Premier League football returned for the Gunners following their 2-2 second leg draw against CSKA Moscow, and qualification to the semi-finals of the Europa League – where they face Atletico Madrid, the biggest opposition of the latter stage of the Europa League campaign.
The Gunners travelled to Newcastle for their next league match, with the Gunners with some form of late, coming off with six wins and one draw from their last seven games; whilst the host have an impressive three wins in their last three league affairs.
Following the tasking game on Thursday, Wenger made a lot of changes to the usual Starting XI the team is used to, including a surprise league start for an academy player. Petr Cech, Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Eleneny, Joe Willock, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made the starting XI. This is the first time Aubameyang and Lacazette both started a match together.
It took only 14 minutes for the partnership to produce its first goal, following a good assist from the former Dortmund striker Aubameyang to set up his fellow striker Lacazette. Good vision from Shkodran Mustafi, as he dinged a ball over to Aubameyang from his own half, which the Gabonese international brought down well – sending a light cross over for an advancing Lacazette who scored in mid-air.
The host looked a threat anytime Shelvey was allowed space to play a chasing ball to Gayle. The first attempt of this could’ve been costly for the Gunners, with Shelvey and Gayle linking up in such fashion but the awareness of Mustafi was able to snuff out any danger thereafter.
The second attempt of this sort of play from the host saw them get the equaliser in what was truly a team effort goal. A total of nine players touched the ball before Ayoze Perez buried the ball in Cech’s net. Similar play from Shelvey and Gayle which the latter was able to control the ball in the Gunners eighteen-yard box, playing Yedlin on who provided a cross for Ayoze to smash the ball into the net.
Calum Chamber had a chance to get on the score sheet in a similar fashion like the opener but he lacked the finishing. A cross from Xhaka to Mustafi who runs to the back post heads the ball that well sets up Chambers to threaten the opposition keeper, but, he couldn’t lash on to the ball properly or at least hit the target.
A slip from Diame in his own half almost proved costly for himself and his team, as Lacazette took advantage of the loose ball, advanced with it and played a pass to Willock who was well positioned for a goal, but lacked composure in front of goal as he miscued the ball.
Poor disorganisation in defence led to the host grabbing their second goal of the afternoon in the second half. A poor headed clearance from Monreal who was well out of his position fell to Slimani who then headed the ball to Ayoze on the edge of the eighteen-yard box, with Ayoze playing an eye-catching side-foot ding pass to an unmarked Ritchie, who then scored for his team.
The host deserved their win as they were the better team, but even sometimes in football, the better team don’t always get the win they deserve. Asides his miscued chance, Joe Willock had a good first half although he was quiet in the second half till he got subbed off for Danny Welbeck.