Result: Newcastle United 0-2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 7 May 2023
Venue: St James’ Park
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Kiwior, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Jorginho, Xhaka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Saka, Jesus
Subs: Turner, Holding, Tierney, Partey, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Nelson, Trossard, Nketiah
Martin Odegaard’s fine first half strike and an own goal by Fabian Schar saw Arsenal claim an impressive 2-0 win against in-form Newcastle.
On an afternoon when the home side provided a physical challenge, this was a seriously gritty victory that keeps the Gunners in the title race for a little while longer. It also ensures we can’t finish any lower than second in the table.
There was only one change from the side that started against Chelsea with Gabriel Martinelli taking over from Leandro Trossard on the left wing. That meant Jorginho retained his place in midfield ahead of Thomas Partey and Gabriel Magalhaes, after passing a late fitness test on the ankle he injured in midweek, partnered Jakub Kiwior in defence.
Following last May’s traumatic visit to St James’ Park, Arsenal needed a solid start to settle the nerves. As expected, the home fans had whipped up a frenzied atmosphere, clearly hoping for another early blitz of a side from north London.
They nearly got what they wanted. Inside two minutes, Willock broke forward and played a ball to the back post where Murphy took a touch before arrowing a low left-foot effort off the inside of Ramsdale’s post.
Arsenal’s response was to take an absolute age over a couple of goal kicks before hoofing them long. The terraces didn’t like the time-wasting tactics and booed incessantly. That further spurred the home players who snapped into challenges clearly keen not to allow us a foothold in the game.
The Gunners looked nervy and were already skating on thin ice when referee Chris Kavanagh awarded Newcastle a penalty. A short corner had been worked to Bruno Guimaraes whose first time shot clipped Jakub Kiwior’s hand. Thankfully, the VAR reviewed the incident and correctly recognised that the ball had first clipped the Pole’s leg. Kavanagh was told to take another look on the pitchside monitor and reversed his decision.
It was a sliding doors moment for the Gunners who spent the next five minutes settling into long spells of possession. Our control was soon rewarded. After a free-kick into the Newcastle box was cleared, we recycled possession through Saka and Jorginho before Odegaard tried his luck from 20 yards. His left foot effort fizzed low through Botman’s legs leaving Pope with no chance. It was an incredible finish by the Norwegian who took his goal tally for the season to 15. (GOAL 1-0)
After the celebrations, the Gunners huddled for an impromptu team talk. Whatever was said, it worked; we were seriously good afterwards. A series of counter-attacks should have resulted in a second goal. Pope denied both Martinelli and Odegaard on 21 minutes then made a stop from Saka who’d burst through the middle to collect a Xhaka pass.
At the other end, Wilson laid off for Willock who forced a decent save from Ramsdale. Our keeper also had to claw away a cross from Wilson’s feet after initially being in two minds about whether to go for it or not.
The game grew increasingly niggly as the break drew close. Jesus and Trippier mouthed off at each other, Wilson and Xhaka had a heated exchange and Gabriel Magalhaes had to calm down compatriot Joelinton. With so much on the line for both sides, it was hardly surprising emotions were running high.
Five minutes of stoppage time were managed well by the Gunners before we created an unbelievable opening with the final attack of the half. Odegaard left Burn on his arse with a brilliant feint inside the box but couldn’t beat Pope with only the keeper to beat.
As they did in the first half, Newcastle came racing out of the traps. Murphy beat Zinchenko down the right, dinked a cross to Isak who headed against the post. It was a huge let-off. Inside a minute, the home side had another fine chance to equalise, this time Ramsdale producing an almost impossible save to deny Schar’s header. An even bigger let-off.
Up the other end, Martinelli worked his way into the box, opened his body and curled a beautiful shot that clipped the bar. Jesus was the next to have a go but his effort was blocked for a corner.
Back came Newcastle. Isak fed Willock who was winding up to shoot before Xhaka appeared out of nowhere to make a goal-saving challenge. Arteta reacted to a difficult 15 minutes for Zinchenko by taking the Ukrainian out of the firing line. Tierney came on to try and close off the Trippier-Murphy combination only for Murphy to be replaced by Almiron.
Newcastle took their frustration out on us by becoming even more physical. Joelinton put an elbow into the back of Xhaka’s head, Schar did the same to Jesus. Things were also simmering on the touchline as Arteta and Howe barked instructions.
For all the pressure we had to soak up, we still looked capable of scoring on the break. A ball won high up the pitch ended with Jesus testing Pope at his near post. Better was still toe come. With the next counter-attack we got the goal that gave us the breathing room we were desperate for.
Jesus set Martinelli free down the left, the winger ate up the ground, worked his way to the touchline and fired a low ball to the near post where Schar stuck out a foot to accidentally divert the ball past Pope. It was a moment of good fortune to end a move that was brilliant in its endeavour. Up in the gods of St James’ Park, the away went mental. (GOAL 2-0)
A raft of changes greeted the final 10 minutes as Newcastle threw on more firepower and Arsenal looked to tighten up. Martinelli and Odegaard were the men in red to make way with Trossard and Partey sent on.
The home support were baying for a penalty when substitute Anderson took a loose ball down and turned inside Xhaka before hitting the turf. The Swiss was incensed at what was a definite dive and the referee rightly waved away the claims. Ramsdale sucked up more time calling for treatment after a minor collision with Almiron before Nelson and Nketiah were sent on for Jesus and Saka.
In the closing stages, Schar fired over the bar from range before the fourth official signalled six minutes of added time. Newcastle had all of the ball as we sat deep in the box but they couldn’t beat Ramsdale who denied Saint-Maximan and Gordon.
And that was pretty much that. A brilliant win by Arteta’s team who, to a man, were excellent. We go again next weekend against Brighton. It’s not over just yet.