Arsenal 4-0 Newcastle United: Superb second half gives Gunners much-needed win
- Credit: PA
Arsenal cruised to a 4-0 win over Newcastle United at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon, with a brilliant second half performance closing the gap to the all-important European places.
Despite a shaky opening to the game, the Gunners evetually took control with two quick fire goal as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed home Nicolas Pepe's cross with 52 minutes gone before the club-record signing got one of his just five minutes later, turning home Bukayo Saka's driven cross.
Mesut Ozil added a late third before substitute Alexandre Lacazette ended his goal drought with an injury time goal, securing a win that closes the gap on the all-important European places and gives the Gunners confidence going into a favourable run of fixtures.
Mikel Arteta made three changes to the side that drew with Burnley a fortnight ago, with Dani Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah replacing Matteo Guendouzi, Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette in the starting XI.
Nketiah's inclusion came as somewhat of a surprise as Arteta put faith in the young striker to replace the misfiring Lacazette, while Ceballos made his first start since early November after a spell on the sidelines and falling out of favour.
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The Gunners needed a win to close the gap on the sides above them and keep hopes of finishing in a European place alive, but they came under some early pressure as Bernd Leno did well to adjust and keep out Sean Longstaff's deflected effort on 13 minutes.
Newcastle dominated the early stages of the game as Arsenal struggled to deal with pace and direct running of their attack, but the hosts grew into the half as it went on, with Bukayo Saka going close while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nketiah both tested Martin Dubravka.
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Shkodran Mustafi had the best chance of the first half with just five minutes to go until the break, seeing his shot cleared off the line after Dubravka had flapped at a corner.
They got an even better opportunity just after the break as Ceballos, Ozil and Pepe combined well with the latter crossing for Nketiah, but the youngster could only hit the bar from close range.
The Gunners were eventually rewarded for their ever-improving display as they got the opener with 52 minutes gone.
A long spell of possession saw the ball eventually find Pepe out on the right and his clipped cross was met by the head of Aubameyang, with the captain guiding the ball into the far to give the hosts the lead.
With momentum now behind them the Gunners went and grabbed a second goal just five minutes later. Saka's superb skill and nutmeg out on the left created the opening before the youngster teed up Pepe for a close range tap in which put Arteta's men in a commanding position.
Newcastle had their chances to get back in the game though, with Ciaran Clark seeing his close range effort well bloked by David Luiz before Allan Saint-Maximin's curling shot came back off the post.
The win was final wrapped up with 89 minutes played though as Pepe did well to feed substitute Lacazette in the area and he turned the ball round the corner for Ozil to tap home, although Dubravka will be disappointed having fumbled the shot into the net.
It would get even better though as with 95 minutes on the clock as Lacazette's goal drought finally came to an end, with the Frenchman curling home Pepe's cut back to cap off a superb afternoon for Arteta's men.
The victory means Arsenal climb to 10th, closing the gap on fifth-placed Tottenham to just six points.