Feature

Newcastle United v Arsenal: Four things we noticed

Granit Xhaka celebrates his goal against Newcastle

We made it three wins in succession on Saturday, thanks to a 2-1 win away at Newcastle United.

Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil became our ninth and 10th goalscorers of the season - but what did we learn from the game?

THE INFLUENCE OF OZIL

Mesut Ozil needed time to get going at St. James’ Park but, when he did, our level soared. Five years and a day after an assist on his debut just down the road at Sunderland, the playmaker stamped his class on his 200th Arsenal match. He played in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the first half with a ball so good that the striker didn’t need to break stride, and he oozed coolness when taking a chance of his own in the second half. Mesut didn’t snatch at that rebound, he kept it low with just enough pace and placement to beat the goalkeeper. The work ethic was there too, including a vital intervention to win the ball and eat up valuable seconds when Newcastle threatened a stoppage-time comeback.


GRANIT’S POWER AND PRECISION

All four of Granit Xhaka’s Premier League goals for us have come from outside the box, but this one was a bit different. The first three were all about power - hence the regular shouts of “Shoot!” from our fans - but this one, his first Arsenal goal direct from a free-kick, needed precision as well. When Aubameyang was fouled 25 yards out you might have expected Ozil to step up, and Lucas Torreira was also in the frame. But Granit made this free-kick his own and gave Martin Dubravka no chance with a perfect curler into the top corner. The goal galvanised Granit too - he looked even stronger and more assertive from that point on.


SOKRATIS LOVES A TACKLE

When we signed Sokratis in the summer some of the words used to describe him were “wholehearted”, “uncompromising” and “no-nonsense”. Put simply, he likes getting stuck in when the opportunity presents itself. Saturday was one of those days and Sokratis didn’t disappoint, with a handful of key interventions stopping Newcastle in their tracks. Jacob Murphy had a two-yard head-start on the Greek defender but Sokratis got back and timed his tackle perfectly. Another crunching challenge on Matt Ritchie caught in the eye at the end of the first half. Sokratis made his presence felt.


UNAI UPPED THE TEMPO

Whatever Unai Emery said to the players at half-time, it worked. We weren’t that sluggish before the break but we certainly weren’t playing with enough intensity to open up Newcastle. That changed as soon as the players emerged from their teamtalk. Lucas Torreira - brought on to add balance to our midfield - was on the front foot immediately, and it was his ball into a dangerous area that provoked the challenge on Aubameyang that won us a free-kick. Granit did the rest and we were in the ascendancy for the rest of the match.

A dominant second-half display was key in our victory at Newcastle

A dominant second-half display was key in our victory at Newcastle