Newcastle United kicked their 19/20 season off with a loss in a shapeless and clueless performance from Steve Bruce’s men.
On a day that promised #BoycottArsenal, 47,635 turned up to St James Park. Not quite what those of us who stayed away were hoping for but more than 10% down on this time last season. You’d think results will now be the deciding factor on any future impact.
STARTING XI: Dubravka, Ritchie, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Manquillo, Hayden, Longstaff (Saint-Maximin, 66), Shelvey (Willems, 53), Almiron, Joelinton
Just the one new face in the United side, None in the Arsenal line up. With a host of the new lads only making the bench on both sides.
Arsenal would start confidently, dominating possession but creating little in the opening period. Newcastle happy to soak it up and try and counterattack with the pace of Almiron and strength of debutant Joelinton up front.
What made the first period more difficult than it needed to be was the repeated sloppy passing and needless surrender of the ball to the visitors.
The first real chance of the game would fall to the home side. A Ritchie cross flicking off an Arsenal shirt and into the path of Joelinton who’s glanced header went narrowly wide.
Moments later Newcastle thought they had a penalty, but both the ref and VAR agreed that Almiron had dived in the box.
United then came closer still. Shelvey strong arming his way into the box before seeing his deflected effort crashing wide off the post.
Arsenal’s first big chance was one they really should have burred. Dubravka rushing into no mans land allowing a cut back to Mkhitaryan who could only blaze over the bar.
Joelinton then showed a glimpse of what we all hope is the future. Picking up a ball with several yellow shirts around him he somehow managed to skip away from two before firing a shot on target that Leno was equal to.
Arsenal, of course, for all the lack of new signings in their line-up did boast last seasons joint top Premier League scorer in Aubameyang. And his effort after drifting off the shoulder of Lascelles would need to be well saved by Dubravka to stop the visitors from taking the lead on 30 minutes.
0-0 at half time then.
After the break it was more of the same, the visitors building on the 66% of possession they’d had in the first. A great ball into the channel for Aubameyang to chase almost lead to a goal, his effort from a tight angle well deflected over the bar by Dummett. From the resultant corner the Newcastle defence can consider themselves very lucky as the ball evaded everyone and drifted just wide of Dubravka’s left hand post at no more than knee height.
On 58 minutes the breakthrough. A ball across the back line should have been met by Willems, who’d just entered the fray. But instead of going to the ball, as we were all taught in school, he statically allowed Maitland-Niles to rush onto the ball and cross to Aubameyang who obliged to dink the ball over the arm the helpless Dubravka.
Horrible from Willems. Welcome to the Premier League.
The introduction of Saint-Maximin at least seemed to momentarily lift the crowd, who’d been uncharacteristically quiet to that point.
Newcastle were, by now, looking all over the place. The changes made by Bruce only serving to create visible confusion amongst the players. A lack of formation evident by the complete lack of bodies in midfield.
It seemed only a moment of magic would get the home side anything from this with Arsenal now completely dominant.
In the end. No goals. No shape. No points. No clue.