That was a bit of a huff, puff and eventually blow the Newcastle defence down. Two cracking goals won the tie in the end though. The first was about three things, Saka to start the move rolling, the strength and determination of Lacazette and the finest of finishes from ESR. The second was about Xhaka and Tierney setting up a chance which Aubameyang couldn’t miss.
The performance from Arsenal was pretty ordinary. Tierney was his usual self bombing up and down the left but his link up play we usually see was non existent as no one was offering him an out ball. Nelson, in for Martinelli just before kick off, wasn’t on the same page. Over on the right, Pepe was once again huffing and puffing without really doing much. Willian was just Willian. The quick passing game we’ve seen in recent weeks was gone as back came the pre Chelsea style of football.
Arsenal certainly created more opportunities to score than Newcastle but that wasn’t difficult as they barely tested Bernd Leno, certainly in the first half. Our first real effort with purpose came through Aubameyang after Cedric crossed into the box. The shot was strong but the Newcastle keeper pushed it away from goal. Into the path of Willian who blasted his effort high and wide. Nelson too had had a golden opportunity but instead of hitting the ball first time his decision to take a touch let him down.
Newcastle improved a tad after the break. Chances came and went for both sides, perhaps the best for Newcastle through Andy Carroll but Leno’s fine save kept the scores level. Mikel Arteta had made changes by then with Saka, Xhaka and ESR replacing Willian, Willock and Nelson. VAR was on hand to suggest Chris Kavanagh review his decision to show ESR a straight red card, a decision he changed to a booking. Not that I thought our midfielder deserved to be booked either. The tackle on Nelson early in the game was far worse.
Anyway, into extra time we went and the changes Mikel Arteta made paid off. Two top notch goals saw us through and we’ll find out on Monday who we play next. A home tie against Marine would be nice.
If Mikel Arteta needed convincing that Pepe and Willian aren’t going to win him matches, last night might just have done the trick. I thought Willock and Nelson also struggled to make any real impact too. Luiz, another of the returning experienced players did alright I thought as did the defence in general and Leno, although had little to do, made a great save to keep us in the game.
The difference between Lacazette and Aubameyang playing central was also clear. Would Aubameyang have fought for the ball in a way Lacazette did which led to our opener? No, not in my opinion. Lacazette works for the team, Aubameyang wants his goals laid on a plate.
Lastly, Mikel Arteta on Gabriel Martinelli:
I am gutted. I was in my office before the game and one of the coaches came in and told me that Gabi had hurt himself, that he’d twisted his ankle. I went to the medical room and he was in tears. He was in a lot of pain and we’re going to have to see how he is. It didn’t look good. He was in pain so I imagine that we’re not going to have good news with him. We really want to know what’s going on. He’s a character and he wants to play the next game. He doesn’t care and can handle pain but I don’t know. Hopefully there is nothing too serious but to start with, it didn’t look too good.
He’s set to have a scan today so we can only hope for good news. At least he looked comfortable and pain free as he watched the game from the stands…
See you in the comments.