Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal review
Premier League – 11th August 2019
It wasn’t a classic and flowing Arsenal.
But it was a winning Arsenal. Spurs, Liverpool and City all won by more, but then we still did well to get the win.
Our star forward, for me, played like a prime Thierry Henry in his movement and finishing and it was as if this game were played in 1999 let alone 2019, given how we played and won it.
This was about resoluteness, sound defending, and matching Newcastle’s intensity and pressing.
Much was said pre-match about a Newcastle fan boycott – but the only thing boycotted was an Arsenal opening game loss.
The line-up featured a 4231 – with Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis, and Monreal at the back. Xhaka and Guendouzi formed the midfield options, whilst Mkhitaryan, Willock, Nelson and Aubameyang formed the forward line.
The first half saw us having much possession, but not really fashioning clear chances. Newcastle had arguably better chances, in that they hit the post and Linton headed just wide. Aubameyang had a shot saved by their keeper and both Monreal and Mkhitaryan had shots over the bar or wide.
The second half was different though, in that bar some early Toon pressure, we exerted more control over time and was more creative in the midfield. Due to matching Newcastle’s intensity, we were able to impact our better technical quality, and this told with the goal and ultimately the win.
Given the win, these are the important points in my mind as to what got us there:
- Strong defending
I was impressed with our defending in this game, and this is something I wish to highlight this season. It has overall our Achilles heel, and whilst the Toon isn’t the biggest attacking threat in the country, we blocked their crosses and headed many of their clearances.
Sokratis was resolute without giving away fouls or gaining cautions. Chambers, playing his first competitive game for us in a long while, too was strong.
The full-backs did well – and Maitland-Niles all the better for getting an assist.
This is no way to denigrate Monreal. He did ably too. But Maitland-Niles made a good contribution, which I will expound on later.
The defence will certainly be tested more strongly soon – with games at Anfield and home to Spurs coming up. But today, it was capable and kept Newcastle at bay.
- Midfield battle
I feel we won the midfield battle here. Captain Xhaka was passing well and battled for the ball. Guendouzi was mobile, and Willock and Nelson both showed some capable touches when required.
Newcastle’s game plan was to hit our midfield and close down space, but it didn’t really work. We bypassed them when necessary, and then hit them on the counter in the second half.
Ceballos came on in the second half, but his passes and touches weren’t’ very strong. He will take time, of course, to bed in.
Aubameyang got the goal, which was a clever dink over the keeper. But this was done via a telling interception and burst down the right from Maitland-Niles.
Mkhitaryan looked lively, as he brought the ball forward often and looked to create.
Pepe came on in the latter second-half but then didn’t impact the game. It is his first game though, so should be cut the appropriate slack.
It may not have been a classic/flowing arsenal. But it was an Arsenal reminiscent of the peak-Wenger days, or Graham, since we battled, committed, and won largely due to superior attacking threats.
Auba certainly was Henry-esque in his performance, since he moved around the forward line well and got in some telling crosses on occasion.
Leno – 7
Maitland-Niles – 8
Sokratis – 8
Chambers – 8
Monreal – 7
Guendouzi – 7
Xhaka – 7
Willock – 7
Nelson – 6
Mkhitaryan 8 –
Aubameyang – 8
Ceballos – 5
Pepe – 5
Martinelli – 5
Emery – 7 – “el jefe” got his selection and tactics correct, and whilst the subs didn’t have the intended impact, the old school provided the win. He realised that the Toon would press, and our defence was well-marshalled. Sterner tests will come, but it was a good day overall.
Man of the match
He’s been much maligned since he joined from Manchester United, but today he dribbled and carried the ball forward well, and was a key factor in our midfield and attacking dominance in the second half.