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One Step Back

Newcastle are back at St James Park in a clash against struggling so called European Super League opponents Arsenal. A win for the Magpies would see them all but safe in the Premier League with Fulham dropping even more points at Stamford Bridge Yesterday losing 2-0 to Chelsea with goals from Kai Havertz. So a win today would see Bruce's lads go a massive twelve points clear of the drop and although that would not mean we are mathematically safe, it would mean Fulham would need to pull off something very special to catch the Toon. Steve Bruce has stuck with the wing back formation keeping Dubravka between the sticks. Murphy makes another start on the right alongside the ever passionate Matt Ritchie on the left. The center backs remain unchanged from the draw at Liverpool with Fernandez, Clark and Dummett protecting the Keeper. Ahead of the five are Almiron, Sean Longstaff and Jonjo Shelvey. And for the first time since the abundance of injuries Saint-Maximin and Wilson both start together, dropping Joelinton to the bench. Does Joelinton deserve to be dropped? That's an article for another day as his performances, especially of late are open to interpretation.

 

Five minutes in and it is a disastrous starts for United as Luiz plays Bellerin down the right hand side, Bellerin played the ball into the box for Aubameyang who miss hit the ball, going backwards Elneny saw his opportunity to strike, and strike he did, first time volley from outside of the area to pick up his first goal for the Gunners. 1-0.

Three minutes later Newcastle sought to go forward for the first time in the game with Saint-Maximin driving forward at the Arsenal defense, Saint-Maximin played the ball to Ritchie who drilled the ball into the box but the Arsenal Keeper Matt Ryan got down to hold onto the cross.


Thirteen minutes in and Martinelli did well to get past Murphy to cut the ball back to Aubameyang but his shot went wide.


Five Minutes later Ritchie picked out Saint-Maximin on the edge of the are, the enigmatic Frenchmen dummied two defenders to get a shot away but the shot was miss hit, still Ryan had to make the save as the ball dipped down heading for goal.


Allan Saint-Maximin brought with him his box of tricks as he got the better of Granit Xhaka chipping the ball over his head and then back heeling it to Murphy, Xhaka clipped ASM's heels and pick up a yellow card for the infringement.

In the 28th minute Martin Dubravka pulled off a fine save to deny Xhaka's thunderous strike from just inside of the area, Dubravka's parry put the ball out for a corner which is swung in to the box for Elneny who managed to pull away from Fernandez to get the header, the header was going in but Almiron was there on the line to head the ball away.


thirty-seven minutes in and Arsenal had another corner for Newcastle to deal with. Luiz made the run inside of the area getting away from Clark this time, and get his header towards the far post, this time denied by Wilson. Half Time 1-0.

 

On the hour mark Saint-Maximin tried to get Newcastle up the pitch when he gets his foot onto a clearance, touching the ball and getting away from Chambers who came on for David Luiz who had gone off with an hamstring injury. ASM picked up the ball and drove towards goal but Chambers got back to force Saint-Maximin into an early pass where he failed to play the ball behind the defense for Wilson.

But three minutes late Arsenal came back with another attack when Odegaard swung the ball into the box for Gabriel who gets too much power onto the ball and headed it over the bar.


Another three minutes went by and Aubameyang keeping to tradition got his goal against the Mags. Martinelli found space on the left hand side and whipped in the ball to find Aubameyang who produced and acrobatic maneuver to reach the ball and touch the ball into the back of the net. Newcastle once tried to sign Aubameyang from Wolfsberg back in 2012 but Aubameyang chose to sign for Borussia Dortmund instead. It would have been nice to have had him on our side at St James Park. 2-0.

Arsenal had this game in control, and they passed the ball around conservatively but in the 80th minute Longstaff's quick free-kick found Murphy who picked out Joelinton who came on alongside the return of Fabien Schar after missing ten games through an injury. The ball came off Joelinton to find Shelvey who had a go from distance but his shot was blocked.


Arsenal carried on their conservative approach whilst maintaining control of the game but the Mags had spells of going forward with Ritchie crossing the ball into the box but the big Aussie was there again to pick it out of the air. Matt Ryan hasn't had a lot to do but he has commanded his area extremely well, often sometimes playing as an extra defender giving Arsenal options outside of the box. Thus was the lack of pressure on the Gunners by the Toon.


As mentioned above Fabian Schar had returned from injury coming off the bench to make his fort appearance in ten games. But a moment of madness from the Swiss international saw Schar receive a red card in the 90th minute from a challenge from behind taking out Martinelli with no true malice it must be said. The challenge was late and rather reckless and a sending off was justified, but only just, a yellow card would also had sufficed.

Four minutes were added on but Newcastle couldn't get in on goal and Arsenal weren't interested on going for a third. Arsenal were happy to play it out after confirming all three points. Full Time: Newcastle United 0-2 Arsenal.


Given the recent run of form this was a disappointing display for Steve Bruce's side. Some individual players showed spells of tenacity such as Saint-Maximin, Ritchie and for me even Joelinton when he came on. Big Joe went out to muscle that defense who for the most part had our starting attacker beat for physicality. In my opinion we saw another display of inconsistent refereeing with Schar's sending off. It's not that I don't think the red was justified but Xhaka picked up a yellow in a challenge on ASM and then later on made a blatant foul on Jacob Murphy which warranted a second yellow that wasn't given. I can't blame Bruce for going with that formation but Arsenal were more up for this game. Their European ambition was stronger than our will to clinch survival sadly. But as Bruce would say we need to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down for the game against Leicester on Friday night.


By Sam West

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