Football Features

“Maitland-Niles lasers the ball perfectly” – Winners & losers from Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 16:12, 11 August 2019

On a rainy afternoon in the North East, Arsenal beat Newcastle 0-1.

The game was far from thrill-a-minute but nevertheless provided us with some exciting and interesting moments. Who were the winners and losers? Read on.

Winner: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

It’s been a heady start to the season for goalscorers. Mohamed Salah scored opening night, Harry Kane bagged a brace yesterday and of course Raheem Sterling struck a lunch-time hat-trick as Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus also got on the action. So Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang knew he had to get a goal to try and keep pace.

And despite playing with a ramshackle Arsenal XI featuring none of the new signings away in a hostile ground against a largely organised defence, that’s exactly what he did. The Gabonese striker was admittedly in a figurative ocean of space when he got the ball from Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but his first-touch was soft as a baby’s skin and the gorgeous flicked finish looked absurdly easy when it was anything but.

A game-winning goal to start the season. Auba is underway!

Loser: Newcastle’s defence

Obviously Newcastle only conceding one goal against Arsenal, and hardly facing a barrage of shots besides, is pretty good. Overall the Magpies back-line held together nicely, until the key moment that it didn’t. And no matter how well they defended in general the fact is at the key moment, for Aubameyang’s goal, Newcastle’s defence fell apart.

It began with Paul Dummett underhitting a pass out onto the flank. The Englishman seemingly had no awareness that Ainsley Maitland-Niles was waiting to pounce even though, y’know, he could see Ainsley Maitland-Niles waiting to pounce. But whatever, he underhits the pass. Then Jetro Willems stands there waiting for the ball rather than moving towards so Maitland-Niles does pounce and steal the ball.

Dummett’s attempts to close down the Arsenal man are non-existent and when he looks up, he can see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a figurative mile of space. Yeah, Newcastle have three centre-backs and not one of them thought to mark last season’s (joint) Premier League golden boot. So Maitland-Niles lasers the ball perfectly towards his striker who then has all the time in the world to bring it down and finish comfortably. You couldn’t make it up, really. A compendium of defensive nonsense.

Winner: The Kids

The last time Arsenal started a match with two teenagers from their academy in the XI, it was 1998 and the two teenagers that started today hadn’t even been born yet. Despite his late flurry in the transfer window, Emery elected to show faith to two youngsters that had performed well throughout pre-season, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson.

The pair responded to Emery’s gesture by producing quality performances. Alright they didn’t set the world alight but Nelson showed just why the club had no qualms in selling Alex Iwobi, and he should see serious minutes this season as a rotation option. Similarly Joe Willock showed that he is more than ready to perform at this level of the game with a display that showed his physical qualities as much as his long-obvious technical skill. Here is a midfielder who can do everything, and that’s always useful.

So whilst Arsenal’s new signings will likely come into the XI, these two youngsters proved they can handle the Premier League level.

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Winner: Steve Bruce

It might be odd to say this given that his team literally lost, but Steve Bruce can take great encouragement from Newcastle’s display against Arsenal. The Magpies were not played off the park, in fact they managed to hold Arsenal to very few outstanding chances – despite the Gunners’ obvious technical superiority.

The Magpies defence was mostly really solid. The midfield wasn’t played off the park and created some danger of their own. Newcastle fielded new boy Joelinton up-top and he showed good potential. Miguel Almiron was a livewire, and when Allan Saint-Maximin came onto the pitch he looked like an absolute hurricane whose biggest obstacle is probably going to be his own balance.

Yes, they lost at home. That’s not good. But Steve Bruce seems to have rallied the Newcastle squad in a very trying situation

Loser: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

With Arsenal’s new signings and their already impressive quality, Henrikh Mkhitaryan must have been worrying that he would struggle for minutes this season. But due to a lack of readiness from the new boys and Mesut Ozil (and Sead Kolasinac) having trouble with criminals, he got a chance to start at St. James’ Park. And then stunk the joint out.

It’s baffling trying to figure out what is wrong with Mkhitaryan but he has never really shown his true level in England. The dynamo of an attacking midfielder who dominated the Bundesliga has been nowhere to be seen in the Premier League and it’s so frustrating. Today was the latest in a long line of nonsense showings from the Armenian, best highlighted by his shocking miss, blazing over with the goalkeeper stranded. A baffling, annoying display.

Winner: Raul Sanllehi

For the first time in a long time, Arsenal had a great transfer window. That was largely down to their head of football Raul Sanllehi. The Catalan has worked wonders to bring in seriously talented players, and even though we only saw a brief cameo from Nicolas Pépé and Dani Ceballos, what we saw showed some incredible potential. Just the way Ceballos moves is different to other Arsenal players, he sees so much more of the field than his team-mates and once the Gunners get him in rhythm they will be so much better. Similarly the Arsenal defenders showed that they could use a commanding figure who can pass the ball with authority oh hey didn’t they sign David Luiz why yes they did.

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