The fact the third best team in the Premier Lesgue this season turned up to our gaff, put XI behind the ball, defended their 18 yard box and played for a draw shows how far we have come under Mikel Arteta
It was not too long ago that the likes of Wolves, Brighton and Swansea would turn up to Islington and think “we can get a win here”. Those days are over. And with that comes another problem.
“Low block” is one of them newish buzzwords in football to describe a team that sets up 451 and defends deep. The better you are, the less interested teams are in attacking you.
As the second half of the season roles on, less teams will become interested in attacking us, and more will defend deep. And it is up to Mikel Arteta and his players to work out how to unlock a stubborn lock.
The Newcastle result was by no means a disaster. Some (as they always do) have gone OTT with their negative analysis.
I have seen some pundits say “the top teams work out how to win these games”; insinuating that Arsenal are not a top team.
This season, Man City have drawn with Newcastle, Aston Villa and Everton, lost to Brentford.
Last season, City got 93 points, they drew 0-0 at home to Southampton. They also drew away to them. They lost 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace., and drew 0-0 at Selhurst Park. They also drew 2-2 away to West Ham. You can not expect a team to win every game.
Newcastle are the 3rd best team in the league this season. They are a strong, well built, highly organised outfit. They set up to firstly not lose games, and the try to take their chances to win. You can see why they have lost just once this season. And the drew against us was their 8th in 18 games this season.
They have taken points against Manchester City, Man U, Spurs and Chelsea. Liverpool are the only team to have taken 3 points against them – and they needed a 98th minute winner.
I saw them described as “Burnley Arabia” which made me chuckle. Maybe a little too much. They are better than that. But Howe certainly has them playing in an efficient manner, doing what they need to do to compete. Probably closer to Atletico Madrid than Burnley.
So 0-0 at home is not a disaster. But it also does not mean that we couldn’t (or can’t) improve.
The game highlighted our lack of attacking options.
With Gabriel Jesus and Emile Smith Rowe out injured, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka played the full 90.
In games like this, it is often a substitution that changes things. A pair of fresh, fast legs in the last 20 minutes that finds that gap. It is clear why we are chasing Mykhailo Mudryk.
You also have to ask whether Arteta could have been braver with his substitutions.
He made just one change – Ben White for Takehiro Tomiyasu. Fabio Vieira was an unused sub on the bench.
Could Arteta have thrown the Portuguese on for Granit Xhaka with 20 to go? See if he can create something?
I do think Arteta missed a trick. And he showed last season that he does not always trust those on the bench to come on and make a difference. I would say game changing subs when we need a goal is something he can improve on.
Of course, football is easy in hindsight and had we been given that penalty, or Eddie scored when one on one, we’d be celebrating a hard fought win – “the type of games champions win”.
It ended up 0-0. There will be some over analysis. But we are still top of the league. Won 14 out of 17. And that Newcastle game was the only one we didn’t score in.
Our 100% home record is now over, but we move on.
Oxford United in the FA Cup next (I expect a hugely changed team) before Spurs in a week.
Man City are still favourites and the result on Tuesday is just a little reminder of how tough this league is.
Keep calm. Trust the process.