After their 2-4 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on New Year’s Eve, Arsenal entered 2023 with a new lease on life. Seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table, scintillating football, the transfer window open and a home game against this season’s surprise package, Newcastle United.
Mikel Arteta named an unchanged team from the side that beat Brighton. Injuries and fatigue meant that youngster Nathan Butler-Oyedej was named on the sub’s bench in place of the curiously absent Cédric Soares.
Whatever optimism Arsenal entered the game with, they were unlikely to have much left come the final whistle.
Tuesday night’s game was a frustrating affair for both sides, one that was punctuated by repeatedly poor refereeing calls and constant breaks in play.
For Arsenal’s part, they were simply unable to break down the well-drilled outfit that was Newcastle’s defence. Eddie Howe’s team looked well-prepared and alert all game and even when little openings appeared, they worked hard to cover them as quickly as possible.
The frustrating thing about the game is that neither side really had too many clear cut oppourtunities.
Martin Ødegaard had a first-time volley blaze over the crossbar int he first-half, but it was a half-chance at best. At the end of the half, Joelinton had perhaps the chance of the match with a back post header that really should have nestled in the back of the net.
In the second-half, Arsenal really tried to smother Newcastle, but the away side were simply too deep for it to matter much what the team did with the ball.
The game was crying out for an Emile Smith Rowe or similar player, but Arsenal simply didn’t have them on the bench and even the likes of Albert Sambi Lokonga or Fábio Vieira, both of whom would love to thrive in these tight spaces, seemed like a facile gesture.
Gabriel Martinelli’s header glanced past the back post in the final 10 minutes, but other than that, Arsenal never really looked like scoring.
What will incense Arsenal fans was the blatant shirt-pulling from Dan Burn in the penalty area on Gabriel Magalhães, which staggeringly did not lead to a penalty. VAR reviewed the incident and believed all was well, much to the chagrin of the Arsenal team, who surrounded the referee, but to no avail.
Arsenal did have a shout for a penalty at the end of the match, after a low cross struck the arm of Jacob Murphy. Arsenal and Mikel Arteta protested, but nothing was given. In fairness to Newcastle, it would have been an exceptionally harsh penalty, given the proximity to the ball and how natural his arm position was.
In the end, the whistle blew out on a frustrating game for Arsenal and two points dropped. It was also the first time this season that Arsenal have not won a match at home in the league and the first game all season in which the team have not scored.
It was a frustrating way to draw, having to try and break down Newcastle’s low-block. Arsenal tried everything they could but, in the end, they were unable to push Newcastle far enough for the win.
The main problem seems to be the animated gesticulation of manager Mikel Arteta.
The Spaniard has started to earn himself something of a reputation for his out-of-the-technical-area antics and his fiery nature once again came close to getting the better of him.
The Arsenal manager looked like he was going to be sent off at one point, such was his flagrant antics on the touchline.
The issue with this is more around the effect it has on the opposition. Last season, Arteta famously clashed with Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp on the touchline at Anfield, an event which proved to be the catalyst in a resurgent Liverpool beating Arsenal 4-0. If Arteta continues these same antics at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next Sunday, there is every chance that the Tottenham crowd will get behind their team even more.
Arsenal must out this frustrating affair behind them and focus on their next match. The team’s FA Cup campaign begins on Monday night as the team travel to League One side Oxford United – a game for which Arsenal hope to have young Emile Smith Rowe available for.
1.) Aaron Ramsdale
4.) Benjamin White (Tomiyasu 76’)
12.) William Saliba
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
35.) Oleksandr Zinchenko
5.) Thomas Partey
34.) Granit Xhaka
8.) Martin Ødegaard (c)
7.) Bukayo Saka
11.) Gabriel Martinelli
14.) Eddie Nketiah
30.) Matt Turner
16.) Rob Holding
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu
3.) Kieran Tierney
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
21.) Fábio Vieira
43.) Nathan Butler-Oyedej
Newcastle United team:
22.) Nick Pope
2.) Kieran Trippier (c)
5.) Fabian Schär
4.) Sven Botman
33.) Dan Burn
36.) Sean Longstaff
39.) Bruno Guimarães
28.) Joe Willock (Saint-Maximin 87’)
24.) Miguel Almirón (Murphy 68’)
9.) Callum Wilson (Wood 68’)
Newcastle United subs:
1.) Martin Dúbravka
6.) Jamaal Lascelles
11.) Matt Ritchie
19.) Javier Manquillo
12.) Jamal Lewis
23.) Jacob Murphy
32.) Elliot Anderson
10.) Allan Saint-Maximin
20.) Chris Wood