(Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Well, that was certainly a refreshing win. A confident victory, a game we dominated from the first whistle and we got our rewards in the ends. Here’s four things I noticed from the win against Newcastle..
1. Aubameyang gets his goals!
After missing a tap-in during the first half, Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made up for his error in the second 45′, scoring not once but twice to secure the win for Arsenal. The Gabonese goalscorer has come under vast criticism from Arsenal fans, myself included, recently due to a combination of poor finishing and overall disappointing performances- but today showed that he still has what it takes to get back to his best. His first goal what exactly what we were accustomed to with the Aubameyang we know and love; driving with the ball from the left, cutting inside and getting the shot away. It was nothing less than a magnificent goal. His second, while simpler, was another stereotypical goal from Aubameyang. He found space in the box to convert from close range into a half open net. Much better from our captain in that second half. He needs to use this brace as the confidence to get back to his best!
2. Emile Smith Rowe saves us again.
I came across the most amazing stat today after the game, thanks to @Orbinho on Twitter. Since he made his first start against Chelsea, only Bruno Fernandes (12) has created more chances from open play than Emile Smith Rowe (10) in the Premier League. These incredible numbers only begin to show how good he has been in recent weeks, and this game too. For me, Smith Rowe was Man of the Match. He was bright in the first half, provided a constant threat throughout the game and coined off a great performances with a lovely combination play to assist Bukayo Saka. Emile Smith Rowe created more chances (4) than any other player during his time on the pitch, as many as the entire Newcastle team combined. No Arsenal player has created more in a Premier League game this season. (Squawka). He has a goal or assist every 80 minutes in an Arsenal shirt this season. Not only does he get involved with the goals, he also offers so much to the team in terms of build up play. Absolutely unstoppable right now.
3. Our defensive record gets better!
With yet another defensive shutdown, we have extended our run of clean sheets to five games in a row, the first time Arsenal have done so in almost 12 years. That is a statistic that accurately reflects just how defensively good we have been recently. Our backline was so defensively secure that Bernd Leno practically had the evening off. Newcastle had just one shot on target, and a relatively comfortable save for Leno it was. In our last six games in all competitions, we have faced just 13 shots on target- an average of just over 2 per game. That’s 1 shot on target against us per half of football played. We’re really starting to see our defence go from strength to strength under Arteta. Cedric, while it seemed an odd pick, proved why he had been given the opportunity to start. He was secure and steady at the back, whilst having a greater end product than what we have seen from Bellerin of late. Kieran Tierney was as consistent as ever- and had a quietly strong performance. That’s what you are guaranteed with Tierney. He won’t always grab the headlines, but he’ll never drop less than a 7/10. Good from him, especially coming straight back from his muscle tightness. While I don’t view Luiz-Holding to be our long-term centre back partnership, they played well again today- and coped well with the challenge of two imposing strikers playing up top against them.
4. It’s Partey time!
After sustaining a reoccurring injury against Sp*rs in early December, Thomas Partey made his first league start since returning. And, to put it quite simply, he did not disappoint. In 66 minutes against Newcastle, he had a 95% pass accuracy, 9 ball recoveries, 3 interceptions and 67 touches. But not only was Partey defensively solid, he offered us lots going forward- his two chances created were topped off with an excellent assist to put Aubameyang in for the first goal. What strikes me about Partey is just how well-rounded he is. Not only can he do everything you require of a modern day midfielder, but the standard to which he does it is phenomenal. I am struggling to think of five midfielders with a greater breadth of ability in all of Europe. He is, for me, undeniably a world class footballer. Between Partey and his midfield accomplice Granit Xhaka, I saw a very respectable midfield pivot- greater than any we have seen in recent times. This will only get better as they improve their understanding of one another in coming months, and it excites me to see where this duo will be in the short, and long-term. Some very positive signs.
Overall, this was a great win for the team. The three points, three goals and yet another clean sheet. A successful day in the office! We look now to the next round of the FA Cup this weekend!
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