Another week, another win for Arsenal as the Londoners defeated Newcastle (1:2) away and got their third consecutive win of this season. And the three points are not the best thing to be remembered out of the game. Granit Xhaka scored a stunning free kick to open the scoring and then, a few minutes later Mesut Ozil, made it two after scoring in his 200th game for the Gunners. Xhaka and Ozil became the 9th and 10th goal scorers of the team this season, but the team, once again, couldn’t manage to keep a clean sheet.
But how exactly did they earn this win?
Ozil put in some effort
It wasn’t all good for Mesut Ozil once the game started, but he improved later on and that was crucial for the team’s performance. He was where his teammates needed him to be and showed his identity. As I said in How should Arsenal prepare for Newcastle, when he plays on his potential and puts enough effort, things get a lot better team-wise. He made some key passes that Ramsey could be jealous of, and netted in the second half with no hesitation.
His pass accuracy was 86% and he can do much better, but the most important thing is that he showed a hunger to win. That’s what Arsenal’s supporters wanted to see out of him. He not only scored but made 3 key passes and 2-out-of-2 accurate crosses. His contribution was noticeable but he needs to do it in every game. His consistency has always been a talking point, but it looks like Unai Emery could be the right person to motivate him enough, at least, that’s what all hopes are for.
In here, Lacazette tried to shoot but there was a ricochet. At this time, Ozil was completely uncovered. Then, he took advantage of the loose ball and instead of passing to Aubameyang who was calling for the ball and was partly uncovered too, Ozil’s decision-making was strong and he decided to shoot.
Ozil was put under pressure and had no options for a good pass. And as he is always seeking of untypical solutions, he made a long-range pass to Ramsey, who was already waiting to receive the ball and go forward.
The pressing duels from his opponents didn’t bother him at all, and instead of looking to give the ball back, he saw an opportunity in a low pass to the edge of the box, whilst Torreira and Bellerin were running towards it.
Xhaka – Torreira partnership going strong
As I’ve mentioned before in the Is pairing the main issue in the Arsenal midfield piece, there is a lot of potential in playing Xhaka and Torreira next to each other. Torreira is contributing perfectly to the whole team’s performance, but he has the biggest impact on Xhaka’s play. Doing what he does best – defending and getting the ball back in possession gives Granit so much more space and time for going up, that we already see the difference in the midfield. And we all know that the Swiss international is way more useful in the frontlines than back.
Xhaka scored the opening goal against Newcastle with a beautiful free-kick. Perfectly measured, believe it or not. It was once again a showing of his growing confidence and improvement.
His passing accuracy was 83%, but he made a whole 83 passes, just for comparison, Ozil made 33. He managed to send 7 accurate long balls out of 14 and won half of his duels (6/12).
Actually, Xhaka made the pass for the goal. His movement was on point and then he made a perfectly measured cross to Lacazette, who was able to shoot. In this pictures, you can see how the Newcastle defenders always tried to man-mark their opponents, but it usually ended up with chaotic and desperate clearances.
A couple of minutes later, Granit had few options for a pass in the middle of the pitch, but he was thinking more aggressively and seeing that Lacazette is making a run to the box, he decided to go for a long range pass to him and give him a chance to attack the goal.
When we’re talking about the defence, there are two things we could notice. The quite solid performance which has improved a lot since the start of the season, and the more work the team needs to put into it. Especially, when caught on a counter-attack.
Sokratis did pretty good trying to limit the opportunities for Newcastle in front of the goal. His tackling was a good level and he managed to stop some dangerous balls. He showed his abilities perfectly on a few occasions with the most important ones against Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie. The full-backs were doing good, leaving Mustafi the only one with sometimes not so focused actions. Until the stoppage-time goal that the team conceded. Five games – no clean sheet. Ciaran Clark thumped a header past Petr Cech and things went from “quite good” to “not again.”
The Magpies didn’t have lots of opportunities, especially during the second half, but they managed to take advantage of the good one at the end. Most of their chances came from gaps on the left. There was not much pressure on the Newcastle’s delivery, which later on, led to the goal.
Not only the defence left a gap right in front of Cech, but Aubameyang didn’t move at all, so he can cover Manquillo and stop him from receiving the ball.
The team was caught on a counter-attack with Mustafi and Bellerin not-so-well positioned. Mustafi lost the aerial duel with Joselu and Bellerin was too late to reach him and go into a defensive duel.
An almost identical situation for the goal. Bellerin didn’t have the time to get back in his position, while Aubameyang could’ve helped a bit more with, at least, a pressing duel with Clark. And Mustafi didn’t manage to reach the ball in the air, which resulted in Clark scoring.
Unai Emery showed his ability to motivate the players with his arrival. Even in the pre-season fixtures, we could notice that the team improved its performance during the second halves. And it seems like the half-time talk is doing a perfect job. It happened against The Magpies too, especially in the midfield area. It looks like Emery’s talks with Ozil worked out too. That is something that was missing when Wenger was on charge. Unai is always open for changes and when the things go wrong, he is there to find the best solution.
The improvement in Arsenal’s style of play is immense, but there’s still so much work to be done defensively. The good thing is that all new players seem to get used to the tactics and the league and it’s shown in the way they play with more confidence. We are starting to understand Emery’s decisions and it looks like he has a clearer vision now that five games are gone. The main challenge is coming with the four home games in 10 days and are there enough options on the bench, so it could all end well?