Another amazing day at St James’ Park, with goals from Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie sealing a superb comeback win over Arsenal this afternoon.
After just watching on from the Gallowgate, here’s some thoughts on each player’s performance and my marks out of 10.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Kenedy – Gayle
Dubravka – 8 – Had very few saves to make of any note, but commanded his box brilliantly (as he’s nearly always done since he arrived in January) and looks ice cool with his feet when the ball is played back to him. Conceded just his first goal at St Jame’s (1 conceded in 4 games!) and continues to look the part.
Yedlin – 8.5 – He had a tough job on his hands to contain Aubameyang (deployed down their left), but he did very well for the most part. Aside from one lapse for their goal (which was hard to stop), he was excellent. Also played a huge part in the our equalising goal too, playing in an inch perfect cross that Perez glanced in superbly.
Lascelles – 8 – Rock solid as ever. Dealt with just about everything in the air and didn’t allow the impressive Aubameyang and Lacazette too much time or space, also putting in some big clearances and blocks just when we needed him. Newcastle’s player of the season?
Lejeune – 8.5 – Like Lascelles, he was impressive defensively, but some of his play out of defence was outstanding, firing several 60 yard passes in behind for Gayle to run onto. As we saw with Perez’s goal at Leicester last weekend, the Frenchman has some right foot on him and his long balls in behind could soon become our secret.
Dummett – 8 – Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi looked very tricky and caused him as many problems as any opposition winger has this season, but he still stood up to the test and did a solid job. Another solid display from Dummett, a player who very rarely lets Rafa down at left-back.
Diame – 10* – Monstrous, yet again. He was everywhere today, covering more distance than any other NUFC player (11.46km) and making more successful tackles (7) and interceptions (5) than anyone else. He’s winning headers, winning his battles and just dominating opposition midfielders week in week out, and today was another massive display from the big man. What an incredible turnaround. From zero to hero. (Would’ve been a 10 if it wasn’t for him losing the ball
Shelvey – 10* – If Gareth Southgate watched that and still thinks Jonjo Shelvey is not worth a place in his England team then I’m lost for words! He sliced Arsenal open with several superb balls in behind for Dwight Gayle (one of them playing a huge part in our first goal) and he oozed class and calm all afternoon. He doesn’t even seem a ‘liability’ in his work off the ball either, with it being another disciplined performance from a defensive perspective too. He and Mo Diame share the MOTM award for me.
Ritchie – 8.5 – Fully of energy as ever and back in the goals once again, with his second half winner being his third home goal in our last four games. Gave his all, was bright at both ends and got the all important winner. Much more like it from a man who had been struggling to make an impact just a few months ago.
Perez – 9 – Many have doubted the Spaniard this season (and I could understand why at times), but he’s really stepped it up in recent weeks. His equaliser today was exquisite and he also played a big part in our second, nudging Slimani’s superb header across for Ritchie to score the winner. He’s full of confidence and it’s great to see, with him having now scored 3 goals in his last 3 – making him our top scorer in all competitions.
Kenedy – 8 – Wasn’t quite at his brilliant best, but it was another impressive display from the Brazilian. Tracked back well defensively and gets stuck in more than some would give him credit for. Hit the bar late on after combining well with Slimani.
Gayle – 7 – Looks visibly short on confidence and never really looked like scoring, but made some positive runs in behind to stretch the Arsenal defence and challenged for every ball. Also deserves praise for his role in Perez’s equaliser, holding the ball up (after Shelvey’s ball over the top) and laying it to Yedlin who crossed in for the goal.
Slimani – 8 – Made a really positive impact in the final half an hour on just his second appearance for NUFC. His superb header across the box was vital in setting up Ritchie’s winner, and he generally looked so lively and a proper centre forward. He’s a big unit but showed a surprising turn of pace and was quick to close down Arsenal defenders. A real handful and someone who we’ll be hoping starts at Everton a week on Monday!
Joselu – N/A – Was brought on for Perez late on to partner Slimani up top. Put himself about and gave us a bit of height and energy as we looked to hold onto our lead.
Murphy – N/A – Came on late for Ritchie but, aside from a few dogged bits of defensive work, he had no time to make any real impact.