Arsenal 3, Newcastle Utd 0: Gunners show firepower

Van Persie leads the line as resurgent Arsenal cruise to comfortable win over an injury-ravaged Newcastle
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The Independent Football

The banner that reads "InArsène we trust" was for once not on view here yesterday, but it should have been hung loud and proud from the rafters in honour of a manager whorefuses to compromise his principles either with extravagant purchases or power football. His side were back to their best in demolishing a Newcastle team who were beaten 3-0 here twice in four days last season.

But for Shay Given in goal it would have been far more this time; in fact, two more goals and Arsenal would have been on top of the table this morning.

Having had a wasted journey to Monaco to check on Manchester United's Owen Hargreaves on Friday, Fabio Capello would have been delighted to see Michael Owen starting a game for the first time this season, though he achieved nothing.

He was presumably less concerned about Shola Ameobi, summoned for the first time this season as a replacement for the departed James Milner, or Joey Barton, pointlessly brought on for the last two minutes. Also sitting on the substitutes' bench until late on was Arsenal's Theo Walcott, who is due to play for England's Under-21 side at Wembley on Friday.

Emmanuel Eboué replaced Walcott on the right for the home side, with Cesc Fabregas in place to add some guile to a midfield outplayed by Fulham last weekend. He duly did so in a blistering start, creating chances with his first two passes of the game. In the third minute, Fabregas played Robin van Persie through and Fabricio Coloccini's clumsytackle could have brought a penalty instead of a corner. A corner it was, and when Van Persie swung it to the near post, Bacary Sagna nodded on and William Gallas somehow shot over the bar from three yards.

Two minutes later, Fabregas set up the advancing Kolo Touré for a low 30-yard drive that Given plunged down to push round a post. Not even Given, however, could prevent Van Persie scoring from a penalty after 18 minutes. Emmanuel Adebayor won the award by putting in a cross to which Charles N'Zogbia foolishly raised his arm, the ballstriking him on the elbow.

Newcastle had barely reached the opposing penalty area at that stage. Ameobi was short of match fitness, but with Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff all injured, Kevin Keegan had few other options if Owen was not to play up front by himself. The visitors invited further trouble by conceding two free-kicks 25 yards out, Given distinguishing himself by saving the second from Van Persie's shot to the top corner of the net.

Absurdly, Newcastle should have equalised eight minutes before the interval. Jonas Gutierrez did well to go past Fabregas and Gaël Clichy before crossing for Owen, who should still have done better than slicing wide. His team were made to pay soon afterwards as Eboué led a break and then back-heeled Adebayor's pass for the unmarked Van Persie to score his second goal.

Given came out early to prepare for the second half, as if fearing he would need to be at his sharpest. He already had a new left-back in front of him, Jose Enrique having limped away with a strained hamstring to give Sébastien Bassong a Premier League debut. Briefly, Newcastle supporters had something to encourage them as Nicky Butt's header from a corner dropped on to the bar and Manuel Almunia made his first save of the day, from Danny Guthrie's drive.

But on the hour a glorious four-man passing move ended with Samri Nasri feeding Denilson's run to bring about a familiar score: Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0.

Van Persie was denied a hat-trick when hitting a ferocious shot from an acute angle against the underside of the bar, injuring himself in the process and being forced off. There was still time for Given to save Nasri's free-kick, N'Zogbia to clear off the line from Gallas and substitute Walcott to miss badly.