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Arsenal channel Porto defeat to claim sweet revenge against Newcastle

Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: The Gunners went two points off top after dominating Eddie Howe’s side at the Emirates

Jamie Braidwood
at the Emirates
Sunday 25 February 2024 10:43 GMT
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An incredible 4-1 home victory brings Arsenal 2 points from the top of the table

Kieran Trippier pointed at Fabian Schar. Fabian Schar pointed to Loris Karius. Loris Karius pointed to Tino Livramento. Everyone pointed at Sven Botman. Bruno Guimaraes kicked something in red, just for something to do. On the touchline, Eddie Howe stood with hands on hips. Over Howe’s shoulder, Jason Tindall stood with hands on hips, whispering in Howe’s ear. Newcastle’s plan was in pieces. Thrashed by Arsenal, this was no contest.

Arsenal were outstanding. Mikel Arteta’s side took the hurt of Wednesday night’s defeat in Porto and the frustration of November’s defeat at St James’ Park to move two points off top with their sixth Premier League win in a row. Under the lights at the Emirates, Arsenal were intense and ferocious, their work and effort off the ball in pressing Newcastle into submission only matched by the quality and precision of their attacking play. Bukayo Saka’s weaving third goal after the hour-mark belatedly gave Arsenal some breathing space, following an opening 45 minutes of utter domination.

It was clear just how much Arsenal enjoyed this; Arteta’s side didn’t just beat Newcastle, they destroyed them. In the evisceration, Martin Odegaard turned and roared after chasing Guimaraes into his own box and sending the Brazilian crashing to the turf as he blocked his clearance, such was Arsenal’s desire for the game to be played exclusively in the Newcastle half. Last season, when Newcastle possessed the league’s best defence, capable of arriving at the Emirates and shutting out the hosts, such a fixture may have suited them. But Newcastle are not the same side – and the excuse of their injury crisis is wearing thin.

Newcastle were thrashed at the Emirates (Getty Images)

Newcastle offered nothing in attack, but worse still was the absence of commitment. “Hugely disappointing,” Howe reflected. “We didn’t compete tonight. It’s not like us.”

Without Nick Pope and Martin Dubravka, ruled out due to illness, it was Karius, with his nightmare in the 2018 Champions League final still hanging over him, who saved Newcastle from an even heavier defeat. Karius was perhaps spared further embarrassment, though the same could not be said for those in front of him, as Newcastle’s miserable defensive record since Pope’s injury continued. Botman’s comical own goal gifted Arsenal the lead but Newcastle’s defending was statuesque in the face of Arsenal’s thrilling speed and movement.

Jorginho, the only change from Wednesday’s late heartbreak in Porto, conducted play expertly from the base of Arsenal’s midfield, setting up Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to run at Newcastle throughout. Odegaard danced and drew circles around the visitors, Declan Rice surged, and the emerging surprise package of Arsenal’s season, Ben White, in his midfield-hybrid role, pulled various strings together. Kai Havertz scored one, missed some more, but led the forward line and its press superbly with Odegaard, who dictated a stunning tempo. Together, Arsenal were irrepressible.

The Emirates played its part, as well, and the atmosphere set the tone. Newcastle arrived and looked to slow Arteta’s side down, but Arsenal stayed patient and flew forward in waves. They broke Newcastle’s early resistance with yet another set-piece goal, even if it took more than just one Newcastle touch to help it over the line. Karius saved superbly to deny Gabriel’s thumping header, but the ball’s spin carried it back towards the goal. Livramento’s attempted clearance deflected onto Botman’s knee and carried it in. After conceding 18 goals in their previous five Premier League matches, it was a hapless start.

Gabriel’s header deflected in off Livramento and Botman (Getty Images)
Howe’s side have conceded 12 goals in their last four games (Getty Images)

Newcastle’s response was non-existent and Arsenal could have been out of sight. Havertz buried Arsenal’s second from close range after Jorginho played an exquisite ball through and Martinelli’s electric pace then rescued a touch from going over the byline, as Botman failed to close him down. The centre-back appeared to give up, just as Howe’s side were lifeless, finishing the first half without a shot on the Arsenal goal. Schar almost gifted Arsenal a third but Sean Longstaff’s interception denied Havertz another tap-in. Martinelli headed over following a sumptuous flick from Odegaard. Saka rifled a shot that Karius kept out well at his near post.

Karius would be left shaking his head again in the second half: Newcastle briefly improved after the restart, finally mustering a shot on target as Anthony Gordon tested David Raya, then as the returning Alexander Isak cut inside before firing over. Yet Howe’s side should have been left with no way back, after Havertz dragged wide following a lightning surge from Saka and Martinelli. Eventually, Saka took charge, dancing inside Livramento before firing into the far corner. Then, another corner. This time, Jakub Kiwior’s header deflected in off Lewis Miley.

Arteta could afford to ring the changes with his side four goals up, offering all of Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli and Havertz some rest after largely sticking with his starting line-up from Wednesday night. This was some response. As for Newcastle, the away fans in the corner remained as one despite the scoreline, the 8pm kick-off, and the long return home. They danced in the away end at full-time. By then, substitute and former Gunner Joe Willock had met Dan Burn’s cross to loop a header over Raya, pulling one back. But those away fans deserved much more than this.

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