Arsenal 4 Newcastle 1: Three talking points
Harry Reardon looks at Arsenal's forward options and Newcastle's untidiness
Injury crises abound, but Arsenal’s striking options are spared
There could have been a fine exhibition match before this game featuring the respective sides’ walking wounded. Arsenal came into the weekend missing a full 11 players through injury, from David Ospina to Mesut Özil, Mikel Arteta to Theo Walcott, while Calum Chambers’s suspension following his dismissal against Stoke simply added to the Gunners’ already thorny defensive selection problems. Newcastle, meanwhile, could point to nine injury absentees of their own (plus two suspensions), including their first two choices in goal. Both teams, though, could still boast most of their attacking quotient. Newcastle’s recent good form had coincided with Sammy Ameobi’s run in the team, Ayoze Perez had made his presence felt, and Papiss Cisse seemed to have rediscovered his mojo, coming into this game with the best minutes per goal ratio in the Premier League this season. Arsenal, though, could do even better, putting out what is one of the league’s most threatening front threes in Alexis Sánchez, Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud. And the difference in quality showed. The earliest of Arsenal’s previous ten league goals had been scored in the 60th minute. Not today. Sánchez had looked the hosts’ most energetic option in the opening exchanges, and he could have created a couple of goals even before his 15th minute cross was classically headed home by Giroud. The Chilean then set up Cazorla for Arsenal’s second, before Giroud claimed another with a delightful flick in the second half. The Gunners might concede a few with Mathieu Debuchy at centre back. With these attacking options, though, they should not run shy of goals.
Newcastle untidiness raises the spectre of another dip in form
While not quite the clash of form horses that saw Middlesbrough take the Championship’s top spot from Derby County in the day’s earlier televised kick-off, Sky’s second Saturday game featured two teams both of whom could claim a fair few reasons to be optimistic. Arsenal had won their last five matches against Newcastle in all competitions, and had scored at least twice in seven of their last eight home clashes with the Magpies. Newcastle, meanwhile, had claimed seven wins in their last nine games. But the Magpies looked nervy from the start. Jack Colback was caught on the ball in a dangerous area in the first minute, and Cheick Tiote followed suit in the fifth; Sánchez had already flicked and flickered to good effect before Fabricio Coloccini failed to get even nearly close enough to the Chilean to prevent his cross for Giroud’s opener. It got little better for the Magpies for much of the first half, with Paul Dummett, Colback, and Tiote all guilty of giving the ball away unnecessarily. Arsenal’s passing was sharper, their tackling more precise. Things improved somewhat for Newcastle, and there were times, as they pushed forward after scoring, when the Magpies’ zest illustrated well how they had earned their recent impressive run of results. There were others, though, when it was all too clear why that run had been so sorely needed.
Sánchez sparkles again but will have to prove that he is no Cisse
There were periods during this contest when Sánchez appeared to be playing a different sport from everyone else. He it was who found the cross for Giroud’s opening goal after a quarter of an hour. He it was who drove at the heart of the Newcastle defence after a briefly threatening Magpie renaissance and found Cazorla to dink in. He remained at the centre of things thereafter as Arsenal briefly threatened to run riot, before Perez’s neat header kept the Gunners honest. But the Chilean, for all his nine goals in 14 Premier League games, would do well to note the Premier League career of one of his opponents today. Cisse scored 13 in 13 starts the half-season after joining Newcastle, and then just eight in 35 the year after. Then, having apparently returned to form with seven goals in 463 league minutes before today, his was an evening for which the word anonymous almost gives too much credit – his highlight an effort from four yards which he somehow diverted straight at Wojciech Szczesny – and it ended ten minutes into the second half with his team two goals down. Fortunes can be fickle in this league – even man of the moment Sánchez would do well to be wary of that.