Despite a strong start, Wenger’s makeshift team couldn’t be bothered to score more than just once, as Newcastle scored twice for their first victory against the Gunners in 13 tries. Despite it being obvious that Wenger is putting all of his eggs in the Europa League basket, the side at St. James’ Park still included important players for that tournament including Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal, and Alexandre Lacazette. Clearly, it was a rather hodgepodge team, but still talented enough that they should’ve at least taken a point back to the Emirates. We’re in April and that’s still 0 points for Arsenal in league matches away from home in 2018…yippee! Fun stuff…
Here’s how the players did…
Petr Cech – 5
How he gets beat at the near post on the first goal, I’ll never know. This isn’t the first time that he’s had his angles wrong. He couldn’t do much about the second goal though.
Calum Chambers – 5
It’s probably safe to say that Chambers shouldn’t be playing at right back. While he certainly tried to push forward, he lost possession a team-high 27 times which is pretty worrying considering he’s a defender. He also had two good chances on goal but couldn’t take advantage of either. When it came down to defending though, he did his part and was strong for most of the game. Just don’t play him out wide again.
Shkodran Mustafi – 5.5
Newcastle’s opener was almost a carbon copy of CSKA Moscow’s near post goal, but clearly, he just shut off at the worst time again. However, he wasn’t to blame for the second goal, and he did make a last-ditch effort to block a potential goal. So to be fair, he partly made up for the goal with some solid plays, including that long ball that led to Aubameyang’s assist, that kept the scoreline close (10 aerial duels won, 3 tackles, 8 clearances).
Rob Holding – 6
All things considered, Holding had a decent game. Yes, when you concede 2 goals like that, blame can be distributed across the back four. But, he had a great day distributing the ball (86/96 successful passes) and had a team-high 8 ball recoveries in the defensive third.
Nacho Monreal – 4
Sheesh. That’s two bad games for Nacho in a row. While I think Mustafi should’ve done better in the exact instance that Perez ran in front of him, Nacho was nowhere to be seen. Even Elneny and Xhaka entered the box as Holding ran out to attempt blocking the cross. And I could’ve excused his header that led to the second if he didn’t just stood around and watched it float in the air as two Newcastle defenders ran right behind him. If only we had a capable left-back whom we picked up for free in the summer to slot in his place…?
Mohamed Elneny – 6
Most of the playmaking in the final third seemed to take place between the three frontmen so Elneny couldn’t quite get involved as much as he usually does. Perhaps it’s Ramsey who he missed as his running often frees up good space for Elneny. Another superb passing day for him in terms of accuracy but there wasn’t too much creativity there.
Granit Xhaka – 6.5
With 9 ball recoveries, he was one of the better defenders on the day, once again proving that while he’s not a true DCM, he can cover for the defence when necessary. 91% passing accuracy as well.
Joseph Willock – 5.5
A safeish performance from Willock on his Premier League debut. He touched the ball the least out of the starters which didn’t surprise me, and he didn’t do anything rash or overly naive to cost the team. Lacazette did, however, serve him up an absolute peach of a chance and he completely scuffed it.
Alex Iwobi – 6
He didn’t change the world or anything with his performance, but I think he’s slowly gaining his confidence back. He no longer automatically looks for a player to pass to, instead, he wasn’t afraid to take a defender on. He also had two decent chances that he didn’t absolutely blow, so it’s only a matter of time until he finally gets that goal.
Alexandre Lacazette – 7
It feels weird giving a striker a 7 on a day where we lost 2-1, but he certainly played his part in trying to get the win. He goal was a great, calm volley, which you can’t take for granted after watching Welbeck mess up so many similar chances in past games. His 3 key passes led the team. Any sort of overlap from the midfield was completely missing so I feel that he was left out to dry a bit along with the rest of the front three.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 7
I kind of feel dirty knowing that a striker as good as Aubameyang is being used as a winger, but he didn’t disappoint. He constantly harassed the Newcastle defence and provided a great assist for Lacazette. Perhaps in a more solid team, he’d be able to contribute even more from the wing, but I’m still wary about the whole thing.
Danny Welbeck – 6
“Put the pressure on” late in the game but couldn’t do much.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 6
He wasn’t on for long but he should’ve been right back from the get-go. His speed is a necessity on the wing especially compared to Chambers.
Eddie Nketiah – N/A
Sadly couldn’t even record a single touch in a hectic final couple of minutes where Arsenal literally had 4 (if you include Welbeck) strikers on the pitch. Almost like the days where Wenger could throw on Henry, Kanu, and Wiltord altogether. Yes, I’m being sarcastic…