal were keen to set the record straight.
A poor showing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium meant that Arsenal only led their bitter rivals by a single point and, given Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Burnley, Arsenal now needed to win against Newcastle to restore the balance.
The big boost for the team heading into the match was the news that both Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhães were both back and available.
Whatever good vibes Arsenal had imbued by their two defenders availability for the match were soon gone.
Arsenal started unbelievably poorly, even by their own recent standards. Newcastle were all over them like a bad rash and didn’t give the team a second on the ball.
It was the sort of high-intensity press that Arsenal have been employing all season, but this time, they were on the receiving end of it and they simply couldn’t handle it, no matter how hard they tried.
Newcastle came close on several occasions and were perhaps unlucky to go in at half-time all square, with Arsenal lucky to have survived the opening 10 minutes, let alone the full 45.
If Mikel Arteta had hoped that his half-time speech would be enough to raise the morale of the team, he was wildly mistaken. Arsenal were just as poor in the second-half as they were in the first!
No matter what Arsenal tried, they simply couldn’t seem to get out of their own half. Newcastle pressed them as high as they possibly could and though Arsenal managed to create one or two chances of their own, most notably through Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard, it looked inevitable that Newcastle would make Arsenal pay.
A long ball through to Joelinton on the wing was poorly tracked by Cédric Soares, who had replaced the injured Takehiro Tomiyasu, and his ball into the box was turned into his own net by Benjamin White. In fairness to White, there wasn’t a tremendous amount that he could have done about it and he was between a rock and a hard place. Get a foot on it and it’s in the back of the net, leave it and Callum Wilson does the job for him.
Arsenal struggled to get anything back and were soon dead and buried when January target Bruno Guimarães rifled home a shot from the edge of the box to seal the Gunners’ fate, with the final whistle being the only bit of mercy shown all game.
It was a grovelling performance from a team chasing top four and stood as a very real testament to the fact that a team that can’t beat Newcastle, shouldn’t be trying to strut their stuff against the likes of Real Madrid.
Arsenal were appalling from the get-go and nothing they did seemed to make any difference to their situation.
It was a particularly poor night for Mohamed Elneny, whose susceptibility to a high press was shockingly exposed on numerous occasions.
Nor was it a good night for Nuno Tavares, whose initial foul-throw gifted Newcastle their first goal.
In the slight defence of manager Mikel Arteta, the barebones squad that he has to work with is also compounded by a total lack of quality in depth. Takehiro Tomiyasu’s absences, coupled with Kieran Tierney’s penchant for long-term injuries and the absence of Thomas Partey meant that Arsenal were taking on an uphill task without much quality to back them up.
Regardless of who or what contributing factor is to blame, Arsenal did this to themselves. Top four hopes are all but dead and unless Norwich pull off a miraculous victory over Tottenham on Sunday for the final game of the season, Arsenal will, once again, be playing Europa League football next season.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu (Cédric 39’)
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães (Pépé 73’)
20.) Nuno Tavares (Lacazette 62’)
25.) Mohamed Elneny
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c)
10.) Emile Smith Rowe (Martinelli 53’)
30.) Eddie Nketiah
1.) Bernd Leno
69.) Zak Swanson
17.) Cédric Soares
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
87.) Charlie Patino
65.) Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
Newcastle United team:
1.) Martin Dúbravka
17.) Emil Krafth
5.) Fabian Schär (Lascelles 49’)
33.) Dan Burn
13.) Matt Targett
36.) Sean Longstaff
39.) Bruno Guimarães
24.) Miguel Almirón (Murphy 76’)
10.) Allan Saint-Maximin (Fraser 77’)
9.) Callum Wilson (Gayle 94’)
Newcastle United subs:
26.) Karl Datlow
6.) Jamal Lascelles
3.) Phil Dummett
18.) Federico Fernández
11.) Matt Ritchie
15.) Kieran Trippier
23.) Jacob Murphy
21.) Ryan Fraser
34.) Dwight Gayle