Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle United
Not unexpected but certainly unwelcome. Now just the single point in nine games.
STARTING XI: Elliot, Yedlin, Lejeune, Lascelles, Manquillo, Murphy (Gayle, 67), Hayden, Merino (Diame, 81), Atsu (Ritchie, 53), Perez, Joselu
After his howler against Everton there was unsurprisingly no place in the team for Darlow, whilst Ritchie also gave way to Murphy with Hayden, Joselu and Perez all also returning to the starting eleven.
Some decent early pressure for Newcastle, forcing successive corners during the first 5 minutes even if Arsenal did control most of the possession during the opening phases.
Arsenal would settle into their stride after that opening period however, dominating possession and looking dangerous with pace and the slick one touch passing you come to expect form the Gunners.
On 22 minutes though, the opening goal. A chance cleared by Yedlin to the edge of the box would land at the feet of Ozil who’s sumptuous strike would fly past Elliot in the Newcastle goal giving the keeper no chance. A wonderful strike to be fair. Just the way things are going for the Magpies right now!
A tough trip to London looked already looking like it would be another 70 minutes of pain to endure for those who’d made the trip. The home side having almost 75% possession in the first quarter of the game and now happy to take their time with the lead already secured.
Newcastle would survive until half time without any more damage being down however, although Arsenal would come close a number of times.
Surely then the plan at half time had to be ‘keep it tight’, knowing that if they would get to the final 10 or 15 minutes still in touch they might just have a chance to pile some pressure on the hosts. Whilst the score wasn’t is dramatic, it certainly felt like getting anything from this game would be every bit as epic an effort as the 4-4 at St James Park.
All Arsenal again at the start of the first half.
The introduction of Ritchie ten minutes into the second half though lead to a decent spell for Newcastle, first with the Scotsman driving a shot over and then with Joselu and Muphy both having chances.
On the hour a great chance for Arsenal as Lacazette went clear through with Yedlin playing the Arsenal striker on side. The Frenchman, with only the onrushing Elliot to beat, chipped the keeper easily enough but only because his effort was so high it flew straight over the bar too.
A couple of glimpses of goal as the game moved into the last 20 minutes was also accompanied by the introduction of Dwight Gayle and a change in formation with Perez moving out to the wing and Gayle joining Joselu up top.
In contrast, Arsenal followed with Giroud and Welbeck as substitutions. It certainly seemed like there would be more chances in the game, at one end at least.
A great chance for Arsenal to double their lead when Wilshere headed straight at the keeper when well placed and given time and room by the Newcastle defence to get his effort on target with some ease.
On 80 minutes the best chance of the game for Newcastle so far. Gayle found space in the box who in turn found Joselu. His smart turn and shot would then take a deflection away from Cech in the Arsenal goal. The rellef on the keepers face tells you how worried he was about that one.
Perez then fired and effort over the bar before having his own great chance to head Newcastle level with a header that was tamely put wide when again he really should have done much much better.
The game seemed poised on the knife edge and surely there would be one more chance for Newcastle?!
But even with 4 minutes of injury time Newcastle couldn’t find that final good chance to rescue a point.
You can argue that Rafa’s game plan was only undone by a moment of brilliance from Ozil. But another 1-0 loss sends Newcastle into the bottom three for the first time this season. It’s going to be a long festive period isn’t it!