Thursday, April 18, 2024
spot_img

Arsenal’s dominance is becoming the norm in the Premier League as Gunners brush aside Newcastle with ease

LONDON — They take great care of their carpet at the Emirates Stadium. Not a blade of grass can be out of play when Arsenal take to the field, their technical excellence demanding the best facilities beneath their feet. When Mikel Arteta’s side kick off at home you know that there is little if anything the ground staff can do to improve the field.

All of which is to prompt the question, why were any of them wasting their half time with pruning the area around what had been the Arsenal goal? That was virgin territory, unspoiled by Newcastle boots. Eddie Howe’s side had made the 280 mile trip to the Holloway Road but the 96 yards to the penalty area was an odyssey too far.

By pressing sign up, I confirm that I have read and agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge Paramount’s Privacy Policy.

Please check the opt-in box to acknowledge that you would like to subscribe.

Thanks for signing up!

Keep an eye on your inbox.

Sorry!

There was an error processing your subscription.

Not for the first time this season, Arsenal reached the half time interval with the prospect of them pitching a defensive no-hitter extremely live. No one in black and white had had a shot, only Miguel Almiron had managed a touch in the attacking penalty area. Had he done anything of note with it then an offside would have been called. This was Arsenal’s dominance in microcosm. Only by operating outside the laws of the game could their opponents actually test them in a first half that still might not be the best Mikel Arteta’s side have delivered this season (certainly if it wasn’t for ‘that moment’ against Liverpool it would not even be close).

Come the second half Arsenal rather took their boot off the Newcastle throat, even allowing Anthony Gordon to blemish another shotless game when he bent one at Raya in the 49th minute. There were even moments after the break when this approximated a contest, the intensity easing to such an extent that Arteta felt compelled to give Jakub Kiwior a bit of a rollicking for not following his man. Newcastle ended this game with only the third Premier League goal Arsenal have conceded in 2024, though the diffidence with which Joe Willock’s third man run was tracked rather suggested former teammates keen to do him a solid.

When Arsenal wanted to up the pressure, though, Newcastle collapsed. Like a hydraulic press on a mound of gummy bears, Newcastle felt a steady, irrepressible building of pressure until any semblance of meaningful structure had been obliterated. Bruno Guimaraes could pass the ball out of play and hurl himself to the deck unprompted, but still there was no way of escaping the mass of steel bearing down on him.

“Individually today we were outstanding,” said Arteta. “We raised the bar at the end because Newcastle are a top side who are really well coached. It’s really difficult to do what we done today and make them suffer like we’ve done, so credit to the boys.

“We’re in a good moment. Players are performing individually, it is not any secret. Things are flowing. We’re scoring goals in different ways and especially we want more. When we score one, we want two, or three, or four. I love that mentality from the team.”

This was perhaps the best Arsenal have ever pressed in a game. Martin Odegaard and Kai Havertz were the tyros in chief while neither Bukayo Saka nor Gabriel Martinelli were easily bypassed down the flanks. In the early exchanges Newcastle looked to break out from wide areas, their wingers dropping deep to give and go with a midfielder before charging away. Declan Rice soon saw to that. Lurking as something of a free safety behind the first line of the press, Rice’s gravitational field dragged Newcastle towards him. Within 20 minutes he had won possession in the final third on three occasions. Havertz had matched him by the 37th minute.

When Arsenal got the ball back they were perhaps not as razor sharp as they had been in victories over West Ham and Burnley. They did not need to be. Newcastle lived up to their billing as the Premier League’s worst defense since these two sides last met. It ought to be a tricky task to have nine or more men defending your own third and somehow leave chasms of space to be exploited. Not for Newcastle.

Jorginho could amble into the final third without so much as an interested bystander moving in his direction, lobbing a pass into the gaps behind a line that was much too high for a team that had long since abandoned their press. Kieran Trippier didn’t track Gabriel Martinelli nor did he pick up Kai Havertz, on hand to turn in the Brazilian’s cutback for his second goal in as many Premier League games.

He has a long way to go to catch Saka, who became the first Arsenal player in nine years to score in five straight Premier League games. So dangerous has he been in 2024 that you could rather understand why young Tino Livramento seemed to have no idea where to send the Arsenal No.7. Picking the ball up on the right corner of the box, he initially shaped to head to the byline, at which stage his full back might have had replays of Saka’s thunderous drive over James Trafford last week. Letting him onto his left foot was hardly a better idea though, the ball bending beyond Loris Karius and the diffident clearing leg of Fabian Schar.

Schar’s misery had company. Livramento and Trippier had been roasted by their attackers while Sven Botman ended up with an own goal after turning in the first of Arsenal’s two set piece goals. These were less carefully constructed moves by Nicolas Jover, more tall boys to the front, Jakub Kiwior flicking in his second of the season to end the rout. Whether the Gunners run pick and rolls and screening runs or just jump higher, few teams can find an answer. Even Newcastle, so often a physical match in recent tempestuous encounters, were overpowered. Asked just what the problem is, Howe labelled it “a mixture of good delivery and players who want to attack the ball. To combat that you have to be really aggressive aerially. We didn’t do that well enough today. We’re really disappointed with the goals. We knew they were coming. We should have done better.”

Arsenal’s 2024 Premier League return now looks awe-inspiring, starting with the headline 18 points from 18. The deeper you dig, the more impressive it gets: 25 goals scored, three conceded, 16.3 expected goals (xG), 1.88 xG allowed. I promise you, the bubbles below are sized by xG value.

export-56.png

Shots faced by Arsenal in Premier League matches since the start of 2024 TruMedia

It is somehow getting better. Alexander Isak and company got away three efforts worth 0.16 xG. Even in Newcastle’s slump they have carried some sort of threat on the opposition goal. As a response to their clumsy defeat in Porto on Wednesday this was as good as it could get, a team pulverizing their opposition in every facet of the contest. Evidently these players knew they had failed to reach their collective level on their return to the Champions League knockout stages. On Saturday night they strode beyond it… as they have done in so many domestic matches of late.

This level can’t last. You don’t get to combine a four goal a game attack with Thomas Tuchel-at-Chelsea, Champions League winner, defensive metrics for four months. Then again Arsenal can get a fair bit worse in attack and defense while still having more than enough in the tank to brush aside teams as ordinary as Newcastle. If they can only keep this going until they arrive at the Etihad in five weeks’ time, there is no reason why they cannot bend this title race in their direction.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.