Match report – Player Ratings – Video
I’m not sure we need a deeper analysis of a game like yesterday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle, but given everything that has happened this season, it seems fair to recognize that we have a few things missing: a comfortable win and a clean sheet.
Mikel Arteta made eight changes to the squad starting Thursday night, including the returns of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz. The quality of the latter on the ball was evident throughout the first half, and it was his ball to Hector Bellerin who brought the first goal. Aubameyang’s understandable rust was visible from the center of the full-back, but when he fell to Mohamed Elneny on the edge of the box he scored his first Premier League goal. All this shooting practice is paying off.
It was really obvious how much Luiz brings to the team in possession, and while I fully recognize his prowess on the ball, there’s a part of me that wonders why it’s so hard for other players to do what he does. Does it have to be beyond a professional footballer’s ability to hit the ball with precision from one side of the pitch to the other? As James pointed out last night on the Arsecast Extra when I raised this point, players who are so proficient in their passing usually don’t end up as center halves, but, without taking anything away from Luiz, what he does fact is not overwhelmingly. complicated.
It’s useful though, so it was a blow to see him fall with hamstring strain in the second half. Maybe a consequence of knee surgery returning too soon, but muscle tears are unpredictable, and when you turn 34 you can be a little more vulnerable. It could be the end of his season, and depending on what plans are for him this summer, it could be his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt.
Newcastle, let’s be honest, have played like a team that know they are more or less relegation-proof and just want this terrible season to end. The Saint tried a few tricks and shimmies, and forced Mat Ryan to make a save with a weird, looping shot, but beyond that we weren’t bothered at all.
As always, the only potential danger came from within. Granit Xhaka was booked in the 20th minute and I wondered if Mikel Arteta might consider taking him away at half-time to avoid another situation at Ceballos. He didn’t, because I don’t think he thinks about these things the same way we do, and Xhaka was kinda lucky to get away with a stupid foul – especially when you take take into account what little Mike Dean needs. to get out his red card with a step one, two, three and TWIRL MIKE… TWIRL! Either way, you don’t need to get angry about something that didn’t happen.
The best moment of the day came in the 66th minute when Martin Odegaard, finally freed from the shackles of his marker Willian, sent a perfect pass on the way to Gabriel Martinelli. His cross was excellent and Aubameyang’s acrobatic finish was exactly what the doctor ordered (along with the malaria medicine). It was the captain’s first goal since Burnley on March 6, and with a big game coming up on Thursday which will hopefully lead to an even bigger one later this month, hopefully it will be a timely rediscovery of his shooting shoes.
There is a school of thought that Aubameyang and Martinelli don’t mix well, and I can see how that could be the case. What I would say though, is that the sample size is quite small and yesterday this combination worked pretty well. The young Brazilian was excellent that day, man of the match in my opinion, and he drew praise from the manager afterwards who said:
Gabi is improving every week. He’s taking his minutes the right way and he’s developing the way we all think he can. Today he got an assist which was an important moment and he had some good times on the left – and was also trying to play as No. 9 well.
After Martin Keown’s suggestion on BT Sport last week that Arteta just doesn’t like Martinelli, the manager continued: “If there is any doubts, I love Gabi so much. More than all of you together!
The 19-year-old’s performance demonstrated the need for him to play with greater frequency, so hopefully that’s one thing for Arteta to remember. I never accepted the idea that he didn’t like him, but I think he had doubts about the readiness of a young player. These doubts should be gone now. He’s a big part of what our future should hold in store for us, so our fingers crossed we see more of him.
There was a late red card for Fabian Schar whose scything challenge on Martinelli was described by the Sky commentary team as ‘naughty’. I wish we could have a discussion about the language used in times like this. “ Naughty ” is a kid drawing on the wall with colored pencils, it was overkill, unnecessary, dangerous, almost violent, and dismiss it with the kind of words you used to scold a toddler n is simply not enough.
I guess it’s no surprise that Sky continues to employ someone like Graeme Souness who last week was allowed to complain about the lack of on-pitch violence in modern gaming. Fortunately, Martinelli looks ok, a little bruised, nothing serious. Schar gets a three-game ban, but as I have said many times there should be a sliding scale for red cards, each assessed after the game, and the pointlessness and opportune timing of this challenge would be worth my while. notice a longer ban.
All in all, a decent run-out before Thursday and there are players who have entered the squad – like Gabriel, Bellerin, Aubameyang and Martinelli – who should be in contention for Thursday. For more, James and I pick our starting XI for Villarreal in the new Arsecast Extra, as well as discuss Newcastle’s game, Utd’s postponement against Liverpool after fan protests, and much more. Listen below or in your favorite podcast app.
I’ll leave it at that for now, have a good Monday.
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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL