Result: Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle United
Competition: Premier League
Date: 18 January 2020
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Cedric, Luiz, Holding, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Runarsson, Bellerin, Gabriel, Elneny, Willock, Willian, Pepe, Martinelli, Nketiah
A brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a tidy finish by Bukayo Saka sealed a comfortable 3-0 win for Arsenal as Newcastle were vanquished at the Emirates for the second time in nine days.
The visitors proved to be stubborn opponents in the first half but as their legs tired, the Gunners found room to make their possession count. Three goals in 17 minutes coupled with another clean sheet – our fifth in a row in all competitions – means we climb to the heady heights of tenth in the Premier League table.
After Thursday’s limp 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace, Mikel Arteta was pleased that Kieran Tierney was fit to start again. The Scot took up his usual left-back slot with Cedric on the opposite flank filling in for Hector Bellerin. David Luiz and Rob Holding partnered up in the middle. Thomas Partey, making his first start since the defeat to Sp*rs, joined Granit Xhaka in midfield. The attacking unit had a familiar look to it. Smith Rowe behind Lacazette with Saka and Auba on the flanks. Martinelli, Gabriel and Willian gave the bench a Brazilian flavour.
Newcastle may have lined up in a new formation compared to nine days ago, but even in a 4-4-2 they were determined to sit deep and soak up pressure.
Granit Xhaka recognised the need to play with a quick tempo and was noticeably forward-thinking when on the ball but there was a familiar lethargy in the opening 10 minutes. In terms of goal threat, the best we managed was a Luiz header from a Cedric freekick but the effort was way off target.
Bit by bit we started to crank up the pressure and Aubameyang really should have broken the deadlock on 13 minutes. Cedric and Smith Rowe helped free Saka whose low cross teased found our captain at the back post. A slight deflection on the ball by keeper Darlow probably helped him but with the ball travelling at pace the best he could do was hit the post.
You could tell the missed opportunity got into Auba’s head. His shoulders slumped a bit and he went on to miss two further chances. On 27 minutes Partey freed Smith Rowe down the left and his cutback to the striker was fired over the bar. 13 minutes later, he tried a side-footer from Thierry-territory but scuffed wide. It really wasn’t his half of football.
Partey and Xhaka, ably assisted by Smith Rowe, did very well winning the ball back in midfield but we became visibly frustrated as we repeatedly struggled to find space behind the visitors’ defence. As the half wore on, we started to force passes that weren’t really on and the game became very scrappy.
An Almiron shot, following a decent run and exchange of passes with Carroll, was a warning that Steve Bruce’s side weren’t completely impotent. A poor header by Luiz, who connected with a Saka corner, was a reminder that we quite often are.
Inside 90 seconds of the restart, Darlow was forced into a fine save by Lacazette who’d pounced on a loose ball in the box and fired a shot on the diagonal low and true through a crowd of players. The Newcastle keeper got a strong hand to the ball.
Five minutes, later, Auba put his bad first half to bed with a fine solo goal. It owed much to a brilliant bit of play from Partey who collected a pass from Lacazette deep in his own half and clipped a perfect ball to Auba racing from the halfway line. The 31-year-old without breaking stride carried the ball 30-yards, teasing his marker before unleashing a left foot cracker past Darlow at his near post. (1-0)
Saka came close to doubling our lead on 58 minutes after a neat one-two but his fierce shot was closed down at close quarters by Krafth. The youngster didn’t have to wait much longer to get on the scoresheet. Two minutes later, a lovely jinking run down the left by Smith Rowe ended with a perfect cutback and the 19-year-old tucked home low with his left foot. (2-0)
The goals got the juices flowing and Lacazette had two chances in quick succession to add a third. He was inches away from connecting with a low Tierney cross and with the ball still alive then forced Darlow into a save when Saka picked him out with a dinked cross.
Steve Bruce’s players looked knackered and with the game increasingly stretched Arteta sent on Elneny to give Partey a breather. With 13 minutes remaining, Auba added a third. Saka and Cedric combined down the right and the Portuguese just managed to keep the ball in play at the byline as he picked out our unmarked striker. He made the finish look easy, tapping home first time. (3-0)
Willian and Martinelli were introduced for Aubameyang and Smith Rowe in the closing stages. Sky Sports handed the man-of-the-match gong to the former, but the latter’s contribution really was superb. As the Gunners get ready to wave good farewell to one number 10, we may just have found another locksmith.