Gameweek 5 is knocking on the door with some interesting fixtures coming up on Saturday. Arsenal are going away at St James’ Park to meet Newcastle in a battle for a third consecutive win. But is this about to happen or Newcastle is going to fight back in pursuit of their first win this season?
The Gunners were hyped after a hard-earned win against Cardiff City and now have the hustle to stay on the winning track. But the Magpies were not so lucky in their last game against Manchester City as they couldn’t deal with the pressure and went 2-1 down which placed them in the bottom three with only 1 point. This week they are motivated enough to get the full package and this team with such an experienced manager as Rafa Benitez should not be underestimated.
Let’s take a closer look at how Arsenal could get the 3 points and what should the Londoners be aware of:
Newcastle – what we learned
As it is hard to take advantage of City’s mistake, because they rarely make any, Newcastle’s players preferred to attack during moments of transition rather than in long periods of possession and wait for their opportunity. The players had their chances to build-up counter-attacks but couldn’t take advantage of these situations as a good finish was missing. Even after meeting the pressure from the midfield, Salomon Rondon was doing pretty well in the final third but in fact, that’s because Fernandinho started the game with not-so-strong performance on the ball, which was the reason for Newcastle to be able to transition from the centre to the front lines. Later on, things changed. With the Citizens doing a speedy recovery runs it was no surprise that Newcastle didn’t have many shots on goal. The Magpies created only 3 chances, while City had a whole 23 of them. But actually, City’s front-lines lack concentration and only six of these 23 were on target. Which is not bad at all, having in mind that usually, that’s an average number for the shots on target in a whole game.
Newcastle’s players struggled at one vs. one duels with the defenders which was the main reason they couldn’t reach the goal. To add to that, the wide pairing of Kenedy and Perez weren’t so helpful when doing inside runs. Newcastle struggle against attacking teams where they can get the possession on rare occasions. In this game, they had only 23% possession and made 231 passes (167 accurate). Compared to that The Sky Blues made an immense 818 passes with 743 of them accurate.
Solomon Rondon lost the ball in the centre and the team didn’t have enough time to react as Fernandinho made a run and passed to Riyad Mahrez who dribbled past the defender and was able to shoot. There was enough space for him because Newcastle’s defensive positioning was not good enough, with some players of the five-man defensive line missing. And there was no support from the front lines too.
Rondon was helpless against Aymeric Laporte and John Stones driving forward while Bernardo Silva created more spaces for Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez to attack in the wide areas. The combination of Yedlin and Atsu wasn’t as effective as it should’ve been, moving the focus to Raheem Sterling and opening space for action to Benjamin Mendy. Newcastle’s energy disappeared because of the constant pressing and readjusting to City’s style of play and that resulted in them losing the game.
Arsenal scored the most goals from set-pieces last season – 19, with Bournemouth (18) and Manchester City (17) right behind. The team scored 9 goals after corner kicks, 6 from indirect free-kicks and 4 penalties. But they haven’t scored from a direct free kick in the PL this term and that is something the players can work on.
Shkodran Mustafi managed to score a perfect header against Cardiff after a corner kick from Granit Xhaka.
In these situations, it is important to know how the opponents defend – man marking or zonal marking because the player needs to find space. Mustafi stays focused and pays attention to the exact moment the ball leaves the foot of Xhaka. That way he can see if it’s going to be a high ball or a low one. But the main thing is the timing and the effort. He needs to get the split-second advantage from the defender. We can notice that usually, Mustafi stays still until he finds the perfect timing to attack the ball. He managed to sneak behind his opponents’ back and score.
Newcastle already conceded two goals from a set-piece this term. It happened against Tottenham after a corner kick and against Chelsea with Eden Hazard scoring penalty.
In this occasion, the personal mistake of Paul Dummet resulted in Tottenham scoring. Every defender man-marked their man and he had to take care of Jan Vertonghen which kind of didn’t happen. As soon as Christian Ericksen kicked the ball Vertongen started moving behind Dummet’s back and that split-second of Paul turning his head on the right to see if Vertonghen is following him was crucial.
Counter-attacks and creativity
It is expected that after the phenomenal performance and pairing of Aubameyang and Lacazette Emery is going to play them both again. This would make Newcastle’s life even harder as they show perfect timing and vision when playing next to each other.
They can be murderous on counter-attacks. Auba’s pace is hard to be dealt with and in combination with Lacazette’s positioning and killer finish they can destroy their opponents.
Aubameyang could’ve received the ball but meanwhile, Lacazette positioned himself on his left to receive it as a sign that Auba can free himself easier than him. The player that was man-marking Laca didn’t do his best to stop him and that resulted in him passing to the Gabonian who went forward and scored. This situation shows that they both understand the game similarly and have a bond connection where no words are needed.
Of course, the transition to them will be easier if Mesut Ozil wakes up from his long sleep and sharpens his God-given creativity. He is going to have more freedom against an opponent like Newcastle and if he has the needed motivation he can contribute with some through balls and key passes because at last, that’s what he does best.
As it was against Man City, Newcastle could take advantage of a highly positioned defensive line if they adapt their transition and add more direct aerial duels forward. Replacing Kenedy with Christian Atsu was Benitez’s way of adding pace and directness to the team’s performance, but in fact, the Ghanaian didn’t meet the expectations. Arsenal need’s a perfect connection between midfield and defensive line because when it’s missing the team gets in trouble.
The Gunners need to play out from the back and transition to the final third fast enough, so they can catch Newcastle’s defence unprepared and find more space for the attacking players to show their ability.