With Southampton losing and Swansea only managing a point in yesterdays Premier League programme today’s encounter at St James Park was, for the first time in as long as most can remember, a league game without ‘everything’ at stake.
Another fine effort from Wor Flags greeted players and fans alike before the game in what could have had the feeling of an end of season ‘dead rubber’.
Far from it!
Rafa named an unchanged side again for this one with his charges looking for a rare fourth Premier League win in a row.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Dummett, Lascelles, Lejeune, Yedlin, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy, Ritchie (Murphy, 86), Perez (Joselu, 79), Gayle (Slimani, 63)
The faith he showed in this team once more would pay dividends as after a tough early start to the game which saw Arsenal take the lead within quarter of an hour ,Newcastle would turn the game on its head with first an equaliser after a lovely finish from Perez and then another winner from Matt Ritchie.
The win puts Newcastle United on 41 points. Enough. And what a season from the players, fans and probably most importantly from our manager Rafa Benitez.
Before the game Rafa said he would look at signings for next season once he’d guided his side to 40 points. Well the cheeky word, behind his cupped hand, to Kenedy after the final whistle could well have been a ‘you have to stay now’ as the pair shared smiles as they left the pitch.
The achievement, given the lack of investment, is nothing short of remarkable. Just a point behind next opponents and new moneybags club Everton now just emphasises the point.
Arsenal had started well. Quick and incisive from the first whistle they also started Lacazette and Aubameyang in a strong line up. No surprise perhaps when they took the lead with a lovely move that ended with Lacazette scoring from a good cross after the Newcastle defence had been turned on their heels.
The goal seemed to shake Newcastle into action. Starting to look dangerous themselves with Shelvey looking imperious in midfield once more in front of the Sky cameras.
And it was his through ball to Gayle that would change the game back towards the home side. The pin point pass allowed a lay off to Yedlin who’s centre was beautifully stroked into the Arsenal net at the near post by Perez.
Compact, hard working and with real bite in midfield with ‘new’ Diame continuing his run of good form, it did feel like the game was there for the taking.
Make no mistake, Arsenal could have added to their own goal tally however as twice Chambers went close.
But no, Newcastle were not to be denied another three points. Slimani now on for half an hour to try and persuade the Newcastle faithful he’d be worth a punt this summer was already showing endeavour before his header across goal would be flicked on by Perez, this time for Ritchie to hammer home with his less favoured right foot.
The geordies would see out the last 20 minutes or so too with little drama, inflicting a fifth away league defeat in a row onto Arsenal and all but securing Premier League football for another season.
Top to bottom, front to back, everyone associated with the club (well almost everyone) should be delighted with what has been achieved on and off the pitch this season.