Arsenal overcame a poor start and a spirited Newcastle side to record their third consecutive league win of the 2018/19 season.
In truth after the first half an Arsenal win looked unlikely; they were poor in possession and rarely got Aubameyang and Lacazette into the game.
Newcastle started without Shelvey, Kenedy and Rondon and their front three of Perez, Murphy and Joselu caused Arsenal problems all day, with Mustafi in particular given a hard time. With Perez and Murphy having plenty of joy down the wings, a Newcastle first half goal seemed inevitable, but Petr Cech made a number of vital saves.
Arsenal were unchanged from their win against Cardiff but struggled to get any fluency, and apart from Lacazette wasting a few chances and Aaron Ramsey failing to tee up Aubameyang, their first half display was tepid.
The second half saw Arsenal ramp up the pressure and a foul on Aubameyang allowed Granit Xhaka to hit a sizzling free kick to open the scoring. Ten minutes later a Lacazette shot was blocked but fell kindly to Mesut Ozil who scored his first of the season from the edge of the area.
The flurry of goals knocked the stuffing out of Newcastle who never looked like mounting a comeback. A stoppage-time goal from Ciaran Clarke gave Arsenal a nervy end but the hosts were unable to recover from their slow opening to the second half.
Can Arsenal build up from the back with Cech?
Much has been made of Emery’s new style for Arsenal with critics of it being derided as unsophisticated little Englanders. There is no doubt that long-term the style will succeed but currently it risks being a liability for Arsenal.
Petr Cech simply hasn’t got the passing skills required, and at one point passed the ball out for a Newcastle corner. Encouraged by the shakiness of their opponents and the St James’s crowd, Newcastle harried and pressed high on Emery’s team and were given an easy foothold into the game.
There is a theory that Emery is giving Cech enough rope to hang himself with before he brings in Leno, and if that is the case, it will be a sad end to the career of one of the league’s best ever goalkeepers.
Will Newcastle score enough?
Newcastle and Benitez have been criticised for their negative approach in matches this season. Whilst this can’t be levelled at them today there does remain a lack of quality in forward areas. Murphy, Perez and Joselu are all hard workers but end product was again an issue.
The suspicion remains that Benitez is becoming adept at using his political skills and hiding behind Mike Ashley’s lack of investment at the expense of risking matches. That policy will end in the Championship.
Midfield substitutes key to long-term success this season
Both sides had midfielders on the bench who could be pivotal in improving their respective seasons. Jonjo Shelvey remains too much of a risk at international level but his passing and bit of spark are a must in this pedestrian Newcastle side. New Arsenal signing Torreira has had to make do with substitute appearances so far but always looks a level above his peers. His composure could help Emery nail down his passing style.
Man of the Match: Sokratis
The Greek centre-back stood firm in the first half as Mustafi and the rest of the back four threatened to flounder.