December 8, 2022

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Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal: Gunners get much needed confidence boost after comfortable victory

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Arsenal’s reserves might just be better than their usual bunch of sorry starters.

It was not only Mikel Arteta’s team-sheet that took on a much-changed look, for the performance that followed was also out of keeping with a campaign that had them in the bottom half of the table before kick-off.

The Gunners boss made eight changes from Thursday’s 2-1 defeat in Villarreal and nine from their last Premier League outing, a woeful 1-0 defeat to Everton nine days ago. 

Arsenal got a much-needed win ahead of their Europa League semi-final clash with a comfortable victory over Newcastle

Arsenal got a much-needed win ahead of their Europa League semi-final clash with a comfortable victory over Newcastle

Arsenal got a much-needed win ahead of their Europa League semi-final clash with a comfortable victory over Newcastle

Mohamed Elneny celebrates after scoring his first Premier League goal for Arsenal to give the Gunners the lead

Mohamed Elneny celebrates after scoring his first Premier League goal for Arsenal to give the Gunners the lead

Mohamed Elneny celebrates after scoring his first Premier League goal for Arsenal to give the Gunners the lead

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled Arsenal's lead in the second-half getting on the end of a Gabriel Martinelli cross

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled Arsenal's lead in the second-half getting on the end of a Gabriel Martinelli cross

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled Arsenal’s lead in the second-half getting on the end of a Gabriel Martinelli cross

Fabian Schar returned to Newcastle as a second half substitute but was handed a late red card for a foul on Martinelli

Fabian Schar returned to Newcastle as a second half substitute but was handed a late red card for a foul on Martinelli

Fabian Schar returned to Newcastle as a second half substitute but was handed a late red card for a foul on Martinelli

MATCH FACTS 

Newcastle: Dubravka, Murphy, Fernandez (Schar 72), Clark (Gayle 84), Dummett, Ritchie, Almiron (Joelinton 73), Sean Longstaff, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin, Wilson

Subs: Matthew Longstaff, Lewis, Hendrick, Krafth, Gillespie, Anderson

Booked: Almiron, Fernandez

Sent off: Schar 

Arsenal: Ryan, Bellerin, Luiz (Chambers 53), Gabriel, Xhaka, Elneny, Ceballos, Willian, Odegaard (Partey 85), Martinelli, Aubameyang (Pepe 78)

Subs: Leno, Saka, Cedric, Pablo Mari, Nketiah, Smith-Rowe

Goals: Elneny 5, Aubameyang 66 

Booked: Xhaka 

 

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But the understudies more than made a case for taking centre stage when Arsenal attempt to reverse that deficit against Villarreal in their Europa League semi-final on Thursday.

Scorers Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be unlucky if they do not retain a starting jersey for that second leg, but they were not alone in emerging from the shadows to shine.

By contrast, Newcastle were dull. They did not play like a team for whom victory would have all but equated to safety.

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Their saviour in recent weeks has been Arsenal loanee Joe Willock – scorer of three late goals from the substitute’s bench – but with him the midfielder ineligible in the stands, there was to be no rescue act this time.

The defeat leaves Steve Bruce’s side in 17th position, but still with a comfortable nine-point lead over Fulham. The Cottagers, however, may well draw a little inspiration from this result.

Arsenal’s 1-0 lead at half-time flattered Newcastle, whose passive display was symptomatic of the bulk of their season and was a let-off for what should have been vulnerable opponents.

The ball belonged almost exclusively to the visitors during the opening five minutes, and it was a period they deservedly climaxed with the opening goal.

David Luiz sprung the pass that set Hector Bellerin clear on the right. He then drew back Aubameyang and the striker’s rustiness saw him turn unwitting provider when his mis-hit shot landed for Elneny, who volleyed into the bottom corner from 14 yards. It was the midfielder’s first Premier League goal in his 66th appearance, something of a surprise given the execution of his finish.

Equally as curious was the swagger with which Arsenal were playing. Roy Keane, in the TV studio, said before the game that he expected ‘very little’ from Arteta’s side. He is prone to outrageous statements – but that was not one of them.

Elneny gave Arsenal the lead after just five minutes with a great strike which goalkeeper Martin Dubravka could do nothing

Elneny gave Arsenal the lead after just five minutes with a great strike which goalkeeper Martin Dubravka could do nothing

Elneny gave Arsenal the lead after just five minutes with a great strike which goalkeeper Martin Dubravka could do nothing

Schar's red card was checked by VAR who decided not to overturn the incident which took place in stoppage time

Schar's red card was checked by VAR who decided not to overturn the incident which took place in stoppage time

Schar’s red card was checked by VAR who decided not to overturn the incident which took place in stoppage time

Newcastle failed to offer much to threaten Arsenal but they sit comfortably nine points clear of the relegation zone

Newcastle failed to offer much to threaten Arsenal but they sit comfortably nine points clear of the relegation zone

Newcastle failed to offer much to threaten Arsenal but they sit comfortably nine points clear of the relegation zone

Keane was not only the one who under-estimated Arsenal, and Newcastle never recovered from their early complacency.

But what remained a mystery from first minute until last was Bruce’s failure to tell Allan Saint-Maximin to attack makeshift left-back Granit Xhaka at every opportunity. Indeed, Saint-Maximin was, for the large part, kept on the opposite side of the pitch to the Swiss international.

On one of the few occasions their paths did cross, he drew a foul that earned Xhaka a yellow card. That was on 20 minutes and, given Xhaka’s tendency for the erratic and irrational, it was baffling as to why he was then afforded an easy ride for the remainder. He could have been sent off in the second half, but that was a for a typically senseless block high in Newcastle’s half, rather than a home tactic designed to target the carded defender.

But Arsenal, you suspect, would still have bossed the contest with 10 men, so superior were they all over the park. The goal that sealed the win on 66 minutes was vintage Arsenal in the intricacy of its approach.

They knitted a series of passes around the fringe of the penalty area before Martin Odegaard threaded wide for Gabriel Martinelli and he whipped to the far post for Aubameyang to apply an airborne finish.

And that was that, save for Fabian Schar’s 90th-minute red card when he needlessly clattered into Martinelli from behind. Such indiscipline summed up a wretched afternoon for Newcastle.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were wonderful. Not bad for the second-string.

There was worry for Arsenal as defender David Luiz limped off in pain during the second-half holding onto his hamstring

There was worry for Arsenal as defender David Luiz limped off in pain during the second-half holding onto his hamstring

There was worry for Arsenal as defender David Luiz limped off in pain during the second-half holding onto his hamstring

Steve Bruce was disappointed with his side who failed to show the same threat that they have in recent games

Steve Bruce was disappointed with his side who failed to show the same threat that they have in recent games

Steve Bruce was disappointed with his side who failed to show the same threat that they have in recent games

Martinelli was a consistent source of bright attacking play for Arsenal and provided an assist for Aubameyang

Martinelli was a consistent source of bright attacking play for Arsenal and provided an assist for Aubameyang

Martinelli was a consistent source of bright attacking play for Arsenal and provided an assist for Aubameyang 

Sportsmail’s KIERAN LYNCH provided live EPL coverage of Newcastle vs Arsenal, including scoreline, lineups and build-up.  

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