Result: Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 2 May 2021
Venue: St James’ Park
Arsenal: Ryan, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Xhaka, Ceballos, Odegaard, Elneny, Willian, Martinelli, Aubameyang
Subs: Leno, Cedric, Chambers, Mari, Saka, Partey, Smith Rowe, Pepe
Goals from Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang helped Arsenal to a comfortable 2-0 win against Newcastle at St James’ Park.
The Gunners took the lead inside five minutes courtesy of Elneny’s well-taken finish from the edge of the box and the points were sealed on 66 minutes when Aubameyang applied the finishing touch to Martinelli’s cross.
The home side’s afternoon went from bad to worse in the closing stages when Fabian Schar received a straight red card for a nasty challenge on the Brazilian.
With one eye on Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg, Mikel Arteta made eight changes from the side that started in Spain three days ago. Only Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard retained their places. Mat Ryan made his third start between the sticks, David Luiz, returning from a knee injury, partnered Gabriel in the centre of defence, while Hector Bellerin, Mo Elneny, Willian and Gabriel Martinelli got run outs. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led the attack.
Having lamented his side’s slow start on Thursday, Mikel Arteta will have been pleased by the way his players went about their business from the off at St James’ Park.
It helped that we bagged a goal with our first attack. David Luiz freed Hector Bellerin with a long ball over the home side defence and the Spaniard’s cutback, via an Aubameyang miskick, founds its way to Elneny who, on the edge of the area, produced a controlled finish to beat Dubravka. It was the Egyptian’s first Premier League goal since joining the club in 2016. (1-0)
We continued to create half-chances throughout the rest of the half without really turning to screw. Xhaka stung Dubravka’s palms with a fierce left-foot effort and, from the resulting Willian corner, Elneny had a header cleared off the line by Almiron. Another corner saw Luiz flick on a header that Wilson did well to clear with Aubameyang ready to pounce.
Martinelli’s pace was a useful outlet on the left-wing where he repeatedly fancied his chances against Jacob Murphy. On a couple of occasions, he tried to pick out Auba but our captain didn’t quite have the angle he needed to get a clear shot on goal.
At the back, we weren’t unduly troubled. Mat Ryan commanded his box well and made one noteworthy save to deny Saint-Maximin whose scuffed effort was heading into the top corner.
Just back from seven games on the sidelines, David Luiz’s afternoon ended on 51 minutes when he went down holding his hamstring after knocking a long ball forward. Knowing his season might be over, he limped from the field looking very dispirited. Calum Chambers came on in his place and with his first touch had to clear a dangerous Matt Ritchie cross.
Xhaka having been booked in the first half was lucky not to earn a second yellow when he blocked Sean Longstaff off the ball. He didn’t look unduly worried; walking a disciplinary tightrope is nothing new for the Swiss.
After a patchy period of play where neither side was able to assert their dominance, the Gunners finally put together a move of quality to double our lead. Odegaard fed Martinelli on the left and the Brazilian played a brilliant cross for Aubameyang to convert on the volley from close range. (2-0)
Playing without the handbrake on for five minutes, we created further chances. Chambers headed wide and Bellerin had a shot deflected for a corner after a quick counter-attack.
The game petered out after that. We sat back and soaked up Newcastle’s half-hearted attacks using substitutions to further break up the rhythm.
The only negative was an injury scare for Martinelli who took a nasty challenge on the ankle from Fabian Schar. Mike Dean deservedly handed the Swiss a red card for his tackle from behind. Thankfully, our attacker got back to his feet.
The win sees the Gunners climb up to ninth in the table and provides a timely confidence boost ahead of Thursday’s crunch clash with Villarreal.