Phil Thompson was covering the Newcastle v Arsenal match for Sky Sports this afternoon.
Asked to sum the game up by host Jeff Stelling, the former Liverpool player made clear he’d found it a strange experience.
Phil Thompson couldn’t believe how bad Arsenal were in the first half, saying Newcastle dominated but really struggled to threaten Petr Cech.
Arsenal took the lead on 49 minutes and he says it had a profound effect on both sides.
All of Arsenal’s players suddenly wanted the ball, whilst for Newcastle he says it like ‘switching the light off’, the home side allowing a ‘procession’ for Arsenal as they comfortably saw out the win.
Maybe the most baffling thing of all for Phil Thompson, was Rafa’s use (or not) of certain substitutes.
The Sky Sports pundit having no idea as to why the Newcastle boss didn’t change things earlier than he did AND how on earth Shelvey and Rondon were left on the bench for the whole duration.
“What did you think of Newcastle’s performance?”
“It was probably predictable.
“Newcastle had a go, and it was a lot better, a lot different.
“First half they dominated but they didn’t have enough clear chances. They got a lot of balls into the box, they competed, they were better than Arsenal…Arsenal wee very poor – buyt you just thought, because they (Newcastle) didn’t get a goal, you worried for them.
“You thought, you need this goal to alleviate anything that might be coming.
“This game all changed on the 49th minute, a free-kick form Xhaka. He sizes it up 25 yards out, hits it over the wall and maybe Dubravka could have…because he gets good hands to it – but it goes in.
“It was like switching the light off for Newcastle.
“(After that) It was just like a procession (for Arsenal)…so many of the Arsenal players now wanted the ball.
“It was shocking, because when Newcastle did get the ball, they gave it back to Arsenal, and that must have infuriated Benitez.
“Ozil hits it (for the second goal) and again, Dubravka I think could have done a bit better.
“That is it really.
“I know Clark got a goal back in the 91st minute but this was a procession for Arsenal.
“Shelvey didn’t come on and Rondon didn’t come on, he’d (Rondon) been away on international duty, but Joselu had ran himself into the ground.
“I’m thinking, come on. You are thinking come on, you have to change this, and he (Rafa Benitez) didn’t do it.
“He brings Muto on. I haven’t seen enough of him to know whether or not this is a good move or not…but certainly you would have wanted Rondon on before that, certainly Shelvey (as well).
“Newcastle had all that possession in the first half but didn’t trouble Petr Cech.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2
Newcastle: Clark 90+1
Arsenal: Xhaka 49, Ozil 58
Possession was Arsenal 64% Newcastle 36%
Total shots were Arsenal 12 Newcastle 4
Shots on target were Arsenal 2 Newcastle 2
Corners were Arsenal 4 Newcastle 10
Referee: Lee Probert
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles (Clark 46), Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie (Muto 79), Diame, Hayden, Murphy (Kenedy 69), Perez, Joselu
Darlow, Manquillo, Rondon, Shelvey
Crowd: 52,165 (3,200 Arsenal approx)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2 – Read HERE)
(A third relegation in 10 years on the cards? Read HERE)
(Match ratings of all NUFC players v Arsenal – Read HERE)