Arsenal (0) 0 Newcastle United (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Tuesday, 3rd January 2023. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji.
Yellow Cards: Eddie Nketiah, Granit Xhaka, Martin Ødegaard, Oleksandr Zinchenko
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 67%
Referee: Andy Madley
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Ian Hussin
Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Stuart Attwell; AVAR Wade Smith
Another important match, this time between first and third in the Premiership and another night on which we need to get the full three points available. We are on a run of ten straight league victories at the Emirates, dating back to last season and we have now won fourteen of our opening sixteen top-flight matches; it is to be noted that the five other teams to have started a season at least as well as us all went on to win the title. Emile Smith-Rowe is still not available due to a groin injury, and on a darker note, Bukayo Saka and William Saliba are both one booking awayo from triggering a ban, which is something that any of us neither need nor want.
After the kick-off in the driving rain in North London, the visitors won an early free-kick after a foul by Granit Xhaka that went nowhere, and a minute or so later, our captain Martin Ødegaard had a great chance to score, but sadly his effort went flying over the bar. We started to take command of the match, pressurising the visitors relentlessly, and both Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka were unlucky in not scoring with some quick thinking chances within the first ten minutes. The game started to settle down, although there were some heavy tackles flying around, with the conditions not making things any better in that department. Callum Wilson spun around and took a snap shot at our goal, but Aaron Ramsdale easily saved the ball with little effort on his part. Martin Ødegaard was desperately unlucky not to score after Bukayo Saka put the ball through to him, but the Newcastle defenders blocked him in on the byline and the chance went as quick as it came, sadly. It was becoming fairly obvious to all that Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka were already threatening the Novocastrian defence on both flanks, and it seemed to be a matter of time before their hard work will see a reward. Ben White and Joelinton collided and the match was stopped for a few minutes whilst the Newcastle medical team came on the pitch to treat and assess him, and the game continued with the player being cleared to carry on. Gabriel Martinelli tried to pick out Eddie Nketiah but Fabian Schär intercepted him. He then beat Oleksandr Zinchenko but with only Callum Wilson in support, he was quickly pounced on by three of our players and lost the ball, which went aimlessly across the pitch. Bruno Guimarães and Callum Wilson were booked for fouls on Eddie Nketiah and William Saliba, and suddenly it started to look like the only way for the visitors to stop our players advancing down the pitch was to foul them. In frustration, Eddie Nketiah was booked for pulling back Fabian Schär and with eleven minutes before half-time, a spiralling Martin Ødegaard free-kick found the head of Gabriel, but his superb effort went wide of Nick Pope’s left-hand post. Martin Ødegaard tugged the shirt of Miguel Almiron but the Newcastle man wriggled away before eventually losing the ball; it was called back for the free-kick and another yellow card, which was the fifth today so far. This game has become a scrappy one, it seems just a matter of time before the referee produces a red card on someone, somewhere. Anyway, after two minutes injury time, no goals were scored, and both teams went into the break with honours even.
We kicked the second half into life, and almost immediately there seemed to be a change of attitude with Arsenal pressurising Newcastle United for the first few minutes of the half. A free-kick for the visitors saw them come close to scoring, and then a mistake by Aaron Ramsdale almost allowed the visitors in but Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock could not find space to shoot, thankfully. But Newcastle kept possession though and the ball zipped across our six-yard box, inches past Callum Wilson, thankfully, which was a real let-off. Martin Ødegaard tried to spread the ball across to the right-hand side but Joelinton got back and closed him down. Bukayo Saka was brought down on the edge of the penalty area by Joelinton, who was duly booked for his trouble, and although the subsequent free-kick went nowhere, it strengthened our resolve to put pressure on the visitors to try and open the scoring. Gabriel Martinelli received a fantastic ball from Ben White out on the left wing, and his shot on goal after cutting inside was easily picked up by Nick Pope, and former Gunner Joe Willock received the ball and ran down the left wing to bring it over the halfway line but our defenders easily halted his progress. A disappointing Gabriel Martinelli corner was easily cleared by the visitors’ defenders, and with sixteen minutes of the game remaining, Ben White was replaced by Takehiro Tomiyasu, and the substitution started to wake us up a bit, with Gabriel Martineli coming very close when his header narrowly went by the far post. Granit Xhaka played Gabriel Martinelli in on the left for Martin Ødegaard to make the run and slipped the ball to him. He moved it on first time for Granit Xhaka but he could not connect with it in the penalty area. The chances are coming, with a superb goalscoring chance by Eddie Nketiah which was kicked away with an outstretched leg by Nick Pope, and a minute or so later, Granit Xhaka crossed the ball for Eddie Nketiah to head the ball straight into the arms of Nick Pope. In the five minutes’ injury time, we had a surefire penalty appeal turned down by referee Andy Madley, which was confirmed by VAR and after that, the match just petered away to its natural conclusion.
All in all, a very frustrating evening for us. Although we had sixty-seven per cent possession, we just could not convert our domination into goals, despite some superb efforts over the course of ninety minutes. It did descend into a bit of a scrappy match (with eight yellow cards being handed out across the teams by referee Andy Madley), we still did enough to win the match, but we just could not break the Newcastle defence down. Still these things happen, at least we came away with the same point that we started the match with, which overall, is okay. Disappointing, but okay.
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: Oxford United at The Kassam Stadium on Monday, 9th January at 8.00pm(FA Cup). Be there, if you can. 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