Arsenal are losing their cool as a Newcastle Test title

Arsenal are losing their cool as a Newcastle Test title

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  • January 4, 2023
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LONDON — Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope made a crucial 87th-minute save from Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah to secure a 0-0 draw between the sides on Tuesday and the Premier League leaders’ 100 percent winning run this season to finish in the Emirates Eddie Howe’s side on their way to Champions League qualification.

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In an even game Arsenal had the better chances of winning but Newcastle showed tenacity and conviction to walk away by a point and hold a record of losing just once in the league all season. And Pope’s save against Nketiah – the England goalkeeper fended off the Arsenal striker by saving with his outstretched left leg – was the game’s pivotal moment.

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Fast reaction

1. Arsenal run out of answers in first real test of title bid

Arsenal dropped points at the Emirates for the first time this season as Newcastle underscored their own strengths with a hard-fought 0-0 draw against the Premier League leaders. And while the result was a huge plus for Newcastle that will fuel belief that they can finish in the top four this season, it was a performance that left us more questions than answers about Arsenal’s hopes of winning their first title of 19 left years.

Mikel Arteta’s side remain at the top of the table – Manchester City can reduce their lead to five points with a win at Chelsea on Thursday – but Arsenal were unable to match on a night when they had 67% possession and created 17 chances break through against Newcastle. They had a lot of flair on the pitch but Arsenal didn’t know how to use it and their inexperience showed in that game.

And that will worry Arteta, who knows tough challenges lie ahead for his team. They’ll face teams that try to frustrate them and pack their defense with eight or nine men behind the ball, so they’ll have to find more solutions than just expecting wingers Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to be the difference all the time make.

With two games against champions City and in-form Manchester United in the Emirates on January 22, Arsenal need to come up with a plan B to win games if they want to clinch the title. They’re still behind the wheel, but it’ll be a long five months before the end of the season.

2. Arteta’s excitement doesn’t help his players

Arteta has done a remarkable job in his three years as Arsenal manager and could clinch their first Premier League title since 2004 this season, but he needs to calm down on the sidelines to help. The Gunners boss is too fiery in his technical area and during that game his excitement spilled over into his players who lost their heads for part of the game and received three bookings in quick succession in the first half.

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It’s a delicate balancing act during a game for any coach. Arteta needs to guide and motivate his players through the 90 minutes, but he sometimes allowed himself to get too angry, both at the officials and at Newcastle’s approach to the game.

At times, Arteta resembled both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho on the sidelines. There were elements of Manchester City boss Guardiola’s constant theatrics, but also the more malicious, snarling parts of Mourinho’s behavior on the touchline.

Not only does Arteta’s behavior convey a negative image to his players, but he also does little to win the favor of officials when he looks them in the face, as he did in the first half with the fourth official and again in added time in the second half when his side pleaded for a penalty. Arteta has brought much-needed passion back to Arsenal on and off the pitch, but now he needs to tone it down and learn to balance it with calm.

3. Newcastle are a real top 4 contender

This time last year Newcastle were second from bottom in the Premier League and faced real prospects of becoming the richest club in the league until Howe dramatically changed fortunes and kept the team out of danger of relegation. The Magpies will be involved in another struggle in the second half of this season but this time the challenge is to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

And the reality is that for the first time since 2003/04, when they were eliminated against Partizan Belgrade in the third qualifying round, they are really in transition to return to the Champions League.

Newcastle’s form this season is no accident. Howe made the team incredibly solid and organised, and he made Miguel Almiron and Joelinton key first-team players when many doubted they were even good enough for the Premier League.

Arsenal had to settle for a frustrating 0-0 draw on Tuesday as Newcastle arrived in north London with an organized and disciplined approach. Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Newcastle were tenacious and determined against Arsenal, but they were also undeterred by the challenge of taking on the leaders, who had won seven out of seven Premier League home games prior to this clash. Howe has made some incredibly smart signings during his time at St James’ Park, including Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes, and more could come during the January window.

Newcastle likely lack the depth and quality to win the title this season but the top four are certainly within their means, particularly with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea all struggling to pull off a challenge.

Player Ratings

Arsenal: Aaron Ramsdale 6; Ben White 7, Gabriel 6, William Saliba 5, Oleksandr Zinchenko 7; Thomas Partey 6, Granit Xhaka 6, Martin Odegaard 7; Bukayo Saka 7, Eddie Nketiah 6, Gabriel Martinelli 6
Substitute: Takehiro Tomiyasu 6

Newcastle: Nick Pope 8; Kieran Trippier 8, Sven Botman 9, Fabian Schar 7, Dan Burn 7; Sean Longstaff 6, Bruno Guimaraes 7, Joelinton 6; Joe Willock 6, Callum Wilson 6, Miguel Almiron 8
Substitutes: Chris Wood (6), Jacob Murphy (6), Allan Saint-Maximin (6).

Best and worst performers

Best Actor: Sven Botman, Newcastle. The Newcastle centre-back was immense in Howe’s team’s defense and it’s unbelievable that Louis van Gaal felt he wasn’t good enough to take the Netherlands to the World Cup.

Worst Performance: William Saliba, Arsenal. The Arsenal defender has been praised for his performances this season but he was the worst performer against Wilson, falling too often on the ground.

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After the game: What the players/coaches said

Howe on Arsenal’s overtime penalty: “Obviously at this stage of the game you’re like, ‘God no, the lads gave so much’ and that would have been a farce for us. I didn’t think it was a penalty but you never know . I’m happy and I and Mikel are fine.”

Arteta on Arsenal’s penalty appeals: “There were two penalties. It’s very simple. I’m speaking from what I saw. They’re two scandalous penalties.”

Key Statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

– Tuesday marked the first time this season Arsenal have been sidelined in the Premier League and only the second in all competitions.

– The last time Newcastle conceded a goal in a competitive match was against Southampton on 6 November, a span spanning 541 minutes.

Next

Arsenal: The Gunners return to action in the FA Cup third round on Monday when they visit Oxford United (3pm ET, stream live on ESPN+).

Newcastle: Also Newcastle are next in the FA Cup but their third-round tie comes on Saturday against Sheffield on Wednesday (1pm ET, live stream on ESPN+).

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