In a fun night at the Emirates, Arsenal beat Newcastle United 2-0.
The win takes Arsenal into 3rd for the first time in over two years. What did we learn?
1. Aaron Ramsey’s fantastic farewell tour
Did Unai Emery want Aaron Ramsey to leave Arsenal? It’s hard to believe that he could have done. The Welshman is almost perfect for Unai Emery’s style of play, like Ever Banega but with more legs. Contract issues meant it made more sense to play others, but Emery has often turned to Ramsey and increasingly one can see why.
So Ramsey will leave Arsenal after a decade at the Emirates, and that will be a tremendous shame because, as he showed against Newcastle, he is the beating heart of the Gunners’ midfield. The Magpies simply couldn’t live with his dynamic movement from midfield and his intelligent use of the ball. His delightful flick started the move for the first goal and his gorgeously measured left-foot finish ended it.
Ramsey is leaving in the summer but he’s making sure that he leaves the Arsenal faithful with nothing but good memories. Can he sign out in style and help them win the Europa League? As long as the knock which forced him off tonight isn’t serious, you wouldn’t bet against it.
2. Newcastle need more
It must be very frustrating being Rafa Benitez because you can coach your team almost perfectly and still end up on the end of a beating like the one Arsenal dished out at the Emirates. It’s not that Newcastle were thoroughly blown away, but there was never really the sensation that the Magpies could get something from the game.
There was just no real threat in their play. And that wasn’t even the fault of their forwards, Miguel Almiron can only do so much. When the out-balls to them are panicked and hurried, then even on the break they will struggle to hurt teams. What Newcastle need is some midfielders who can pass the ball under pressure, so that the Magpies can play proper counter-attacking football.
3. Matt Ritchie hates joy
As the first half drew to a close, Arsenal put together what can only be described as a masterpiece of an attack. A clearance found Alex Iwobi on the half-way line, and he held the ball up well allowing Sead Kolasinac to race by him on the overlap. An Iwobi backheel found the Bosnian who first-time slipped it infield to the charging Ramsey who took a couple of touches, advancing closer to the Newcastle box before faking a shot before sliding a pass through into the box to Mesut Ozil.
The German took stock of the situation and calmly flicked the ball back to Kolasinac who, with Newcastle defenders piling onto the edge of the six yard box, pulled the ball back to around the penalty spot where Alexandre Lacazette raced back, took a touch that popped the ball up in the air and then, without adjusting his feet he whipped his body around the ball and lashed it towards the goal. Two-ni—no! Matt Ritchie had backed up onto the goal-line and headed it away!
A goal of the season contender ruled out because a defender did his job. Why do you hate joy, Matt Ritchie? Why?
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4. Aubazette can fire Arsenal to glory
There’s many things to like about Unai Emery’s Arsenal but the main thing has to be just how dangerous they are when he combined Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It’s clear Emery’s preference is to start just one of them at the head of the side, but he will nearly always end up shifting system and unleashing them in tandem in the second half.
The pair are great friends and their on-pitch chemistry is off the charts. They tried to link up on several occasions after Aubameyang came off the bench, before finally getting it right in a move so audacious that it could have only been done between these two. Lacazette mishits a pass into Aubameyang, looping the ball high into the air. The Gabon international made lemonade, however, jumping up and heading the ball behind the Newcastle defence for Lacazette to run on and gorgeously lift the ball over Martin Dubravka into the goal.
It was a sumptuous finish that showed how dangerous these two are. Just when Newcastle were getting a bit of momentum, these two top-class strikers showed up and blew them away. Everything after the second goal was a mad procession to get a third, with only Arsenal’s overeagerness stopping them from making it 3-0. These strikers are serious business and they can fire Arsenal to greatness.
5. Emery is just getting started
Unai Emery hasn’t yet finished his first season but he’s already got his side organised, looking sharp and competent in defence in a way they haven’t in forever. He’s identified a style of play and has his team mostly in tune with what he wants. The full-backs are flying faster than they have in years and producing at a frankly outrageous level.
The midfield is tenacious, Lucas Torreira is showing that he has the potential to dominate the entire division and Matteo Guendouzi is a promising young talent. In attack even though Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey have had selection issues, the team have looked really fluid with Alex Iwobi stepping up in a big bad way.
And Arsenal are just getting adapted to Emery, too. There’s so much more that they can do under the Spaniard. They’ll be wanting to win more away from home (especially as it will be key to them qualifying for next season’s Champions League), they’ll want a centre-back in the summer transfer window and a creative midfielder to replace Ramsey, and should they get those pieces then you can expect Arsenal to be even better next season, which is a potentially worrying prospect for Arsenal’s opponents.