Arsenal vs Newcastle: Five things we learned as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli fire Gunners to win

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle: Hosts earn fourth straight home win as Eddie Howe’s side remain bottom of the Premier League

Jamie Braidwood
Saturday 27 November 2021 14:46

Arsenal returned to winning ways in the Premier League as goals from Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli helped them to a 2-0 win over Newcastle United, who remain without a win this season.

Martin Odegaard forced a good save from Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka to deny a free kick early on, but that was then bettered by Arsenal counterpart Aaron Ramsdale who produced an brilliant stop to tip Jonjo Shelvey’s curler onto the crossbar midway through the first half.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a sitter from two yards, striking the outside of the post, after Dubravka saved Emile Smith Rowe’s header, as Arsenal went into half time frustrated.

Saka’s drilled finish from the angle in the 56th minute opened the scoring before Martinelli came off the bench to execute a brilliant first-time volley 10 minutes later, as an insipid Newcastle side failed to offer a fight back.

Here are five things we learned...

Bukayo Saka sparks Arsenal response

After Arsenal’s unbeaten run was smashed into pieces by Liverpool last weekend, the pressure was on Mikel Arteta’s team to get back to winning ways at home to the Premier League’s bottom side.

They got off to slow start, but Arsenal showed enough attacking spirit in the second half to earn an important win which moves Arteta’s side closer to the top four ahead of a tricky run of fixtures.

It came after an uninspired opening period, in which a subdued Emirates reflected a flat first-half Gunners performance. The home fans were waiting for their side to provide the first spark, but it soon became clear that Newcastle would not be so allowing as they set up behind the ball looking to frustrate Arteta’s side.

Arsenal were still able to create a couple of clear chances, none more presentable than the chance Aubameyang missed from two yards, but the fact that a lot of the hosts attacks ended in speculative shots from their full-backs suggested that not everything was going to plan.

The difference, after half time, was down to Saka, who was Arsenal’s outstanding player at the Emirates. The 20-year-old was usually involved when Arsenal cut through Newcastle and he appeared to take it on himself to drift infield and combine with Smith Rowe, which was when Arsenal were at their most fluent.

That was the case for Arsenal’s opening goal, as Saka ghosted over to Smith Rowe’s left side and quickly exchanged passes with him and Tavares before finishing past Dubravka shortly before the hour.

Arsenal have now won four consecutive games at the Emirates, and although this wasn’t a classic, Arteta will be pleased that home wins such as this one are becoming regular again.

Arsenal suffer Saka blow but Martinelli offers hope

Shortly after Saka scored his second Premier League goal of the season to give his team the lead, Arsenal were dealt a blow as the star forward pulled up with an apparent muscle injury.

For some reason, Saka was told that he could try and run off the problem but the 20-year-old could barely walk before he came off for Martinelli midway through the second half.

Arsenal will be sweating that Saka has not picked up a significant injury ahead of what is the busiest spell of the season for Arteta’s side.

Starting with a trip to Old Trafford on Thursday 2 December, Arsenal face Manchester United, Everton, Southampton and West Ham in the space of 14 days, with the matches against United and West Ham potentially crucial in their bid to push for the top four.

Nicolas Pepe’s return to full fitness has therefore come at an important time, but Martinelli will also now be pushing for more involvement over the next couple of weeks thanks to his brilliant second-half finish.

The talented Brazilian has seen his progress stalled by injuries over the past couple of seasons but his wonderful finish from Takehiro Tomiyasu’s clever pass over the top was a reminder of his considerable ability. The question now is whether he is given the chance to show that if Saka is ruled out ahead of the trip to Old Trafford.

Newcastle return to defensive approach under Howe

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle reign began with an entertaining 3-3 draw against Brentford last weekend, in which the Magpies changed their approach from the days of former boss Steve Bruce and were much more positive in possession.

It came at a price, however, as it left their defence exposed, so for Howe’s first match on the touchline, Newcastle reverted to type and were considerably more disciplined in their shape at the Emirates.

Howe has a reputation for being a progressive, attacking coach but Newcastle’s approach against Arsenal suggests the former Bournemouth boss prepared to sacrifice some of his principles in the short term in order to get Newcastle out of their predicament at the bottom of the table.

It’s ironic, of course, that a key reason for the Newcastle faithful’s dislike of Bruce was down to his defensive style of play, only for the heralded Howe to deploy a similar strategy away to one of the top sides in the Premier League.

While Newcastle had a couple of decent moments on the break in the first half, the visitors were thoroughly outplayed once Arsenal clicked into gear in the second half, as Howe’s defensive plan backfired.

Newcastle simply did not look like a side who were scrapping for points at the bottom of the Premier League - and the scale of the task facing Howe was made clear with the ease at which Arsenal were able to pull away.

Of course, the January transfer market will be vital to their survival hopes, but Howe desperately needs to settle upon a plan that is going to win Newcastle some points until then.

Tavares puzzles after Arteta shows faith

Arsenal left back Nuno Tavares had a tough evening at Anfield last weekend and was responsible in conceding possession for Liverpool’s second goal in the 4-0 defeat, but Arteta showed faith in the Portuguese by keeping him in his starting eleven.

With Kieran Tierney returning to full fitness, Tavares needed a statement performance to erase any of the doubts and solidify his place in Arteta’s plans.

He certainly caught the eye. A lovely pass to Saka saw him pick up a crucial assist for his team, but there were also plenty of moments which will surely leave Arteta opting for Tierney ahead of the trip to Old Trafford on Thursday night.

Although he was one of Arsenal’s better outlets, picking up some decent positions and channels on the left wing, Tavares was wasteful and his decision-making was a source of considerable frustration among the Arsenal fans.

The 21-year-old chose to shoot from ambitious range on three occasions - which is probably three times too many - with the end result being the same in all three instances: slashed wildly into the stands.

Tavares didn’t have too much to do defensively, but he did dive into a challenge on Callum Wilson as Newcastle broke forward, which led to Shelvey’s shot that needed to be helped onto the crossbar by Ramsdale.

He redeemed himself with the assist, but Tierney is by far a more reliable option and it would be a mistake to leave him out ahead of the trip to Old Trafford.

Dubravka and Ramsdale stand out in goalkeeper battle

A damp first half at the Emirates was saved by an entertaining duel between the two starting goalkeepers, with both Arsenal’s Ramsdale and Newcastle’s Dubravka producing notable saves to keep the scores level.

While Ramsdale was simply adding another signature flying stop to his expanding collection, Dubravka’s display came at an important time both for him personally and for Newcastle as a whole.

The most notable change of Howe’s second match in charge was the Newcastle manager’s decision to change his goalkeeper, with Dubravka handed his first Premier League start of the season in place of Karl Darlow.

Dubravka was eventually beaten in the second half, with Saka drilling a shot low to his left and Martinelli lofting the ball over him for the second, but his return is a positive for Howe and it surely makes him first choice ahead of the often erratic Darlow.

As for Ramsdale, his stock continues to grow following another clean sheet.

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