Arsenal's Champion League hopes in tatters after Newcastle defeat

Arsenal arrived in Newcastle needing a win to keep Champions League qualification in their own hands. The left like a team heading back into the Europa League with a manager who could not seem to know how or why the capitulation had occurred.

Mikel Arteta looked like a man who had just seen a car crash. Ashen faced, hollow eyed, a mixture of stress, anger and disappointment. 

He had the stare of a man who could not quite comprehend what he had just seen. Arsenal had not just been beaten in a game they had to win to move back above their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. They were outplayed, roughed up, out-passed and outclassed. 

They completely and utterly, no excuses, no mitigating circumstances, deserved to lose a game where their ability, but also their mental strength, fell short.

They walked into a wall of noise when they emerged from the tunnel at St James’ Park, were rocked back onto their heels and could not get on to the front foot all evening. In the first half they just about hung on, somehow repelling wave after wave of Newcastle attacks, but in the second they were blown apart after Ben White’s own goal.

Mikel Arteta

The home side should have scored another three or four, they were that dominant. Instead, they had to make do with a second from their new star, Bruno Guimares. The Brazil international, who chose to sign for Newcastle instead of Arsenal, in January, was the best player on the pitch.

It all helps to create a picture of a club in black and white that is the rising power in English football and one in red and white stuck where it has been for most of the last 15 years. 

Good, but not good enough. Impressive when at their best, soft and too easy to play against when they are either poor or mediocre.

When the crunch came, Arsenal came up short again. They have been doing a variation of this self-implosion for years. Whatever the process is under Arteta, it was not supposed to lead here. Arteta did not try to defend it. Not that he could.

“Normally I sit here, I can defend, but today Newcastle were 100 times better than us in every department. From the beginning to the end and it is very hard to accept it

“We knew [what to expect in terms of the atmosphere] but we didn’t cope with it, we didn’t compete. We never got into the game. We put ourselves in trouble. 

“We lost every duel. Newcastle deserved to win the game, probably by a bigger margin. We need to win and we need a defeat for them [Spurs]. In football anything can happen. We have to put our head down and swallow every poison possible.”

They certainly have to take their medicine. This was never going to be an easy game against a Newcastle side which could well be pushing for a European place themselves next season given the remarkable progress they have made under Eddie Howe.

Yet, you cannot escape from the brutal verdict Arsenal tossed away fourth place through their own carelessness and weakness. They buckled under pressure.

Arsenal's Ben White scores an own goal

Tottenham now have to lose at the worst team in the league, Norwich City, on Sunday to let Arsenal leapfrog above them. It is very, very hard to see that happening.

Arsenal’s first-half performance was summed up by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who kept falling over kicking the ball out and almost gifted Miguel Almiron a goal when his kick was charged down.


But the visitors did at least hang in there, they did not concede before half-time despite rarely getting out of their half, Ramsdale making two good saves from Sean Longstaff and Allan Saint-Maximin.

This was Saint-Maximin at his very best but why did Arteta leave him one on one against right back Takehiro Tomiyasu? The Japan international could not cope and was removed from the match six minutes before half-time for his own wellbeing.

Newcastle played like a team possessed, not one winding down for the summer and this was a fully deserved first victory over a top-six side this season.

There was more bite in Arsenal play at the start of the season,  but it was a player who had a tooth knocked out in the first half, Callum Wilson who gave them the lead they deserved - or at least he would have done had White not done it for him, sliding in to cut out Joelinton’s cross.

Wilson was close to a second on the volley as Arsenal were forced to chase the game. He was denied again after that by a deflection from an Emil Krafth pull back.

Arsenal had to gamble. Only a win would do but all they could do was concede a second and it should have been three of four by the end.

“Brilliant way for us to sign off here,” said Howe. "I was very, very pleased with the performance, I think it is our best by some distance since I have been at the club. 

“It feels a step forward, definitely. That was a challenge we posed, can we get a result against one of the top six? I think you saw tonight a progression and evolution to how we played. I think we are seeing an improvement in all areas.”


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