Fresh from our mid-season break, we returned to Premier League action on Sunday and claimed a valuable victory as goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Alex Lacazette saw off a resolute Newcastle side.
Mikel Arteta had spoken in his pre-match media duties of expecting a low block from the visitors, and that’s exactly what we faced during a frustrating first half.
The Magpies were tightly disciplined and positionally aware, keeping chances to a minimum and posing a threat themselves on the counter.
Indeed, they came close to breaking the deadlock when a corner was chipped to the edge of our area for Sean Longstaff to take aim - and with the ball deflecting off Dani Ceballos, Bernd Leno had to react fast to push it around the post.
Gradually we began to find some joy towards the end of the opening 45, with Saka curling one shot just over and Eddie Nketiah having a half-chance, only for Martin Dubravka to save.
We upped the ante after the restart, and within minutes carved out our best opportunity of the game so far as Pepe picked out Nketiah in the box, but the young striker’s shot clipped the bar from close range.
But it mattered not as, less than a minute later, we took the lead when Pepe found Aubameyang at the back post with a searching cross and our top scorer buried his header into the far corner.
The mood inside the Emirates lifted in that instant, and moments later we doubled our advantage as Saka brilliantly nutmegged his marker to get into the area and then picked out Pepe to slam the ball in from close range.
Newcastle came back at us, and David Luiz was called on to make a superb intervention to deflect Ciaran Clark’s close-range effort around the post, before the dangerous Allan Saint-Maximin hit the post with a curling effort not long afterwards.
We wrapped up the scoring in injury time when Pepe fed Alex Lacazette in the box, and the striker turned and found Ozil to poke in from close range.
There was still time for Lacazette to end his scoring drought with a late strike, as we sealed a morale-boosting win to set us up nicely for our trip to Athens later in the week.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
Our Europa League campaign gets back underway on Thursday when we travel to Athens to take on Olympiacos in the first leg of our last-16 tie.
We last faced them back in December 2015, beating them 3-0 in Greece thanks to an Olivier Giroud hat-trick.
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