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It’s not a draw! Arsenal smash Newcastle with second half goal bonanza

Arsenal end pattern of stalemates

16 February, 2020 — By Richard Osley at the Emirates Stadium

FA Premier League
ARSENAL 4 (Aubameyang 54, Pepe 57, Ozil 90, Lacazette 90+5) 

THE ancient script caligraphers stand ready, as the old cliche has it, to ‘rewrite the record books’.

Actually, the bookkeepers probably use a computer now when updating the annals of history but either way Arsenal could soon find themselves on a new scroll as the team who drew the most amount of matches over the course of one season. They have registered 13, the record is 17.

And for much of the first half of Newcastle United’s visit to the Emirates Stadium this afternoon (Sunday), it looked like Mikel Arteta’s team would inch closer to this totem to the ordinary. If anything the Magpies started with more energy as they tried to break through the Arsenal lines with the pace of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin. Their enthusiastic chase rarely had a sensible end product, however.

Arteta started with Eddie Nketiah up front, who spent the first half of the season struggling to get into the Leeds United team after being loaned to the Championship side. Truth be told, he hardly had a touch of the ball in the first half, apart from one swept shot into the hands of keeper Martin Dubravka.

Meanwhile, as if desperate to summon up a further draw, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz exchanged sideways passes at the back of the pitch, in the name of patience, as did Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka in the midfield.

It was sleepily slow, with Pepe and Mesut Ozil struggling to make an impact, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looking underused as he restlessly switched from the left flank to stepping on Nketiah’s toes more centrally.

As they strolled in at half time, it would have taken a jackal of a gambler to predict a free-scoring second half.

And yet the interval refresh did Arsenal the world of good and they came out hunting in packs. Pepe started to get the better of Danny Rose, the former Tottenham Hotspur player was predictably booed but Newcastle’s own fans may have been concerned about the way he was repeatedly beaten for speed.

Unshackled, Pepe helped set up the opening goal ten minutes into the second period when he bought himself the space to deliver an accurate cross to Aubameyang, who dragged the ball down and low and into the corner of the net with a picture book header.

Pepe, who has had a stuttering start to life in an Arsenal shirt this season, claimed a goal of his own just three minutes later, although he had Bukayo Saka’s trickery to thank for the opportunity.

Saka, just 18, unsettled Newcastle all afternoon with his close control and was able to flick and trick his way past two men before providing the ball square to Pepe, who fired past Dubravka. In a flash, the draw specialists for once looked like they were heading to a more decisive conclusion.

Arsenal have of course been two goals up before this season and still contrived to share the points by the final whistle: away at Watford, home to Palace. But this time there was a pulsating energy – dare we say it, an excitement – to their play, which suggested they were determined to score more, rather than concede. A glimpse of how it used to be on this turf.

The man who missed out in a flurry of chances was Nketiah, who fired one effort, slightly behind him, over the bar and dithered with another when released by Pepe. He’ll be disappointed he did not make more of this chance deployed as the attack’s spearhead point.

Newcastle’s best opening came when Saint-Maximin produced his party piece: a dribble-dash towards the defence which had the back four capsizing. Once he had sight of goal, however, he curled his shot against the post. Bernd Leno was heading for a warming clean sheet in the Arsenal goal.

At the other end, Alexandre Lacazette was given six minutes as a substitute and looked keen to prove a point, having been overlooked for Nketiah. He could claim a rather unintentional assist late on when he helped Pepe’s pass onto Mesut Ozil, whose weak shot was helped into the goal by Dubravka’s sloppiness for 3-0.

And there was still was time for Lacazette to have a moment to himself when he scored from close range with virtually the last kick of the match. He slid to the floor, over by the corner flag, with a Hollywood style celebration, the left-out striker suddenly ‘rewriting’ the finale, claiming redemption, that kind of thing.

“We talked about turning draws into wins and those margins that we could improve to translate into more points,” said Arteta afterwards, well aware of how the draws have been stacking up.

“It was going to be very important after the break, first game at home to start to gain confidence and getting a result like we have done today, I’m very pleased with that.”

ARSENAL: Leno, Bellerin, Saka, Luiz, Mustafi, Xhaka, Ceballos (Torreira 82), Ozil (Willock (90+1), Pepe, Aubameyang, Nketiah (Lacazette 85)
SUBS NOT USED: Kolasinac, Martinelli, Martinez, Sokratis

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka, Lazaro (Hayden 74), Rose, Fernandez (Ritchie 75), Clark (Schar 83), Lascelles, Bentaleb, Longstaff S, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton
SUBS NOT USED: Atsu, Darlow, Lejeune, Longstaff M

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