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Tactical Points from Arsenal's gutting defeat at St. James' Park

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

A cruel and fatal blow to Arsenal's Champions League hopes as I try to pick the bones out of a humbling at Newcastle:

  • Bringing Tomiyasu back to right-back to cover the threat of Saint-Maximin was crucial to minimising Newcastle's attacking threat and with Tavares on the left, Smith-Rowe had to start as he links up better on that flank along with better cover defensively.

  • Arsenal started the match well and looked to press high and be aggressive to settle into the game and temper the home side's initial burst. Getting through the initial pressure never ended as the structure with the ball was absent and playing out from the back was an almighty struggle. As a result, the press got disjointed and the spaces between midfield and attack became too much allowing Newcastle far too much time on the ball, and with a narrow backline, were very vulnerable to the long balls into the channels. When Arsenal tried to use the width of the pitch in possession, sloppy turnovers resulted in Newcastle lumping it forward for Wilson to chase against a bruised centre-back partnership.

  • Once the pressure brought in the nerves and the uneasiness, the passing options were far and few in the face of their strong press. Playing with 'blinkers' is the best description of the situation.

  • Added to that, Newcastle's midfield trio was causing a lot of problems with their movement and this midfield battle was one-sided throughout the game. Overloads on each flank or through crowding the central areas to overload the pivot always created the impression that Arsenal was playing with a player less and Newcastle deserves credit for executing a game plan effectively.

  • There was no control or pinning back the opposition for even a few minutes and the attacking threat never existed except for a few brief moments which is never enough over 90 minutes. Going out with a whimper like this is what hurts the most after a season with so much progress and the recurring theme of two steps forward and one-step back continues.

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