A game of two halves, but ultimately a poor start to life at St James’ Park for Steve Bruce, with us running out of steam in the second 45.
Here’s an assessment of each player’s performance along with my marks out of 10:
NUFC XI: (3-5-2): Dubravka (6) – Schar (5), Lascelles (6), Dummett (6) – Manquillo (6.5), Hayden (7), Shelvey (6.5), Longstaff (6), Ritchie (5) – Almiron (7), Joelinton (6.5) – SUBS: Willems (5), Saint-Maximin (6).
Dubravka – 6 – Couldn’t do much about the goal and made a steady stop to deny Aubameyang early on, but I felt his distribution from the back was poor. A few wayward kicks that were miscued out of play and he was caught in no mans land a few times. Nothing majorly concerning, but a few minor mistakes.
Schar – 5 – Was very erratic at times – both on the ball and in the tackle. He made a few cynical fouls, with Nelson beating him for pace a few times down their right, but he doesn’t hide and always tried to get us on the front foot. That said, his passing was far more wayward than usual today and could’ve cost us.
Lascelles – 6 – Solid on the whole, but, in hindsight, he should’ve gone across to pick up Aubameyang for their goal. He dealt with most things comfortably but wasn’t actually tested a great deal, with Arsenal’s attack generally coming from the wide areas. There was the odd indecisive moment from him, but he was steady on the whole, making a few key clearances in the box.
Dummett – 6 – I would’ve given him a 7 if it wasn’t for the slightly weak ball to Willems that lead to their goal – although the Dutchman didn’t react quick enough and was guilty of ball-watching. Back to Dummett, he shows his limitations on the ball in a three-man defence, but the vast majority of his defensive work was spot on. He read the danger quickly on several occasions, was good positionally and showed decent pace to stop the odd Aubameyang breakaway.
Manquillo – 6.5 – I thought he actually defended pretty well, with him coming across on more than one occasion to deny Aubameyang just as he was getting into a dangerous position. That said, he misplaced a few too many passes in the second half and was a little indecisive in attack, but I couldn’t have too many complaints about his work at the other end.
Hayden – 7 – If we’re taking both halves into account, he was our most consistent player for me. He played on the right-side of our central midfield and got about the pitch well – although he didn’t always look comfortable when on the ball in and around the final third. He was tidy in possession on the whole and got back to do several bits of superb defensive work, making several well timed challenges just when Arsenal were getting into dangerous areas.
Shelvey – 6.5 – Got stuck in and was making as many tackles in the first half as any Newcastle player out there. His early enthusiasm sometimes saw him over play and lose the ball as a result, but he generally used the ball well. Also came the closest to scoring with a well hit strike on the edge of the box smashing the post, but had to come off early in the second half with a knock he struggled to shake off.
Longstaff – 6 – Based on the extremely high standards he set earlier in the year, he was pretty sloppy in the first half for me and looked a little out of sorts in the new system. That said, he never hides and his energy levels are always there, with him willing to get on the ball AND get stuck in. Had a solid second half when he played in a more centrally.
Ritchie – 5 – I thought he was poor today. His work rate isn’t ever an issue, but it felt as though he didn’t get himself into good attacking areas today – and when he did his final ball was often a little scuffed or hit the first man.
Almiron – 7 – Was the best player on the pitch in the first half, but faded considerably in the second, showing how vital it is that we give him support in attack. His quick thinking, his energy and his all round enthusiasm was brilliant to watch in the first half, but he did tire considerably. Sometimes he spoilt some good approach play by picking the wrong final ball or trying too hard when he could’ve kept it simple, but there can be no complaints with his performance today.
Joelinton – 6.5 – A tough debut for the Brazilian today, although I still feel he did OK with the scraps he was given. He seemed to come alive in and around the box, but we rarely saw him get the ball in dangerous areas. His hold up play was mixed and he could’ve done the basics better at times, but hopeful balls aimed in his direction aren’t easy to bring down and lay off when he’s left isolated. I’m a firm believer that he’s a very good player with a lot about him, we just didn’t make it easy at all for him today.
Jetro Willems – 5 – Looked tidy on the ball from the left wing-back position, but was guilty of ball-watching as he failed to reach Dummett’s weak pass that lead to their goal.
Allan Saint-Maximin – 6 – His pace and direct approach was exciting on the odd occasions we got him on the ball in good areas. Whipped in a brilliant cross after working some space down the right, but there was no one in the middle to make the most of it. This is probably a compliment and shows how explosive he is, but it almost looks like he doesn’t know what he’s about to do next – something that could work for and against him moving forwars!