Arsenal Annihilate Newcastle as the goals and "Sweet Caroline" make long awaited return
By Daniel Finton
Arsenal sat level on points with the Toon Army prior to this fixture, with both sides sitting solidly in mid table- our season increasingly decaying with every mediocre draw we pick up. However, after the Gunners emphatic second half display, we sit just 6 points off a potential Champions League place, and suddenly the campaign feels revitalised with fresh optimism.
With the quality Arsenal posses and our excellent track record against Newcastle in recent years (7 wins in our last 7 games against them), there was certainly a level of expectation coming into this game, despite our poor recent form. However, when one looks to the first-half performance, the gunners looked as underwhelming as they have since the beginning of the season. The surprise inclusions of Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos, at the expense of Lucas Torreira and Alex Lacazette, left fans bemused, but perhaps a bit of me felt excited at a potential change in approach. It left me under the impression that we may see a rapid, aggressively attacking Arsenal side, dominating possession and territory. Despite this belief, that turned out to be a fallacy. Whilst we did control possession, once again we looked slow and lethargic in it, lacking intensity and purpose in our forward play.
The first 30 minutes in particular saw Arteta’s men being pinned back by Newcastle’s direct attack. The likes of Saint-Maximin and Lazaro in particular terrorised our back line and we struggled to deal with the aggressive and pacy counter-attacks.
It was not until about the 35th minute mark when we started to grow into the game. Shot after shot began to be taken, but unfortunately there was really no trouble given to Dubravka. Aubameyang saw a shot nestle harmlessly into the grasp of the Slovakian keeper and Pepe saw a free kick from about 40 yards be tipped over the bar. Mesut Ozil began to drop into the pockets and pick up the ball, being fed by the lively Dani Ceballos, but we still lacked a sharp incision in the final third.
We went into the half-time break with a stale 0-0, having managed a mere 0.43 xG. Were we en route to our 14th draw of the season?
It's safe to say we found our feet in the second half and absolutely annihilated a shell-shocked Newcastle.
Ceballos and Saka sparked life back into the previously lifeless side with their positive passing and attacking aggression. In a blistering opening 12 minutes, in which Arsenal created a staggering 1.34 xG, Aubameyang opened the scoring with a smart header after a brilliant clipped cross from Pepe, before the Ivorian assistant slotted home after a cheeky nutmeg from Saka on Lazaro. The third came from Mesut Ozil, who'd not scored in 25 games prior to this, finishing from a 35 pass move involving a lovely twisting assist from Lacazette. Finally, the fourth from the Frenchman himself, finally breaking his duct, slotting home from Pepe's pass (a goal and two assists for him).
Wow, that felt good. Listing goals is something we’ve not been able to do for a while and damn does it feel nice.
A win looked likely on paper, but after witnessing such a drab first half, I began to have my doubts. However, the second forty-five was as different as it could have possibly been.
We travel to Athens next to face Olympiacos, in what will be another tough encounter. Will the momentum gathered from the romping of Newcastle carry over to our next fixture in Greece? Let’s hope so. I quite missed the tune of “sweet Caroline”- I hope to hear it more often, maybe even a Greek rendition from the Arsenal away fans this Thursday.