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Match Reports

Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0 Match Report – This Is What Happens When The Luck Runs Out

11 months ago
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Steve Bruce’s eighteenth visit to an Arsenal stadium as a manager.

He hadn’t won any of the previous visits but after his Kinnear style, expletive enriched battle roar from a few days ago, things were about to change, right?

Bruce reminds me of Mike Bassett at the moment. An unfancied manager who can’t cope with the pressure or control his players. He toys with formations and bows to external pressures.

His press conference the other day could have ended the same as Bassett’s in that infamous scene, “Newcastle will be playing four, four, f.cking, two!”

I rarely watch the build up to games but decided to tonight.

It was refreshing to hear Jamie Carragher use actual stats and reality to compare Bruce and Benitez. He highlighted the fact that every possible offensive and defensive stat has regressed under Bruce. The fact we’ve had less than 30% possession in nearly a quarter of the games Bruce has managed, is an indictment in itself.

Gary Neville made sure his old pal was protected and put all the blame on Ashley and just said we’d been atrocious for ten years and can’t do anything about it. Neville showed a graphic that evidenced Bruce has more points than Rafa ever had at this stage in a Premier League season as a Newcastle manager. He cited that Bruce finished on 44 points last season which is the same as Rafa who finished on 44 and 45.

We all know that this skims over the fact that Rafa brought us back from the Championship and consolidated the club on limited funds. Meanwhile, Bruce inherited a club in form, had a load of money splashed and was allowed to sign experienced Premier League players. Obviously, Ashley is the arch-nemesis in all this. But if he’s the last level bad guy, Steve Bruce is still a henchman that needs defeating along the way.

Imagine if Rafa had stayed on and been allowed to sign Rondon instead of Joelinton and then had the rest of the players that Bruce has now. I genuinely think we’d be challenging at the unthinkable levels of a Southampton or a West Ham.
If Benitez walked in tomorrow and took over these players, I would expect a marked difference in the team’s output within weeks.

The big question I asked myself after the well-publicised press conference (in which Bruce gave his most attacking performance of the season), would the players be fired up or would Bruce be one step closer to being fired?

Aubameyang must have felt like he was playing a rigged fairground game in the first half. He spurned several chances including an open goal from about four yards out, which he inexplicably fired across the goal to hit the opposite post.

Even Joelinton must have had a chuckle at that miss.

Almiron ran the length of the pitch to create our only chance of the first twenty five minutes which he duly fired over the bar after a one-two with Carroll.

The first half was so boring the referee blew his whistle two seconds early. I rewound and double checked. It was 44.58 on the clock that the ref blew up.

For all his profligacy in the first half, Aubameyang was the man to break the deadlock within five minutes of the second half.

Carroll fizzed a shot three yards wide after fifty five minutes. The commentator stated that it was ‘the best so far.’ That tells you all you need to know about what preceded it from a black and white standpoint. It was also the best we’d get.

Our FA Cup foe, Emile Smith-Rowe, glided past Lascelles, who had been pulled right out of position onto the edge of our box, five minutes later. Smith-Rowe cut back to Saka and Saka struck it low and hard past Darlow.

We got further up the pitch today but it didn’t achieve anything positive. There was no tangible attacking plan. There was no plan at all as far as I could see. All it achieved was exposing us at the back. The gaps were numerous whenever Arsenal countered.

Cedric burst into our box with a quarter of an hour to go and managed to square the ball, whilst a sliver of it remained on the line. Aubameyang had the freedom of the box to sidefoot Arsenal’s third.

If you were feeling more generous than Warren Buffett, you could say Bruce is doing things his way now and it’ll take time. This was a top team they were up against. A team we haven’t beaten at their place for a decade. Give him another five games and then judge him once he’s done it his way against your Villas and your Palaces.

The reality though, is that Bruce has changed formation and tactics more times than Littlefinger switched allegiances in Game of Thrones. No matter what team and formation he sends out, he does not have the tactical nous to drill his team into giving anything but a lacklustre and disjointed performance.

Before each half of a televised football match, we see the slogan: No Room For Racism. When Newcastle are playing it should add (Or Football).

We finished with a fifth of the amount of Arsenal’s overall shots, a sixth of the amount of their shots on target, made half as many passes and just slithered over that 30% possession stat we always flirt with.

We’ve conceded more goals this season than all but the bottom two, whilst playing some of the most atrocious defensive football and having a goalkeeper that many recognise as one of our players of the season.

We have long asked what would happen when the luck ran out. We’re seeing it now.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0 – Monday 18 January 8pm

Goals:

Newcastle:

Arsenal:

Aubameyang 50, 77 Saka 60

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Arsenal 66% (67%)  Newcastle 34% (33%)

Total shots were Arsenal 20 (7) Newcastle 4 (1)

Shots on target Arsenal 6 (1) Newcastle 1 (0)

Corners were Arsenal 7 (5) Newcastle 2 (1)

Referee: David Coote

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis, Shelvey, Matty Longstaff (Hendrick 78), Almiron (Anderson 87), Joelinton, Carroll (Murphy 69), Wilson

Unused Subs:

Dubravka, Hayden, Ritchie, Manquillo, Yedlin, Sean Longstaff

(Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Arsenal 3 Newcastle 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Monday’s defeat – Read HERE)

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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