Arsenal were aiming for back-to-back away wins for the first time since May 2017. With that being said, this game was far from a foregone conclusion. Newcastle United showed their desire, and despite their lack of financially ability, Rafa Benitez has shown that his side is well drilled and ready to take on the big guns despite being handed a tough start to the new campaign.
New boss Unai Emery had urged Mesut Ozil to contribute more goals after the German’s strike secured a third consecutive victory for his side. The Gunners had been frustrated for entire first half at the St James’ Park, but a wonderful long range freekick from Granit Xhaka set the tone early in second half. Before Ozil doubled the lead after a Newcastle man blocked effort from Alexandre Lacazette fell kindly for him to slot home on his 200th appearance for London outfit.
Emery had nothing but praises for the German following his performance, also putting aside any rumors regarding bust up between Ozil & the manager.
“His quality helps the team, it is important he scored. i want not only for him to assit, we need him to go in the box and score like today” said Emery who had challenged the midfielder to “do more” before the game.
Meanwhile, Benitez’s side remain on one point, equaling their worst return after five Premier League games. Although they had better chances in the first half as they pressed an Arsenal defense determined to play from the back. Early pressure forced errors, as Petr Cech passed the ball out for a corner following a back pass from Shkodran Mustafi. Which only goes to tell that there is still a lot of uncertainty concerning the defense – particularly the goalkeeping department.
It might be frustrating for many to see their £22 million goalkeeper warming the bench rather than giving a shot at plugging the goals the Londoners are conceding.
Emery’s men returned stronger in the second half where they scored two goals within 10 minutes to turn the game into their favour, with Lucas Torreira being the game changer. Before a rally by Newcastle towards the end saw them pull one back in the injury time.
Arsenal, who managed to ward off a resurgent Cardiff before the international break, knew they would face a stern test at St James’ Park against a Newcastle side that had adopted a defensive approach against Chelsea and Manchester City.
Benitez’s side’s first-half approach demonstrated exactly how to disrupt the visitors’ play under Emery and both Cech & Mustafi seemed hesitant on the ball under repeated pressure.
Although it took a sublime strike from Xhaka at the 49th minute to really give the visitors confidence, things got more easier following Ozil’s cool finish, which saw the team settle down for the rest of the game despite a late reply from Clark, which denied Emery his first clean sheet in the Premier League. Here is what he had to say on his teams performance:
“We are improving. We need to continue working individually and collectively to improve more thing. In the first half we didn’t control like we wanted to but the second half we were better and the victory is just.”
Despite not being on the scoresheet many would consider Lacazette to be the man of the match, he was a constant threat throughout for North Londoners and showed a growing understanding alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as the two linked up well in the Arsenal attack.
It was for this link up play that the Gooners have been waiting for, from last night’s game it is easy to hope for exciting things to happen when the two of them are on the field.
Meanwhile, the former Real Madrid star scored on his landmark 200th game for the London reds, putting aside any scrutiny he has been through over these past few weeks to rest.
Xhaka showed a stellar performance defensively and also going forward against Newcastle. It was his brilliant freekick early in the second half that set the tone for the rest of the match. The former Gladbach skipper who has scored all his league goals for his current side from outside the box, seems to have finally settled to the tempo of the Premier League and can finally play has a vital cog in Emery’s new system.