Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0 – Saturday 16 December 3pm
It was another defeat as the scoreline showed Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0 but Rafa Benitez did put his side in the very best place to get something.
There was major surprise before kick-off when the United boss named his team, five changes and Gayle & Ritchie on the bench a big shock.
However, there was method in the apparent madness.
With Ritchie having started every single match and maybe looking jaded, whilst Gayle had played every minute of two tough home games inside only four days.
Newcastle’s much-changed team actually started the game well and forcing the first corner and an early chance for Lascelles that Cech saved.
Ozil broke the deadlock on 23 minutes but Newcastle stuck at it and the home side only had a few other chances before the break.
Ritchie and Gayle were introduced on 54 and 67 minutes respectively as Rafa Benitez looked to build some pressure.
The tactics working (up to a point), as Joselu and Murphy went close to scoring and Perez put one over the bar.
Arsenal still had chances of their own but that was only to be expected.
The fact that the Gunners had two players booked in the final five minutes was further evidence that Newcastle were creating decent pressure.
It wasn’t to be and Arsenal deserved the three points BUT Rafa Benitez did the best he could with the players he has, keeping Ritchie and Gayle to come off the bench giving Newcastle that bit more chance of taking something from a game that pretty much every Newcastle fan had written off as a certain loss.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0
Arsenal: Ozil 23
Possession was Arsenal 71% Newcastle 29%
Total shots were Arsenal 23 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Arsenal 5 Newcastle 2
Corners were Arsenal 7 Newcastle 5
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Manquillo, Murphy (Gayle 67), Hayden, Merino (Diame 82), Atsu (Ritchie 54), Perez, Joselu
Darlow, Clark, Dummett, Aarons
Crowd: 59,379 (Newcastle 3,000)