Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: Gunners mercilessly shoot down Magpies

Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: Gunners mercilessly shoot down Magpies

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If the tone for Wednesday’s Champions League game was set with that slightly careless first minute booking for Declan Rice, we began last night’s encounter with Newcastle with an intensity that they just couldn’t live with from the off.

We won a corner in the first 60 seconds, which saw Ben White flick a header on and Bukayo Saka shoot over the bar. A minute later Kai Havertz almost caught the goalkeeper in possession and managed to close down the defender he laid the ball off to in the same action. Mikel Arteta wanted a big atmosphere, and his players knew they had to contribute to that right from the start.

With just the one change to the side, Jorginho replacing Leandro Trossard, it was essentially the same XI that struggled in Porto, but this performance was chalk and cheese. Sometimes you have an off-night, recent Premier League form suggests that what we saw last night is far more aligned with what this Arsenal team is capable of.

The first goal came from a set-piece. Saka whipped in the corner, Gabriel made a great run and got a good header towards goal which forced a decent save from Loris Karius, but as the ball scuntled around the Newcastle box, it came off the knee of Sven Botman and went over the line. Goal line technology was needed, but it was in and it was 1-0.

Newcastle could barely get the ball, and when they did, Arsenal players swarmed them like angry bees. By the 26th minute, 53% of the game had been played in the Newcastle final third. Kieran Trippier had to have a sit down. It was 2-0 by then too. The second goal was a thing of beauty. Jorginho’s superb pass matched Gabriel Martinelli’s dynamic run across the opposition backline, and when he pulled the ball back, Havertz was there to slot home his 7th goal of the season.

Saka and Odegaard combined brilliantly for the former to create a chance for Martinelli, but unfortunately he couldn’t get above the ball quite enough to head home – that would have been one of the goals of the season if he’d planted that header into the top corner. Martinelli shot over, Karius saved from Saka after he fashioned a chance for himself in the box, and Ben White – feeling a bit left out because all the action was up the other end – flattened Anthony Gordon (because why wouldn’t you want to do that?), and for good measure did it again before the break. There was a lot to like about this half of football. Great goals, really nice Arsenal football, and Ben White clattering Anthony Gordon. Value for money.

It should have been game over early in the second half when another lovely Arsenal move saw Havertz through on goal, but he dragged his shot wide. I think he was good again last night, and somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps, it’s moments like that which make me think there’s still a lot more to come from him. A bad miss, for sure, but he caused Newcastle problems all night with his movement, and no player on the pitch won more aerial duels than him.

Newcastle were a bit better in the second half … for a few minutes maybe. There was a shot from Gordon which Raya saved comfortably, Alexander Isak popped one over the bar, but they didn’t really threaten  with any consistency. Nevertheless, we all have our own trauma level when it comes to 2-0 (regardless of how well we’re playing), so it was important we put the game to bed.

It was fitting that we did with another excellent move. Havertz intercepted, Odegaard found Rice who played it back to the German first time, and he laid it outside to Saka. The defender didn’t want to let him back onto his left foot, but was powerless to stop him, and his shot nestled into the far corner for 3-0. That was always going to be the game, and the points, but we weren’t content with that.

A Jakub Kiwior ball over the top for substitute Trossard resulted in an Arsenal corner. Rice whipped it in, and the Polish international was there to flick a header in via the hand of a Newcastle defender. It was going in anyway, the TV said it was an own goal, but it’s officially a Kiwior goal, and after a really solid few weeks for him at left back, it was great to see him make that kind of contribution.

Arteta made changes, the game fizzled out more or less, but with both sides having made a number of substitutes it was a bit more ragged than previously. Joe Willock got one back for them, running away from Emile Smith Rowe to loop a header in against his former club, but that entire passage of play looked a bit tired from Arsenal. Which isn’t necessarily a criticism, they put a lot into this performance after playing midweek too (which Newcastle did not), so it’s understandable.

Smith Rowe almost made up for it with a goal at the end other end, but Big Dan Burn cleared it off the line. His last Arsenal goal came in April 2022, in the 4-2 win over Chelsea, so he must be desperate to get back on the scoresheet. Hopefully that will come soon. In his various substitute cameos, he has shown he still has the positional awareness, and fingers crossed he can find the finish sooner rather than later.

Afterwards, Mikel Arteta said:

I think we had a great performance, big credit to the boys after just half a day to prepare for the game. The way they executed everything – the intensity, the commitment, the determination, the aggression and progression in everything that we were doing with the ball. They played with a lot of courage against the team and we got rewarded. I think we fully deserved to win the game.

There’s no doubt about that. This was a dominant performance, against a team whose gameplan would have been about being physical and intense, but who just were not allowed to execute that because of how good we were. I thought the Rice / Jorginho midfield axis worked really, really well and was fundamental to how well we played. We had 18 shots, 8 on target, and the possession stats only look vaguely equal because we let them have a bit of the ball when the game was obviously won.

To respond to the disappointing performance against Porto was very pleasing, but more importantly we had to take three points to keep up with Liverpool and City, and we did that in emphatic style. Not to mention another nice boost to the goal difference, and some measure of revenge for what happened in our previous game against them, something skipper Martin Odegaard referenced in his post-game interview. They obviously felt they had a score to settle here, and boy did they do that.

There’s now over a week until we play again, Sheffield United on Monday week, so it’s chance for those who have given a lot in the last few weeks to recharge their batteries, and hopefully to get one or two or three of the injured players back. Gabriel Jesus was on the bench last night, but clearly he was an emergency option, and one we didn’t need so there was no need to risk him. Let’s hope we can get a few more bodies back.

For now, let’s enjoy what was another very impressive performance from this Arsenal team. Have a great Sunday folks, back tomorrow with more, and an Arsecast Extra.

Until then.

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