Newcastle United (0) 0 Arsenal (1) 2
St. James’ Park, Barrack Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4ST
Sunday, 2nd May 2021. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Mat Ryan; Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães, Granit Xhaka; Mohamed Elneny, Dani Ceballos; Willian Borges da Silva, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Bukayo Saka, Cédric Soares, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Pablo Marí, Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith-Rowe.
Scorers: Mohamed Elneny (5 mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (66 mins)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 62%
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistant Referees: Ian Hussin, Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Graham Scott; AVAR Peter Kirkup
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is playing today, as he continues his comeback from malaria, and Alexandre Lacazette (hamstring injury) and Kieran Tierney (knee injury) are both back in training, but today’s match could come too early for these two to play a part in it somehow. David Luiz has recovered from his own knee injury and will also feature in this match with manager Mikel Arteta likely to have an eye on the second leg of the Europa League semi-final against Villarreal on Thursday. Let’s go!
The match started with us in dominant mood, eager to make an early impression, and sure enough, within five mintues of the start, Hector Bellerin took the ball to the by-line, crossed it with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in mind; he missed it completely, but fortunately Mohamed Elneny picked the ball up on the edge of the Newcastle United penalty area, and he cracked it into the net for the opening goal of the day. A few minutes’ later we almost nabbed a second goal, when Dani Ceballos slotted the ball to Hector Bellerin on the edge of the Magpies’ penalty area, but his strong right-footed shot flew over the bar. Although the home side came back at us with chances by Federico Fernández and Allan Saint-Maximin, we never felt truly threatened; in fact Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot from close range which went narrowly wide of the mark, was far closer than anything Newcastle United threw at us in the first twenty minutes of the game. Unfortunately, Granit Xhaka was booked for a silly tackle, and yet it never fazed him at all, as on the half hour mark, Martin Ødegaard set him up for a perfect shot on goal, but his goalscoring luck deserted him and his shot was saved acrobatically by Martin Dúbravka in the Newcastle goal. Over the next ten minutes or so, Gabriel Martinelli, David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all desperately unlucky in not scoring as our pressure on the home side’s goal started to get more intense. In fact, as the first half ebbed away, one was starting to wonder if Newcastle United was actually out on the pitch today, as all of the play came from a very good and competent Arsenal team.
And so, as form follows function, the second half began in earnest, and with it, our domination of the game continued. Sadly, just seven minutes after the restart, David Luiz was unable to continue because of a hamstring injury, and so Calum Chambers replaced him for the remainder of the match. The game started to get rather scrappy at this point, and Mike Dean brought this malarkey to an end by showing a yellow card to Federico Fernández for a nasty foul on Gabriel Martinelli. However, less than ten minutes after this incident, Gabriel Martinelli crossed the ball into the Newcastle United six-yard box for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to force it into the net for our second goal of the match. Calum Chambers should have made it three-nil with a superb header that went just wide a little later, and this started a period of Arsenal dominance with Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka getting close to scoring with very good and clever chances, and with just twelve minutes of the match remaining, Nicolas Pépé replaced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was extremely fatigued by this point of the game; and in another attempt to rest important players, Mikel Arteta decided to exchange Martin Ødegaard for Thomas Partey with just five minutes left of the match, which petered out to almost nothing. In fact, the final act of the match saw Fabian Schär being dismissed by Mike Dean for a cynical foul on who else, but Gabriel Martinelli, who appeared to receive more than his fair share of punishment at St. James’ Park this afternoon.
A good win today, that pushed us into ninth place in the Premiership, above Aston Villa, and a clean slate too. This match, which in the greater scheme of things will be become forgettable, but if it has done anything, it will have given the squad confidence for the more important game against Villareal on Thursday night, which we hope will be remembered for all the right reasons. Fingers crossed.
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: Villareal at the Emirates on Thursday, 6th May at 8.00pm (Europa League). 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.