Arsenal 4 Newcastle United 0
- Lee Mason
Newcastle United suffered an eighth straight defeat at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal took full advantage of a second-half collapse from the Magpies.
The Gunners only led United in the table on goal difference ahead of the game – a fact that looked evident for much of the opening half – but the visitors’ race was virtually run after they conceded twice in almost as many minutes shortly after the interval.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set Arsenal on their way after meeting record signing Nicolas Pépé’s cross, before Pépé himself slotted home a quick-fire second. Sloppy defending was on show on both occasions, and there was more of it to come late on as Mesut Özil and substitute Alexandre Lacazette rubbed salt in the Magpies’ wounds.
It was a scoreline which few could have anticipated at the break, with United having more than matched the home side for much of the opening half. With January acquisitions Danny Rose and Valentino Lazaro both deployed as wing backs and Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin starting in their usual roles, the visitors’ counter-attacking game-plan was on display almost immediately. Austrian Lazaro, looking to make inroads down the right-hand side, drew a foul from Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka early on, for which the fiery-tempered midfielder was booked. 14 minutes in, Lazaro was the architect for United’s first chance of the game, picking out Sean Longstaff on the edge of the penalty area straight from a corner. Longstaff’s strike wouldn’t have troubled Bernd Leno were it not for a deflection off Dani Ceballos, which forced the Gunners’ ‘keeper into a last-gasp stop. During the same attack, Joelinton fired wide from Allan Saint-Maximin’s centre as Steve Bruce’s side made the more enterprising start.
Though United’s threat on the break continued in patches, Arsenal got a foothold as the first half wore on. Youngster Bukayo Saka curled one wide after stepping inside, with Martin Dúbravka unlikely to have got to the ball. The Magpies’ stopper did get both hands to efforts from Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah after the half-hour mark, though, with another Aubameyang strike taking a nick off Ciaran Clark before whistling past the post. Shortly before the close of the first half, Dúbravka was forced into an acrobatic stop to tip a dangerous Nketiah free kick over the crossbar.
For the most part, though, United looked fairly resolute during the opening period, making their capitulation at the beginning of the second half all the more disappointing. Nketiah fired a warning shot early on, seeing a close-range strike clip the crossbar after Pépé – largely anonymous prior to the interval – did brilliantly to deliver a cutback from the right byline. But Newcastle failed to take stock, and they found themselves trailing after Aubameyang capitalised on some slack marking to head another Pépé delivery into the ground and past Dúbravka.
Within the blink of an eye, it was two. This time, the move came from the opposite flank, as Saka latched onto a ball down the channel before nutmegging Lazaro. Again the Magpies weren’t short on numbers at the back but nobody tracked Pépé, who got across the box to steer Saka’s low cross into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
United managed to shore up for a period and, shortly after the hour, they nearly pulled one back. It was Clark, of all people, who had taken up a threatening position inside the penalty area, and after the Irishman let fly from Saint-Maximin’s square, only a crucial touch from David Luiz diverted the ball away from goal.
In truth, though, the Magpies never really looked like recovering from the damage they’d sustained earlier on. Saint-Maximin – again their liveliest asset on the day – was unfortunate to see the ball come back off the base of the post with 15 minutes to play, the wide-man having beaten Leno from 18 yards. Jamaal Lascelles called the Arsenal stopper into action with a late header, but rather than eat into the Gunners’ advantage towards the end of the game, the visitors somehow allowed it to double.
Özil added a third in the final minute of normal time. Again, it was soft from a Newcastle perspective, as the German ghosted into the heart of the Magpies’ danger area to apply the finishing touch to Lacazette’s hopeful cross. And with virtually the last kick of the game, Lacazette – who’d only entered the fray in the 85th minute – got his name on the scoresheet himself. Pépé again supplied the assist, putting the ball on a plate for the substitute to lash past a helpless Dúbravka.