Arsenal picked up a vital win today in their return match following the Premier League’s winter break, whitewashing Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United 4-0 at the Emirates in what was their first victory in league competition since New Year’s Day.
The first half was largely a dull one, with chances coming at a premium for both sides, giving fans flashbacks to the Gunners’ awful 0-0 draw with Everton earlier in the season, but in the second half, goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette gave Mikel Arteta’s side all 3 points, moving them into 10th place in the table.
Here are 3 reasons why Arsenal beat Newcastle.
After drawing a blank in their previous Premier League game against Burnley, Arsenal fans must’ve feared the worst when their side went into half-time against Newcastle with the score still at 0-0.
Both sides had just a handful of chances during the opening 45 minutes, with neither really coming close to a breakthrough goal. In a lot of respects, this was as bad a half as we’d seen in the Premier League all season.
Things weren’t looking all that great early in the second half for the Gunners either; Newcastle threatened on the break on a couple of occasions and in attack, Mikel Arteta’s side continued to huff and puff without really creating all that much. But with 54 minutes gone, Nicolas Pepe’s cross found the head of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who ghosted away from his markers to head home from relatively close range.
Soon thereafter, Arsenal began to play far better football, chaining more passes together, making dangerous attacks, and when the game ended 4-0, it was hard to argue that the Gunners didn’t deserve their win.
Much has been made recently regarding Aubameyang’s future at the Emirates; the club captain has been rumoured to be angling for a move away in the summer, but for now at least, it’s hard to deny that he’s their talisman. The Gabonese striker has now scored 15 goals in 21 league games this season, and without him, you have to question where Arsenal would be. For the short term at least, they must try to keep him.
After managing to get to half-time at 0-0 today, it’s probably fair to feel sorry for Steve Bruce; the Newcastle boss seemed to have set his side up with a mind to catching Arsenal on the counter-attack, deploying a 5-4-1 formation – but while the idea worked in principle, the Magpies simply lacked any kind of cutting edge.
Newcastle took 10 shots on goal today, but while Allan Saint-Maximin struck the post in the second half while his team were already behind, it’s very telling that only 2 of those shots hit the target, and the player who had their most attempts (3) was Sean Longstaff – a largely defensive midfielder. Lone striker Joelinton meanwhile saw one shot blocked and his other off target.
It’s simply not good enough for any side in the Premier League – in comparison for instance, strugglers Aston Villa managed 18 shots against Tottenham in today’s earlier game. Newcastle currently sit in 13th place, but despite winning 8 games they have only scored 24 goals – with only Crystal Palace managing less.
Is it inconceivable that the Magpies could be sucked into a relegation fight following today’s result? Not entirely, and that’s largely due to their lack of firepower. Bruce needs to get them scoring, and soon.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta sprung a number of surprises today, most notably starting young guns Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah ahead of their more experienced teammates Lucas Torreira and Alexandre Lacazette. Alongside fellow youngsters Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe, it made for an interesting starting XI.
Thankfully for Arteta though, his plan worked. Nketiah didn’t find the back of the net – although he did hit the bar – and Lacazette did when he came on, but for the most part, the academy product worked hard and put Newcastle’s defence under plenty of pressure during the game, while Ceballos was fantastic – making 91 passes at a 96% success rate, with only midfield partner Granit Xhaka scoring higher.
The most outstanding player though was Saka; the 18-year old was recognised as more of an attacking player than a defensive one prior to the beginning of 2019-20, but as a left-back or left-wing back he’s been a revelation recently, and today he created Pepe’s goal with an incredible piece of dribbling. In fact, no other player completed more dribbles than his 6 today.
It’s been no secret for some time that Arsenal are home to some of the Premier League’s finest young players – and in Arteta they now seem to have a manager willing to unleash them and get the best from them.