Arsenal Vs Newcastle United: Highlights and analysis – Mesut Ozil delights

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal celebrates with Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on December 16, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal celebrates with Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on December 16, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Arsenal hosted Newcastle United in the Premier League in desperate need of a win. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 1-0 win.

Arsene Wenger obviously liked what he saw against West Ham United on Wednesday night. Other than the anticipated swapping of Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud, Arsenal were unchanged, with the back-four-based system again the formation of choice. It was a brave choice. It worked, mostly. Newcastle United were largely anaemic; Wenger’s strategy lives to fight another day.

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The first half started in fairly entertaining fashion. Arsenal passed the ball with a much greater tempo than against West Ham, and they were able to engineer a few openings, if not quite clear-cut chances. Alexandre Lacazette fired a shot from distance that was directed right down the throat of Rob Elliot; the Frenchman then had a shot blocked, with the return effort from Hector Bellerin also being blocked, deflecting our for a corner; and then Ainsley Maitland-Niles burst forward with real pace and power, skipping past two or three challenges, only to see his shot skim the side netting.

Arsenal continued to press for the opener and, with a fluid, interchangeable midfield that saw Mesut Ozil at least start from a marginally deeper position, looked dangerous whenever they were able to find space in the midfield third. Alexis Sanchez played several clipped, switched passes in behind the Newcastle defence for Hector Bellerin to run onto, and Granit Xhaka played a similarly lofted through pass onto the head of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who tried to find Alexandre Lacazette with a header into the box. The breakthrough did come for the Gunners, and in a sublime fashion.

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Jack Wilshere broke from the midfield ranks to drive at a vulnerable Newcastle defence. With options to both his left and right, he, astutely, chose to feed Alex Iwobi into the right channel. His low pass, initially aimed at Alexandre Lacazette, eventually fell to Alexis Sanchez at the far post. The Chilean’s shot deflected into the air, before being half cleared by a Newcastle head. Little did they know that Mesut Ozil and his wondrous left foot was lurking, taking two steps back to set himself, anticipating the poor clearance, before hooking a vicious volley into the goal and past Rob Elliot.

Arsenal continued to press for more goals with the lead, looking fairly comfortable in defensive areas. Hector Bellerin skewed a volley over the crossbar after another cute, dinked through ball into his path from Sanchez, Alexandre Lacazette had a marginal shout for a penalty turned away, before bundling his way through the Newcastle defence and almost getting a shot away, and then he and Mesut Ozil linked up beautifully with a precise one-two, only for the German’s dink over the onrushing Elliot to be cleared off the line by a recovering defender.

As the half drew to a close, Arsenal continued to command the match. Newcastle created extremely little, having just two shots in the whole half. Petr Cech, for example, made just one save. The Gunners, meanwhile, had 12 shots, three on target and a massive five blocked. Perhaps more significantly, they had made 408 total passes in the first half, nearly three times Newcastle’s 138. And of those 408 passes, 171 were in the final third. Not only did Arsenal have full command of the game with 76.8% of the possession, but they were playing in the right areas. Very, very comfortable indeed.

Upon the restart, the very same dominance of the first half was reinstated by Arsenal. Alexis Sanchez saw lots of the ball down the left flank, with his dart and dribble inside almost leading to an own goal. Jack Wilshere burst his way past a couple of midfielders from deep, in his stereotypical style, while Alex Iwobi’s bundled effort nearly sat up for him on the rebound as Rob Elliot scrambled to clear.

But there were warnings from Newcastle at the other end, especially from Jacob Murphy who found some joy exploiting Hector Bellerin’s lax positioning at times. Petr Cech was forced into a good save, down low to his left, defying Murphy who glided inside onto his right foot far too easily, while Matt Ritchie’s first-time effort from the edge of the area was mistimed, flying high and wide of the goal.

Those warnings, though, were not heeded. Alexandre Lacazette missed two opportunities when released into the inside-right channel. The first came after a brilliant first touch and turn to engineer some space. The second was more wasteful, attempting to delicately chip Rob Elliot, only to put too much purchase on the ball, watching it float over the crossbar. For all of Arsenal’s dominance, a one-goal lead is always a slender one.

Jack Wilshere was the next to squander a perfectly decent opportunity, carelessly striking Olivier Giroud’s clever, cushioned knock-down from near the penalty spot straight at Rob Elliot, who comfortably blocked the shot clear. And as the game entered the closing stages, Newcastle began pressing, looking to take advantage of their hosts’ wastefulness.

Dwight Gale held the ball up well after being introduced off the bench. Mikel Merino’s shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide by Granit Xhaka, which could have very easily ended up in the net, while Ayoze Perez first skied wide from the corner of the penalty area and then poorly headed past the post, both coming from dangerous Matt Ritchie deliveries from the opposite flank.

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Thankfully for Arsenal, they were able to see out the victory. Cech, by full-time, had still only made two saves, rarely being worked into serious action. The performance was not as free-flowing as the first-half had suggested it might be. Arsenal had to work for this win. But it was important that they did. After just two points from their last nine, nothing less than a victory would have sufficed. Good job… just.