Arsenal hosted Newcastle United for their Matchday 18 clash of the Premier League. The Magpies were coming into this game on the back of 7 losses from their previous 8 games, and their trip to the Emirates only proved to be an extension of what seems to be a nightmarish run of results.
Arsene Wenger’s side took a whopping total of 23 shots, of which 5 were on target, and just 1 troubled the scorekeepers. The North Londoners seem to be having problems of their own, having found the back of the net just twice in their last 3 Premier League games, and if not for Mesut Ozil’s worldie, might have struggled to get over the line once again.
That being said, here’s a look at the 5 major talking points from the clash at the Emirates:
Arsenal’s finishing woes continue
Arsene Wenger is bound to be a worried man, going by Arsenal’s astonishingly poor conversion rate in recent games. Remember David de Gea’s superhuman effort against the Gunners? That game saw Arsenal take a staggering total of 33 shots, with 1 goal to show for their efforts. Should you choose to dismiss it as de Gea’s brilliance, consider this:
After their unfortunate tryst with de Gea, Arsenal went on to play Southampton and West Ham, before this weekend’s Newcastle clash. In the Premier League, The Saints have conceded 24 goals this season, while West Ham and Newcastle have allowed 32 and 27, respectively. The point is, these aren’t the most defensive teams, and David de Gea most definitely doesn’t play for all of them.
Against Southampton, Arsenal managed to take 11 shots, with just 1 goal to show. Against West Ham, they took 22 shots and scored none. Against Newcastle, yet again, they managed a plethora of chances, with a total of 23 shots, but walked away with just 1 goal on the board.
Now, my math lets me down at times, but as per my calculations, that’s an astonishing tally of 89 shots in the last 4 games, with just 3 of them finding the net. Should Arsene Wenger be concerned? You bet he should.
Matt Ritchie’s cameo asks questions
Coming on for Christian Atsu in the 53rd minute, Matt Ritchie took no time to ask questions as to why he was left on the bench in the first place. The 28-year-old, in his 40 odd minutes on the pitch, mustered 2 shots, 2 key passes, and a total of 34 touches.
Considering that Atsu spent 53 minutes on the pitch, taking no shots, making no key passes, and managing just 28 touches, the question does beg to be asked. Why was Ritchie coming on for Atsu and not the other way around?
The lively Scot was ostensibly a breath of fresh air once he came on, and is perfectly capable of inspiring this seemingly lacklustre Newcastle side. The Magpies will visit West Ham next weekend, before then hosting Manchester City and Brighton before the end of the year, and Rafa Benitez will undoubtedly be praying for the best.
Will Matt Ritchie be the answer to his prayers? Only time will tell.
Are Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jack Wilshere here to stay?
When the teams were announced before start of play, Arsenal’s devout fans, and fans in general, were taken by surprise, predominantly by the presence of two names – Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Jack Wilshere.
Both players were handed their first respective starts of the season against West Ham last week, and clearly impressed Arsene Wenger enough to retain their places. Maitland-Niles put in an impressive performance with 2 shots and 90 touches, and did his best to make up for Sead Kolasinac’s absence.
Jack Wilshere also had a decent outing, finishing with 1 shot on target, and 82 touches on the ball. The Englishman failed to make an appearance on the scoresheet, but made his presence felt in midfield.
This is bound to give Arsene Wenger a selection headache in the games to come, but with the way things are going, it’s the kind of ache he’d gladly take.
Relegation battle on Rafa Benitez’s hands
After being relegated at the end of the 2015-16 Premier League season, Rafa Benitez led Newcastle United to the 2016-17 EFL Championship, to make a quick return to England’s top-flight competition.
This season, too, began rather well for the Magpies, in what seemed to be a promising sequel to last season’s fairytale. Newcastle picked up 14 points from their first 9 games, but seemed to have lost their way entirely, as they now face yet another relegation battle, having won just a solitary point from their next 9.
The defeat to Arsenal marked their 8th defeat in their last 9 games, with the only anomaly being a 2-2 draw against West Brom. This loss, coupled with West Ham’s and Crystal Palace’s victories, have forced the Magpies to a lowly 18th place in the table, promising tough times ahead.
Mesut Ozil’s struggling?
Widespread speculation over a potential move to Manchester United – or pretty much anywhere else over Arsenal – doesn’t seem to have affected Mesut Ozil’s mind in any way. The German playmaker’s shot proved to be the decisive moment in the match, and eventually gave Arsenal all 3 points.
The 29-year-old was crowned man of the match for his performance which included 2 goals (both of which were on target, and 1 of which was an oh so beautiful volley that beat Robert Elliot to thump into the net.
Ozil also made 8 key passes, had an overall passing accuracy of 90%, and got 123 touches on the ball. How he can be so utterly excellent in one game, and equally inattentive in the next, is something that’s beyond my understanding. One thing’s for sure though. He’s still got it!