Newcastle United stunned Arsenal 2-0 at St. James’ Park to put a dent in the Gunners’ Champions League hopes. Eddie Howe’s side put up an incredible performance, being in control for the majority of the game in terms of possession and chances created.
After a goalless first half, the Magpies went ahead when Joelinton’s cross for Callum Wilson was deflected as an own goal by Ben White. The defender was reinstated into the squad due to Gabriel’s injury and suspension to Rob Holding and gave a rusty performance.
Callum Wilson had a few more chances to make it 2-0 before his side finally got the second in the 85th minute. Dan Burn’s ball for Wilson was intercepted by Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale, but it fell kindly for Bruno Guimaraes who placed it perfectly for his fifth goal since joining Newcastle United in January.
An alarming stat is that Arsenal have lost more games in the Premier League this season than Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea combined. The Gunners still lack players who can sense danger during matches and know when to alter the tempo to stay on top of the game. Here are three things we learnt from the Newcastle United vs Arsenal game:
1. Arsenal’s Leadership Woes Continue to Haunt Them
The Gunners had full control over their Champions League return. But after a humiliating defeat at Spurs, a similar result followed at St. James’ Park. This brings up the question of whether there is a lack of leadership in the dressing room. Arsenal have gone on to lose multiple games in a row this season and they take some time to make a comeback. After the loss at Crystal Palace, they went on to lose to Brighton and Southampton immediately before a reversal of fortunes against Chelsea.
Arteta needs to decide on a permanent captain for next season who will be present on the pitch for 90% of the games to ensure some stability. Granit Xhaka has proven himself to be too reckless to lead the team properly, getting sent off in big games. The responsibility has been shared between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and now Martin Odegaard.
The Norwegian midfielder’s selection as captain in recent weeks when Lacazette has been out of the starting line-up highlights the obvious lack of experience in Arteta’s side. He is a very good player, somebody who will be a central figure in Arsenal’s future, but he is not yet experienced enough to lead a club such as Arsenal.
2. No January Reinforcements Could Cost Arsenal’s Champions League Dream
Arsenal were in a similar situation in January when the team was close to top-four places and needed some reinforcements to push for it. The teams in contention for that fourth spot were Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester United. The only team which invested in the January transfer window was Conte’s Spurs with Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur coming in from Juventus.
Before the final matchday, the team which is looking in pole position to get into Champions League next season is Tottenham. West Ham fell behind due to their priorities in the Europa League and United struggled with consistency. The Gunners seemed to have managed this period very well despite injuries and suspensions but at the final hurdle, the lack of squad depth has come to bite them back.
When asked about the lack of signing in January, the Arsenal manager replied:
“We have done what we can, and with what we were allowed to do, what we could do and the resources we had from the start of the season. The team that we were able to build is what we were able to build and it’s the team that has taken us all the way here.”
3. Newcastle Look Like The New ‘Leicester’
Newcastle United have been one of the Premier League’s in-form sides in 2022 and the 2-0 win over top-four chasing Arsenal proved to be the best ending to the season at St James’ Park. The Magpies got out of relegation zone after winning just once in the first 20 games. Out of the 46 points accumulated till now, 25 of those points have been earned in their last 12 matches, with Newcastle second in the table in that period since January, behind only Liverpool.
Of course, the transformation of the club’s fortunes has come against the backdrop of their Saudi-led takeover in October, with Howe able to spend £94million on new arrivals in January, but it has not been a case of just splashing the cash and watching results improve. Howe has improved a leaky defence which conceded 12 goals in the first four matches. Dan Burn from Brighton was a huge signing along with Kieran Tripper and Matt Targett who have marshalled the defence to new heights.
Bruno Guimaraes, the Brazilian midfielder signed from Lyon in January has been a revelation, scoring five goals, creating another and having a positive and classy influence on games without the ball. He is having the same impact which Bruno Fernandes had when he joined United and took them to the top-four.
Howe has also managed to bring out the true potential of Joelinton who has struggled since joining the Premier League. The Brazilian’s strength, work-rate, driving runs, economic use of the ball and late arrivals in the box has been vital to Newcastle’s revival.
Another factor is the sight of chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and co-owner Amanda Staveley at matches improving their reputation among fans and creating an incredible atmosphere.
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Tottenham have their last game away at Norwich and will need a win to secure the top-four while Arsenal will have to win at Everton and hope other results go their way. The Gunners have come a long way this season after an eighth-placed finish last season.
As per Twitter user Swiss Ramble, who is an expert in the football business, clubs would earn €15.6m (£13.3m) just for participating in the Champions League in terms of the UEFA competitions prize money for 2021/22. Hence, the Champions League is a priority for the Gunners, having missed out on it for several years.
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