The entire wishlist is checked off in a game that gave Arsenal everything they needed to build from. An unorthodox line up offered us a great foundation to move forward and to possibly start creating a late season run. It wasn’t flawless nor was it 90 minutes of spectacular play, but a fantastic 2nd half saw the Gunners run away with the show against the Magpies in a four, zero thrashing.
Great 2nd half performances from Ceballos who got a rare start, Saka who was yet again brilliant as he sets out to prove why he should be selected even with a healthy Kolasinac back, and capped off by much needed offensive contributions from Pepe (goal and assist), Ozil (goal), and Lacazette who came on late to provide an assist and goal.
Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka, Ceballos, Xhaka, Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang, Nketiah
While Arsenal came out and dominated the possession, as people expected, against a Newcastle side that was very willing to allow Arsenal room to have the ball, it was Newcastle that had the chances early trying to capitalize on any Arsenal mistake.
Arsenal dominated the ball with just under 70% possession in the first half, but at times lacked any conviction with it. A lot of passing side-to-side slowly was giving Newcastle time to shift with it comfortably. It was not even enough to quite call “probing”, but with a defense as porous as Arsenal’s has been at times having the ball is one of Arsenal’s best defense under Arteta.
A few opportunities for Arsenal a little after the 30-minute mark as Ozil showed a little intent picking up the ball and driving toward the box to find Aubameyang. Aubameyang would face up to the defender and make a move but was let down by a left footed shot that would roll to the keeper. Nketiah would get a shot off shortly after that as Ozil again found a pocket of space between the lines to find Eddie. Eddie’s bending snapshot was better from Arsenal but didn’t manage to test the keep that much. Finally, Pepe hit a long-range FK forcing the keeper to tip it over the bar. Not a bad effort but a save to concede a corner more out of safety than desperation.
Zero-Zero at half. Arsenal with over 60% possession and 9 chances created.
Needing more from everyone to create an end product, Arsenal showed life immediately. Right from the whistle, forwards could be seen bombing up the field to put Newcastle under pressure and it would set a tone. Arsenal’s first shot of the 2nd half would come after two minutes instead of twenty, as it did in the first half, with Ceballos picking out Aubameyang.
In the 49th minute, Arsenal would have their closest effort of the game. A patiently picked out and weighted ball from Ozil would free Pepe to slot a cross over to Nketiah who will be very disappointed to have put his shot into the crossbar from six yards out. In the moment fans would be nervous of the prospect of another frustrating game but looking back it was the beginning of an Arsenal onslaught.
54th minute – Ceballos picks up the ball in the midfield to quickly swing it over to Pepe out wide. Newcastle defenders would give Pepe too much space offering him the opening to pick out a perfect ball to the back post where Aubameyang would cushion a beautiful header across frame into the side netting. 1-0 Arsenal. Lovely.
Just 3 minutes later, Arsenal would grab a second after a moment of absolute brilliance from Saka. Saka made his run into the corner and received it from Aubameyang. Once settled he would face his defender up and slink past him with a nutmeg to get into the box. From there it was an easy slotted ball to Pepe waiting to tuck it away. Nothing the keeper could do 2-0.
Newcastle would briefly make it interesting after somehow putting a shot wide from the middle of the 6-yard box and putting a shot from Saint-Maximin off the inside of the post. Clear warning shots that may have caused Arsenal to bunker in and try to see the game out. Instead, they would steady the ship and regain control of the ball work Newcastle out of contention.
Finally, to put not one but two cherries on top of this Arsenal Sunday, Lacazette came on and grabbed himself an assist and a much, much needed goal. For the assist, Ozil would pick up the ball just past midfield and push it up with pace. He quickly found Pepe on the far side coming central who slipped in a well-timed, Lacazette run. Just when you thought you would see a patented “Lacazette snapshot”, he swiveled the opposite direction with his back to goal and picked out Mesut for an easy tap in to complete the movement.
A few minutes later a decimated Newcastle would concede their fourth and final of the afternoon when substitute Joe Willock played in Pepe again who simply slotted the ball back to the penalty spot for an easy Lacazette goal. A goal that was needed for everyone in the stadium. The fans went wild, the team celebration involved everyone. A burden was clearly lifted off everyone in the moment.
Other Key Notes:
- Ceballos with a wonderful display as a part of the midfield duo alongside Xhaka
- Pepe with two assists, a goal, and well-earned Man of the Match award
- Arsenal created 17 chances and 15 shots, well over their average under Arteta and throughout the season
- 4 goals from 4 different goal scorers
- Aubameyang back on the scoresheet and again able to do it from the wing
Update: Apologies to Bakayo Saka who was named Man of the Match not Pepe as the article states