Arsenal stumble at penultimate hurdle

Arsenal never looked like winning this.

Tiredness – both mental and physical along with injuries took their toll pre-match.

And again, reserve defenders weren’t up to it. The first crucial goal came from a Tavares (in for Tierney) foul throw with the ball finding Joelinton chased by Elneny (in for Partey).

Is it Emery and Crystal Palace all over again?

Granit Xhaka: “We need people to have the balls to come here and play.”

Arteta was in the team which won a Champions League spot in the final game of the 2012-13 season. And he hadn’t lost against Newcastle as player or manager.

But Arsenal have a habit of going on losing streaks – in twos and threes (now four times over the season). Cambridge United and Liverpool were the only sides to win at Newcastle’s home since Eddie Howe took over.

Gabriel and White, who didn’t look 100%, were back together, Smith Rowe was in for Martinelli.

Newcastle had not scored against Arsenal in six.  Schar was in for Lascelles and Calum Wilson was back leading the line.

Besides having a carbon fest of a last game of the season party, it was in Newcastle’s interest to stop Arsenal’s Champions League pursuit as they are going for the same players in the forthcoming window with their new fuelled wealth. Guimaraes – an example. They can afford to spend more than Arsenal on wages.

For Arsenal the small squad and decisions in the winter window, with adequate replacements not brought in and players like Maitland Niles and Calum Chambers let go, came back to haunt.

I can’t remember when Arsenal lost it so much in midfield.

A portent of things to come was when Wilson ran onto a ball on the left and White was booked for bringing him down.

Arsenal stood off and let Newcastle form attacks in the first 15. They were very nervy.

On 20 Saka and Odegaard linked up and a Saka shot was deflected by Big Burn. Three minutes later, Saka cut inside and let fly but saved by Dubravka. And soon after, Nketiah was away potentially one on one, but Schar ran back and cleared.

Newcastle won the ball back well. Arsenal looked hung over from Spurs. But Gabriel was showing leadership qualities shouting at his colleagues.

Half time and there was little improvement after. Newcastle dominated the middle of the park.

Following a foul throw by Tavares, the ball was switched to the left and Joelinton who ran and crossed and with Calum Wilson behind him, White dived to clear but diverted into Ramsdale’s net.

Arsenal have lost all Premiership away games when conceding first this season.

Saka and Martinelli had wild shots and crosses respectively and Elneny had a swerving shot on target.

Pepe came on for Gabriel and gave a ball away leading to a two on one with Fraser setting up Murphy and the Ivorian then sent over a ridiculous cross which went out of play.

Odegaard and Saka had shots in the area, but Newcastle bodies threw themselves at any sign of danger.

White didn’t clear a cross property and it ran out to Longstaff who dinked it to Wilson who shot. Ramsdale’s save rebounded to Guimaraes who found the space on the goal-line and into the net.

Ramsdale saved another 3-0 defeat with another good one-handed save towards the end.

Mikel Arteta said: “It is a difficult night to swallow. Newcastle were better than us. We had nothing. They were better in every departtment, duels and the second ball. We were poor with the ball.

“We were using subs through injuries but Newcastle were better than us.

“I have to think about the fact we couldn’t cope with the game we had to play here. We changed things – but it didn’t make it better. The execution was poor, and we gave it away.

“We know where the first goal came from (a foul throw).

“I told players this is nowhere near the performance we wanted.

“I am incredibly disappointed. We weren’t at the races.

“A lot has happened with the squad with the amount of injuries.”

Xhaka said: “It is difficult to find the right words. From the first minute – we didn’t deserve to be on the pitch. I don’t know – I can’t explain why. We were not listening to the coach. It was a disastrous performance. We don’t deserve to play in the Champions League or Europa League.”

He said it is not an age thing, but “If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home. It doesn’t matter the age. If you’re not ready or you’re nervous, stay on the bench, stay at home, don’t come here. We need people to have the balls to come here and play. We knew this game was maybe the most important for us but, with a performance like this, it’s not acceptable.”

Eddie Howe said: “It was a brilliant all-round performance – played with intensity and never let up. We played a high press to make the game difficult for Arsenal.

“I saw a team comfortable in possession. We knew that they had injury concerns, so we wanted to make it a quick game.”

Premier League: Newcastle 2 Arsenal 0

Newcastle: 1Dúbravka, 17Krafth, 5Schär (Substituted for Lascelles at 49’minutes), 33Burn, 13Targett, 36S Longstaff, 39Guimarães, Rodriguez Moura, 7Joelinton, 24Almirón (Substituted for Murphy at 76’minutes), 9Wilson (Substituted for Gayle at 90+4’minutes),10Saint-Maximin (Substituted for Fraser at 77’minutes),

Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 18Tomiyasu (Substituted for Cédric Soares at 39’minutes), 4White (Booked at 8mins), 6Gabriel (Substituted for Pépé at 73’minutes), 20Tavares (Substituted for Lacazette at 62’minutes, booked at 90mins), 25Elneny, 34Xhaka (Booked at 90mins), 7Saka, 8Ødegaard, 10Smith Rowe Substituted for Martinelli at 53’minutes), 30Nketiah (Booked at 46mins)