Newcastle United (0) 2 Arsenal (0) 0
St. James’ Park, Barrack Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4ST
Monday, 17th May 2022. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Nuno Tavares; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe; Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno; Alexandre Lacazette, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Gabriel Martinelli, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Zak Swanson, Charlie Patino
Yellow Cards: Ben White, Eddie Nketiah, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 49%
Referee: Darren England
Assistant Referees: Ian Hussin, Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Jarred Gillett; AVAR Nick Hopton
Let us not dwell on last Thursday’s horrible result, instead we need to focus entirely on these last two, crucial, nail-biting matches, the first of which is tonight at St. James’ Park against Newcastle United. Big pressure tonight; if we don’t win, then the coveted fourth place will be out of our hands on Sunday afternoon. Absolutely everything to play for this evening, chaps.
We kicked off tonight’s game, this the first of two vitally important matches for us within the space of six days. Within a minute, both goalkeepers got a feel of the ball, but our man Aaron Ramsdale slipped as he cleared successfully, but the ball flew down the pitch luckily for him (and us). Both teams weree extremely cautious of each other in the early stages with strong tackling being exchanged across the pitch. We successfully cut out a ball into Callum Wilson’s path and started a counter-attack which ended in Eddie Nketiah having a shot blocked inside the box, and then Aaron Ramsdale made an error inside our six-yard box, in which he managed to compose himself quickly in order to get the ball away just as Miguel Almiron was running in on our goal, which was an extremely close shave indeed. Ben White received a pointless yellow card for a foul on Callum Wilson, and as the home side were putting a lot of pressure on us, our defenders were certainly earning their money out there tonight. Allan Saint-Maximin beat Takehiro Tomiyasu with some fancy footwork, but he hit his cross up and out of play, thankfully. With the home side pushing us further and further back in our own half, we managed to soak up their loose balls very well. The first chance for Bukayo Saka came after twenty minutes when he played a one-two with Martin Ødegaard but his shot was blocked by Dan Burn, and a couple of mintues later he got his second shot of the match in, but goalie Martin Dúbravka got down quickly to retrieve the ball. These two chances appeared to wake us up a bit, and as Eddie Nketiah got close to scoring with a couple of chances, it was looking like we could get something going here now at some point. Maybe. However, the home side had two corners in a row which went nowhere, and then again, we were pushed back deep into our own half; Allan Saint-Maximin blasted a ball towards goal from outside our penalty area, which saw Aaron Ramsdale make an incredible save to prevent a certain goal. Takehiro Tomiyasu went down to the ground with an injury, which meant that he was unable to continue any further, and so Cédric Soares replaced him with six minutes of the first half remaining. Quite frankly, the half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for us, as at times we looked in extreme difficulty; mercifully we got to the break in one piece and managed to hold out a dominant Newcastle United.
The home side kicked off an important forty-five minutes for us, and almost straight away, Eddie Nketiah received a yellow card for an innocuous clash with Fabian Schar, the latter hitting his head on the ground on impact; he was led off by their coaching staff and a concussion substitution came into being. The home side continued where they stopped at the end of the first half, by piling pressure on us; thankfully Aaron Ramsdale kept their forwards’ shots out miraculously. A lacklustre Emile Smith-Rowe was replaced by Gabriel Martinelli seven minutes after the restart, and despite some good play initially, after just fifty-six minutes, we conceded the first goal of the night when we let in a messy goal courtesy of our own Ben White, after Callum Wilson received a cross from the left via the boot of Joelinton. Anyway, in order to salvage something from this game, Nuno Tavares was replaced by Alexandre Lacazette just after the hour, and still the Magpies kept coming for us, egged on by the crowd. After our coaching staff treated both Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette within a matter of a minute or so, the home side nearly grabbed a second goal when a ball came across from the right, and Ben White almost scored a seeond own goal when he slid in to clear the ball just past Aaron Ramsdale’s post! We counter-attacked and Gabriel Martinelli’s superb shot led to a couple of corners for us, which ended with Mohamed Elneny taking a chance from thirty yards which was saved by Martin Dúbravka easily. Because of the concussion substitution earlier, Gabriel was replaced by Nicolas Pépé with eighteen minutes of the match remaining, and still the Magpies kept on advancing towards our goal. With eleven minutes of the game remaining, Ryan Fraser flew towards our goal (after picking up a loose ball in midfield) and he passed it to Jacob Murphy, whose shot was tipped to safety by Aaron Ramsdale; then, with six minutes of the match remaining, Callum Wilson almost scored from forty yards for the home side. He turned Mohamed Elneny too easily and then hit a stunning volley which curled inches wide, leaving Aaron Ramsdale stranded. With five minutes of the game remaining, Newcastle United finally got their second goal when poor defending by us let in Callum Wilson through on goal. Aaron Ramsdale knocked the ball away from his feet but Bruno Guimaraes whacked it into our net from the edge of the penalty area; Ben White tried to slide it off the line but to no avail. In the six minutes injury time, the only thing of note was Granit Xhaka getting booked for a late challenge, other than that, the match was irretrievably lost.
Another poor performance, another critical match lost. We didn’t have any answers to the intolerable pressure placed on our team by Newcastle United, the endless inconsistency, the atmosphere in the ground which we simply buckled under the noise of the home supporters again; and sadly, more unbelievably, we have lost thirteen Premier League matches in 2021-22, our joint-highest tally in a thirty-eight game season in the competition with 2017-18 and 2020-21. Terrible statistics. Something better change.
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: Everton at the Emirates on Sunday, 22nd May at 4.00pm (Premier League). 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