Result: Arsenal 4 – 0 Newcastle
Competition: Premier League
Date: 16 February 2020
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka, Ceballos, Xhaka, Ozil, Pepe, Nketiah, Aubameyang
Subs: Martinez, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Willock, Martinelli, Lacazette
Arsenal’s training camp in Dubai paid dividends as Arsenal won their first game on their return from the Winterlull with second half goals from Aubameyang, Pepe, Ozil and Lacazette.
Despite a lukewarm first half, fans would have been happy to see Ceballos, Saka and Ozil taking the game by the scruff of the neck to control the game. The icing on the cake was definitely the sense of relief and joy that looked to have returned to Lacazette who found the net again after an uncharacteristic dry spell in front of goal.
A very positive result and performance that bodes well for the last stretch of the season.
Fresh from a two week break in Dubai, Mikel Arteta turned the starting lineup inside out for Arsenal’s first game back from the Winterlull. Saka featured at left back in what we can assume is a precautionary measure to ease Kolasinac back from injury.
There were also two surprise starts in the form of Nketiah for Lacazette and Ceballos for Torreira/Guendouzi in the hopes of adding some cutting edge upfront and control in midfield respectively.
The first few minutes were a lively affair with Ceballos looking like the standout player. It was reminiscent of his performance against Burnley with his array of dribbles and quick passes catching the eye. But it was not always one way traffic as Joelinton showed ingenuity to evade Mustafi and cross in for Lazaro who could only shoot wide.
Lazaro’s powerful runs from deep down Arsenal’s left looked to be a big test for Xhaka and Saka. And it was the former who was first to commit an error on the 8th minute, blatantly pulling Lazaro’s shirt to stop his run into open space during a dangerous counter.
Arsenal’s troubles weren’t just limited to defending down the left. Saint-Maximin’s dangerous dribbles also caused Bellerin and Ceballos some concern on the counter as he was hard to catch once he got going. Just as problematic was Arsenal’s inability to break down Newcastle’s low block with Nketiah’s shot right into the arms of Dubravka on the 35th minute the best opportunity thus far.
Aubemeyang and Pepe’s efforts from afar also did little to work the Newcastle goalkeeper.
By the end of the first half, Arsenal had upped the tempo with Ozil rediscovering his ability for laser guided passes but the team still lacked the overall guile to find a way past the well organized Newcastle defence and midfield.
It was 0-0 at half time.
It was a much improved performance coming out of the tunnel as Ceballos and Ozil continued pulling the strings for Arsenal. The Spanish international lofted in a beautiful diagonal for Aubameyang on the 46th minute but the forward couldn’t get the right touch on the ball to take it past Dubravka.
Just minutes later, Pepe shimmied his way in the box and squared it for Nketiah whose shot went close by hitting the crossbar. Pepe was not to be discouraged. On the 53rd minute, he cut in from the right wing and crossed towards the far post. Naturally, Aubameyang found a way to sneak in to space and head the ball in to put Arsenal in front. 1-0 Arsenal.
It was Pepe again who took centre stage to double Arsenal’s lead. Aubameyang seemed to have overhit his pass down the left for Saka but the youngster managed to beat Lazaro to it. Saka did one better and nutmegged the right back and laid on the ball for Pepe who lurked in the middle and guided the ball in with his left foot. Unsaveable. 2-0 Arsenal.
Arsenal’s quickfire goals lit a fire in Newcastle and the Magpies almost equalized not long after. Saint-Maximim’s cutback found Clark in the middle of the Arsenal penalty box but could only lash it wide with his left foot from close range. Arsenal were let off easily there.
The Gunners were not to be dissuaded from that as they were full of confidence, strutting their stuff with a spell of composed tiki-taka possession. Again, Saint-Maximin reminded Arsenal that the game was not over as he went on another dizzying run, shrugged Bellerin off and curled the ball only for it to hit the far post.
Arsenal slowed the tempo towards the end of the game but their dominance still showed as Ozil got on the scoresheet. Lacazette, a substitute for Nketiah, received the ball in a tight space around the box. The ball bounced and the Frenchman improvised by flicking it on towards the middle of the box. Ozil pounced on the free ball and made it 3-0.
Just when you thought it was over, Lacazette finished it all off with a simple tap in after some hard work from Pepe down the right with essentially the last kick of the game. His celebration showed big relief and a massive weight off his shoulders as he made it 4-0.
Lacazette, the rest of the players and fans were smiling again as we looked to have our Arsenal back.