North East UK news Newcastle's missed Xhaka opportunity, Wilson's unanswered call and break orders PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - Newcastle United remain in 17th place after the Magpies fell to a 2-0 defeat against Arsenal at St James' Park and Steve Bruce's side could have no complaints
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Newcastle United remain nine points clear of the relegation zone, but this 2-0 defeat against Arsenal felt like a missed opportunity in more ways than one. Not only was this a chance to effectively secure safety; it was an opportunity to send out a statement. While there have been worse performances this season - Brighton, Sheffield United and Brentford all spring to mind - this was a worrying display that few will have necessarily seen coming given the upturn in results in recent weeks. On the surface, of course, the defeat should not have come as a huge shock. Newcastle have lost 16 of their last 17 top-flight matches against Arsenal; the Gunners have won more Premier League games at St James' Park than any other ground; and the Magpies have not managed to score a single goal in their last six games against Mikel Arteta's side in all competitions. But this loss was particularly disappointing. Yes, Newcastle have already pulled clear of danger, for now, but the black-and-whites could have soared to 13th place in the table with a win on Sunday. Yet, despite having a clear week to prepare for this game, unlike Arsenal, Newcastle failed to seize the initiative and play with the same intensity we saw in previous home outings against Spurs and West Ham last month. Video Loading Video Unavailable Click to play Tap to play The video will auto-play soon8Cancel Play now In fact, the Magpies ended up making the Gunners' second string look like the Invincibles of old. For Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, read Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Gabriel Martinelli and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Arsenal may have defeated Newcastle in the Premier League and the FA Cup earlier this season but, as strange as it sounds, the in-form Magpies did not have a great deal to fear from a side in 11th place going into this game. Arsenal have lost 13 games in the top-flight this season, equalling a club record for a 38-match Premier League season, which was set in 2018. Arteta's side have also failed to score in a dozen league games this season - which is their worst record in more than a quarter of a century. Then there was also the small matter of the Gunners, who had five days fewer to prepare for this game, having one eye on a season-defining Europa League semi-final second-leg against Villarreal on Thursday. Even Roy Keane, who was on punditry duty for Sky Sports, believed the black-and-whites should have been 'rubbing their hands' ahead of facing 'one of the poorest Arsenal sides' he had ever seen. Newcastle's awful loss to Arsenal - all the analysis Newcastle match report Newcastle player ratings Steve Bruce press conference Roy Keane slams Dubravka The returning Callum Wilson called on his side to make a fast start, but it was Arsenal who raced out of the blocks and the visitors found it all too easy to move the ball around as Newcastle, strangely, stood off. Indeed, it was disjointed Newcastle who looked like they had made eight changes, rather than the visitors, and Arsenal soon pinned the hosts in. Arsenal were finding joy getting in behind Newcastle's wing-backs in the early stages and, with just six minutes on the clock, the Gunners were ahead. Newcastle allowed David Luiz to bring the ball out from the black and the Brazilian launched a long ball down the right channel for Hector Bellerin to run on to. Bellerin raced to the byline and cut the ball back to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose mishit shot fell kindly to Mohamed Elneny. Newcastle were too slow to react and Elneny's effort from the edge of the area squirmed past Martin Dubravka. Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal scores their side's first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal Newcastle do not tend to score many goals in the first half of games - 67% of the Magpies' goals have come after half-time - but this was a particularly slack start, which was all the more frustrating given Arsenal's own vulnerabilities.
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. But Arsenal's vulnerable backline were simply not troubled and Wilson, starved of service, only had one touch in the opposition box in the first half. It said it all that even when Xhaka picked up a yellow card early on, Newcastle were unable to isolate him more and the makeshift left-back instead ended up causing Newcastle problems in the final third as he linked up with Gabriel Martinelli. Indeed, Dubravka had to make an important save to keep out Xhaka's long-range effort before the half-hour mark and, from the resulting corner, Miguel Almiron cleared Elneny's header off the line.
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Newcastle have tended to play better in the second half of games of late but the Magpies needed to offer a lot more after the break, and Bruce was the first to admit he was 'screaming' at half-time as he urged his side to get higher up the pitch, press a little further and be more aggressive. The message got through to them and by closing Arsenal down more, the Gunners were forced to go long. The visitors were unsettled further after David Luiz had to hobble off with a muscle injury in the 53rd minute and Xhaka was lucky to escape a second booking after body checking Sean Longstaff just a minute later, which should have been the belated cue for Newcastle to target him one v one. Although this was arguably Newcastle's best period of the game - that really is not saying much - it was all too brief. Crucially, Newcastle failed to trouble Ryan and Saint-Maximin had to drop deeper and deeper to get on the ball and try and influence proceedings. Arsenal still looked the likelier of the two teams to score and the Gunners grabbed a crucial second in the 66th minute after Newcastle failed to get tight to Martinelli out on the left and the Brazilian's teasing cross was volleyed in by Aubameyang at the back post.
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It was hard to see Newcastle setting up a grandstand finish as they have in recent weeks and, with Wilson starting and Joe Willock ineligible, the Magpies lacked a game changer on the bench. The game was as good as over when Joelinton, Fabian Schar and Dwight Gayle entered the fray at various points late on, but there was never any danger of below-par Newcastle mustering a shot on target - let alone scoring a consolation goal. Indeed, it rather summed up Newcastle's afternoon that the most notable contribution from a substitute was Schar getting himself sent off at the death after a tackle from behind on Martinelli. Even if it was a little harsh.
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