Aubameyang nets twice against woeful Newcastle
Gunners run out 3-0 winners in encouraging all-round performance
18 January, 2021 — By Tom Foot
FA Premier League
ARSENAL 3 (Aubameyang 50, 77, Saka 60)
The ghost of Arsenal’s former playmaker, who jetted off for a new life in Turkey this week, did not return to haunt Mikel Arteta as his resurgent Gunners crushed Newcastle 3-0.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang forgot his goal-drought worries with a well-earned brace, while Thomas Partey put in a reassuringly classy performance as midfield general for over an hour.
Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney pushed forward at every opportunity and even Grant Xhaka had a solid game.
Newcastle are woeful and looked destined for the drop, but this was a very encouraging all-round performance for the Gunners who are enjoying a run of form.
After the match, Arteta said: “The team looked confident, solid, compact and very clear about what we had to do.
“I’m really pleased with the performance overall collectively and individually.”
Arsenal dominated the entire match, with 20 shots and 66 per cent possession, and should have been at least two up at half time. ￼
Aubameyang had a hatful of chances that began with a strike on the post on 15 mins after a tidy move and incisive passing from Saka and Smith-Rowe.
The out-of-form striker then skied over following a silky piece of control and cut back from Smith-Rowe, playing in the number 10 spot.
Later in the half Aubameyang tumbled over defender Emil Krafth in the box after sluggishly failing to burst past him, with a hopeful shout for a penalty.
The Arsenal captain cut a dejected figure after a Thierry Henry-style curling side foot skewed harmlessly wide.
Then his deflected cross was palmed out by goalkeeper Karl Darlow for a corner that David Luiz should have nodded in.
But despite the frustration of no breakthrough Arsenal looked assured and had dominated the midfield; Xhaka and Partey mopping up any attempts at a counter attack from Newcastle, playing a traditional 4-4-2 with Calum Wilson hoping to feed off Andy Carroll flick-ons.
Miguel Almiron had one lively solo run that ended with a fierce shot flying over the bar. But other than that Newcastle barely had a meaningful attack.
Arteta had picked the team Gunners fans wanted to see with Willian and Nicolas Pepe benched and Partey and Smith Rowe in the key midfield positions. Luiz and Rob Holding, Cedric Soares and Tierney made up the back four.
Alexandre Lacazette forced a decent save out of Darlow at the start of the second half shortly before Aubameyang finally broke the deadlock.
His left footed shot went high past the sprawling keeper on 50 minutes. His relief was palpable.
Replays showed a slightly scuffed shot that was possibly not aimed at the near post, and the keeper going down too early. But the deserved goal had come from superb long pass from Partey.
Throughout the game, he calmed the play when others around him were panicking.
On 62 minutues, Smith Rowe cut back to Saka who passed into an empty net to make it 2-0.
For a couple of minutes, the Gunners were playing some samba football with back heels and reverse passes.
Partey was subbed off, arguably the best player on pitch, before Soares played a nice one-two with Saka and cut the ball back to Auba for his second goal.
There was a VAR check on whether the ball had crossed the line, but the goal stood.
Arteta added: “Mesut’s quality will be missed. He’s a very special player who had a very big history in this football club.”
Steve Bruce looked out of ideas and fans issued a statement calling for him to be sacked after the match.
ARSENAL: Leno, Soares, Tierney, Holding, Luiz, Xhaka, Partey (Elneny), Smith-Rowe (Martinelli), Saka, Aubameyang (Willian), Lacazette
SUBS NOT USED: Pepe, Runarsson, Bellerin, Gabriel