Football News

“It could be the difference” – Gary Neville highlights Arsenal’s problem as Gunners suffer Premier League first

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:57, 3 January 2023

Gary Neville believes Arsenal were left lamenting their lack of striker as they were held to a goalless draw by Newcastle United on Tuesday night.

The Gunners moved eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table but they will have hoped for it to be more, taking on one of their title challengers before Manchester City face Chelsea.

It’s been an almost perfect season for Arsenal on the pitch, with points dropped in just there of their 17 Premier League matches, and with each passing week they look increasingly likely to win the title – even at this early stage. But problems off the pitch have threatened to derail their campaign.

The problems we’re talking about, of course, are injuries. Sure, they can happen on the pitch and their impact is on the pitch but it’s mostly down to luck, nothing that Mikel Arteta has any control over. The most severe example of this was Gabriel Jesus’ injury which has ruled him out for quite some time, picked up while on international duty at the World Cup with Brazil.

For many, the injury to Jesus could have been the turning point of Arsenal’s season, when their title challenge started to unravel. Some fears were eased in the first two games back after the World Cup has Arsenal scored seven goals, beating West Ham 3-1 and Brighton 4-2

But Neville still wasn’t convinced.

“I think Arsenal do have to go big to get a striker, to give Mikel Arteta the chance of winning the league,” he told Sky Sports before the game.

“Arsenal have got a chance, a small chance of winning the league, I think if they go big on a striker and get one it could be the difference.”

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Once again Eddie Nketiah was the man to lead the line for Arsenal against Newcastle, having scored in both wins over West Ham and Brighton, and he did suffer some frustration in front of goal. It took Nketiah until the 87th minute to get his first shot of the goal and possibly Arsenal’s best chance, forcing a very good save from the impressive Pope.

Just over a minute later, Nketiah had another shot on target recorded, though this one was a glancing header that wouldn’t have troubled even the most out of form shot-stopper. But that’s not to say Nketiah had a bad game. His linkup play was good and he worked hard high up the pitch, with six touches in the opposition both and four duels won.

Instead, his failure to get the chances came down to Newcastle’s wonderful defending, with Pope keeping his sixth consecutive clean sheet across all competitions.

During the game, Neville echoed his pre-match comments, adding: “If you thought before the game that Arsenal needed a striker, you’d certainly be thinking it now.

“Not that Nketiah hasn’t contributed and done well in the game, but there just isn’t really that option really. To make Arsenal a lot better is the striking position, they’ve got what they’ve got.”

Newcastle’s rearguard saw Arsenal fail to score for the first time in the Premier League this season, restricting them to just four shots on target from 17 overall attempts. And for the Magpies, their own unbeaten run in the Premier League has stretched to 13 games, testament to the work being done by Eddie Howe.