AND BREATHE! Another huge win for Eddie Howe’s Mags, as Newcastle United showed fight, spirit and bags of defensive resilience to beat Arsenal 1-0 at St James’ Park.
An absolutely massive win against a Gunners side, who hadn’t lost a league game all season up to now. We weren’t at our best on the ball, but we won the battle against a physical Arsenal side who had no answer to our intensity, determination and organisation at the back.
It was a team performance full of guts, grit and togetherness and Gordon was the match winner after yet another all-action display, but I thought Jamaal Lascelles was the best player on the pitch. He was a man mountain at the back and won every duel he contested, dealing with everything Arsenal threw at us with some vital headers and clearances.
The result sends us back above Man Utd – who won at the death in the early kick-off – two points behind Aston VIilla (5th) and three behind Liverpool (4th) to cap off an incredible week for the club. Given the injuries and fatigue, our response to flat displays against Dortmund and Wolves has been sensational.
Howe made eight changes to the side that beat Man Utd in midweek, seeing Pope, Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Burn, Bruno, Almiron and Wilson all return from the start. Murphy recovered from a shoulder injury to take a place on the bench, handing us a surprise boost ahead of kick-off.
It was a fiery and fully committed first half. Both sides were defending superbly, tackles were flying in and there were so many fouls. One came from Havertz, who smashed into Longstaff after the ball was gone. A horrible tackle where VAR checked for a possible red card, yet Stuart Attwell ended up giving more yellows to those in black and white as Longstaff, Schar and Gordon all went into the book for their angry reaction to the German’s challenge.
Although we came out on the wrong side of that particular melee, it lifted the crowd and galvanised the team. Arsenal had been trying to keep the ball, play beyond our press and keep a lid on the atmosphere at St James’ Park, but Havertz’ lunge and the scrap that followed gave us a lift.
Longstaff made a big tackle in the first half to deny Martinelli and Lascelles showed his strength to sweep up a few dangerous attacks. At the other end, Saliba was a man mountain at the back, winning a few huge headers as Trippier swung a few inviting balls into the box.
Howe was forced into a half-time change, as Burn failed to recover from a heavy fall that injured his back. Tino Livramento came on, seeing Trippier move to left-back up against Saka. After two man of the match displays in his only two starts for the club, it felt like we were in save hands with Tino; who fully deserved his chance after another superb display in midweek.
We were sitting deeper in the second half and relying on counter attacks against an Arsenal side having more of the ball, without ever really troubling Nick Pope. Wilson was losing his physical battle with Gabriel and Howe reacted, taking off our number nine and Almiron for Willock and Murphy, seeing Gordon move into a central role as he did at Man Utd in a move that would work a treat.
After Joelinton’s burst in-between the two centre-backs and Murphy’s low cross that threatened to run out of play, Willock did superbly to keep it in play and deliver a cross to the back post. Gabriel failed to deal with it after pressure from Joelinton and Gordon tapped in! A ridiculous number of VAR checks followed – THREE separate checks were announced inside the stadium – but the goal was given. 1-0!
A lead to protect and St James’ Park was rocking, although we were dealt another injury blow as Murphy’s shoulder back out as he tried to take on Zinchenko. Ritchie came on and Schar made a key intervention seconds later, clearing a Havertz cross after the German capitalised on a rare Livramento lapse.
More crucial defending followed. A huge header from Lascelles to clear a dangerous corner and Livramento getting the better of Martinelli once again, shepherding the ball out of play after tracking the Brazilian’s run. He did it again minutes later, smashing the winger in to touch to chants of ‘TINO, TINO, TINO!’
We needed to show more composure on the ball. Arsenal were having wave after wave of attack, leaving us living dangerously as we entered eight minutes of stoppage time. Bruno went into the book – ensuring he’d miss Bournemouth away after five yellow for the season – and Livramento joined him after wiping out Martinelli.
A flurry of corners came Arsenal’s way in added time, but it was a black and white shirt that met every single one of them. Joelinton cut out what would’ve been one last attack for the Gunners and the full-time whistle went. A roar of relief and scenes of joy followed and the lap of the pitch was full of smiles, fist pumps and a team truly United.
A gutsy performance and more proof that we’re finding different ways to win, no matter the opponent, the injuries we suffer or the conditions. Next up, a massive trip to Dortmund in the Champions League next Tuesday. HWTL!
STARTING XI: Pope – Trippier, Schar, Lascelles, Burn – Longstaff, Bruno, Joelinton – Almiron, Wilson, Gordon.
SUBS: Dubravka, Dummett, Ritchie, Krafth, Hall, Livramento, Murphy, Willock, L.Miley.