Premier League: Newcastle United 1 Arsenal 2
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Unai Emery’s Arsenal side beat Newcastle United 2-1 at St James’ Park to claim their third win in a row, and second successive victory on the road.
After a goalless first half Granit Xhaka scored directly from a free-kick to put the Gunners 1-0 ahead four minutes after the break.
The lead was doubled when Mesut Ozil calmly slotted home ten minutes later and the visitors held on despite an injury-time goal by replacement Ciaran Clark – to send the 3,000 vociferous away fans who made the long trip north home happy in a crowd of 52,165.
Arsenal were unchanged in the North East following their 3-2 victory on the road at Cardiff City last time out with Lucas Torreira on the bench again along with ‘sweeper keeper’ Bernd Leno.
The mercurial Ozil started his first match at St James’ in any competition with the words of his boss Emery ringing in his ears after he asked the creative playmaker to give more in terms of his performances.
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We were to find out if the Arsenal head coach’s words were to have a motivating effect.
With the rousing Blaydon Races stoking the passionate home support prior to kick-off the visitors had to show defensive discipline in repelling a largely shapeless opening.
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Presumably under instructions from boss Rafa Benitez the Magpies pressed high up the pitch, continuing on from Neil Warnock’s strategy in South Wales, which rocked the Gunners.
In fairness it doesn’t take a football genius to instinctively understand that playing out from the back without a keeper suited to the strategy and a frustrating reluctance to employ pragmatism when required will result in loss of possession in and around your own area.
An unforced error by Shkodran Mustafi saw the Toon’s Jacob Murphy race through on goal until Sokratis angled his run to mop up the impending danger.
Ozil did what Ozil does and flattered with his superb spatial awareness in playing the ball to better placed colleagues in the midfield maelstrom of a Premier League match, but without ever taking the game by the scruff of the neck – which his abundance of talent should really do, whatever the statistics say in terms of assists.
Further forward Alexandre Lacazette was engaged in a compelling duel with centre-half Federico Fernandez while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang threatened down the left flank without ever beating his man DeAndre Yedlin.
The unsettled Aaron Ramsey broke into the box midway through the first half but spurned his chance when well-placed, for reasons that were hard to fathom when he inexplicably lifted his shot over Martin Dubravka’s goal.
The second period started with Torreira replacing the hard-working but raw Guendouzi.
Four minutes later he shaped to take a free-kick outside the box before midfield partner Xhaka fired the ball into the top left corner, evading Dubravka’s desperate dive in the process.
Ten minutes later Ozil doubled the lead by calmly slotting home after a spell of prolonged pressure in and around the box as Emery’s side took charge.
Substitute Ciaran Clark pulled a goal back with moments remaining but Arsenal held to claim their third win on the bounce as Emery’s Emirates revolution gathers apace.
To cap a good afternoon Reiss Nelson – on loan to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim – scored on his debut against Fortuna Dussledorf, even if the opposition rallied to win the game.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29