Arsenal (0) 3 Newcastle United (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Monday, 18th January 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, Rob Holding, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Magalhães, Willian Borges da Silva, Alex Rúnarsson, Nicolas Pépé, Mohamed Elneny, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (49 mins, 76 mins), Bukayo Saka (60 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 66%
Referee: David Coote
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Peter Bankes; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
For tonight’s match against Newcastle United, which is the second in nine days of course, Kieran Tierney is back in the team after finding out that his calf injury was not as serious as was once thought, thankfully, and Thomas Partey gets a start in midfield alongside Granit Xhaka in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Sadly, Pablo Marí has a calf issue and will not play this evening, and it’s good to see Cédric Soares getting a start at right-back. Let’s go!
Both sides started strongly here at the Emirates tonight, with firm tackles going in from both sides. Slowly Arsenal started to gain control of possession though, as we managed to wrestle the game from the visitors in the first quarter of an hour or so. The general tempo of the match was quick, and both teams were doing their best to contain the other one. In a move which you would think it would be easier to score than to miss, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the upright of the Newcastle goal from a tight angle after some fabulous link play by Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka, and for the next ten minutes or so, we utterly dominated possession. The distribution skills of Thomas Partey were magnificent tonight, as a lot of our forays on the Magpies’ goal often started from him. The visitors are constantly and consistently under massive pressure from us, and although they are defending well, and have the odd breakaway, Arsenal are by far and away the better team out there this evening, but if they don’t convert all this effort into goals, then all this wonderful play could be in vain. Emile Smith-Rowe is constantly pushing and probing the Newcastle United defenders, and Kieran Tierney is doing such wonderful work out on the left, but despite all this and more, we are struggling to break the visitors down this evening. Just before half-time, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross took a really awkward deflection off Emil Krafth and almost squeezed in at the near post, but goalkeeper Karl Darlow did well to get across and turn it around the post for an Arsenal corner. David Luiz headed the resulting ball over the bar, just seconds before referee David Coote blew the whistle to end the first half.
The second half started just as the first one ended with immense pressure on the Newcastle goal; Alexandre Lacazette struck a hard, low shot through four defenders, only for Karl Darlow to tip it around the post. At last, four minutes after the restart, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran onto a long ball from Thomas Partey, ran forty yards, completely turned Emil Krafth inside out and smashed the ball into the net to bag the opening goal of the evening. The goal lifted our confidence, and diminished theirs somewhat. Although the Magpies were having their chances to score (with namely Andy Carroll blasting wild shots hither and thither), the better chances were by far ours. Easily. The point is, can they grab a second goal to cement things? Of course they can! On the hour, Emile Smith-Rowe ripped down the left-wing, completely skinned Emil Krafth, crossed the ball into the penalty area, to find young Bukayo Saka, who simply slotted the ball into the net. And still we came forward for more; Emile Smith-Rowe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka were shooting at will, hunting in packs for that oh-so elusive third goal. Mohamed Elneny replaced an exhausted Thomas Partey after sixty-seven minutes, and we just kept going and going. The Magpies looked shattered and broken now, and we appeared to just be able to push the ball around at our leisure. Bukayo Saka was easily finding space, as was Emile Smith-Rowe, and with fourteen minutes remaining, Cédric Soares took the ball to the byline, crossed the ball just as it looked as if it was going over the line, for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to grab his second of the night, and our third. The was the last kick of the ball tonight for our two-goal man; a couple of minutes later, Willian replaced him, and the Arsenal train rumbled on. Emith Smith-Rowe made way for Gabriel Martinelli with eight minutes remaining, and almost immediately our last substitute of the night got involved in the action; he tried to keep the ball in play on the touchline and he ended up getting an elbow to the chest from Jamaal Lascelles. No harm done, as he was running around and getting into the thick of it just seconds later. In the three minutes’ injury time, we did not let up on the visitors, we just kept going right up until the final whistle.
Our players won a very important three points for themselves tonight. They played and played until Newcastle United were ground down and dazed, and it was always thought that they could have scored more, but hey, whose complaining? So many great performances out there tonight, but just to pick out one would be unfair, but not to mention the work of Emile Smith-Rowe in this match would be churlish somehow. This gifted young man was everywhere tonight, and caused the visitors headaches up and down the pitch, backwards and forwards, he had the Novocastrians in his pocket.And he’s not even twenty-one yet, folks.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Southampton or Shrewsbury Town at either St. Mary’s Stadium or the New Meadow on Saturday, 23rd January at 12.15pm (FA Cup). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.