Mikel Arteta risked throwing away the recent upswing with the team selection of too many out of form players lacking confidence. Some were so shorn of confidence they looked as if they weren’t trying.
The quality at times was severely lacking. Highly depressing. Taken collectively it raises questions about the depth of the squad.
Arsenal played a 4-2-3-1. Martinelli, unfortunately injured himself in the warm-up, turning an ankle. And all Arsenal fans, no doubt hoped it wasn’t serious. It wasn’t
Luiz and Cedric came in at the back, Elneny and Willock – the defensive shield, Willian, Nelson and Pepe the three behind Aubameyang up front – too many changes risking disrupting the winning formula. And in the end, it was the youngsters coming on which saved the day with a 2-0 victory after extra-time.
Newcastle fielded a lot of returners including Lascelles and Dubravka and played five at the back. They hadn’t won at the Emirates since 2010.
But Arsenal v Newcastle history in the FA Cup favours Newcastle, with a win in 1932 from the ball-over the byline and the Barnes injury victory in 1952 when Arsenal played the match with ten men. But Arsenal won the 1998 final with Overmars and Anelka scoring.
Over the line? No VAR in 1932
The opening signs were good with Nelson cutting in and unleashing a low shot, followed by Pepe running in from the other side and shooting. The Ivorian was then felled by Dummett and Willian took an unconvincing free kick straight at the wall.
It was obvious from an early stage that attacks needed to be slick to disrupt the back five.
But the co-ordination wasn’t there with all the changes.
A neat triangle between Cedric, Willock and Pepe came to nothing. Pepe had a chance to cross but overhit it.
Tierney changed pace and crossed to Pepe but Nelson intervened and the ball went to Dubrovnik. What the ball was doing going to a town in Croatia, you may ask? But that is what the commentator called the Newcastle goalkeeper.
Willian lost the ball in an attack. His performance raises fears for the future. He lacks pace to beat players and invariable passes backwards.
Arsenal on 55 were a disaster waiting to happen. Luiz missed a header and Tierney hashed a clearance and Carroll shot wide.
It was obvious Arteta picked too many off form players at once. Willian is so lacking in confidence and Willock kept giving the ball away. They were substituted on 65 with Saka and Xhaka.
Lascelles went off at half time with Matt Ritchie coming on – an attacking move – and they were more threatening.
Carroll took a ball down and swivelled – taking a deflection – but saved by Leno.
Arsenal carved out a few chances. Pepe hit a shot wide from a one-two. Aubameyang latched onto a long ball and failed to find the net past Dubravka.
Pepe crossed to Willock who headed into the ground – saved well by Dubravka. Then the Ivorian cut in and failed to see Aubameyang free and shot wide. Tierney crossed and Aubameyang sent in a tame header. Then the Scotsman’s long ball found Saka who let fly – but over.
It all came down to a moment before the end when a deflection sent the ball to Carroll with only Leno to beat, he shot wide.
Smith Rowe ,one for Nelson ten minutes after half-time, escaped a red card on a VAR review.
The first half of extra time Smith Rowe linked up well with Tierney with the Croydon man’s shot deflecting wide.
Xhaka hit a dropping volley on target but Dubravka saved.
Clarke stuck out a leg in the area and Aubameyang fell. VAR wasn’t interested.
Lacazette came on for Pepe at start of the second half of extra time
Clark got his feet tangled, Lacazette fought for the ball with Hayden leaving Smith Rowe with a bouncing ball in the area which he put away with aplomb off the far post.
It was finished off when Saka found Aubameyang who passed to Xhaka who sent Tierney free who crossed for Aubameyang to tap Arsenal into the fourth round.
Emile Smith Rowe said it was a relief not to be red-carded. “It wasn’t intentional. Newcastle were very hard to break down and were a strong opponent – breaking them down – but we did it in the end.
“I’m happy to be playing for the club. It (the game) shows how together we are. We are working off the pitch.”
Steve Bruce said: “when you come here you have to take chances when they come along. We had the opportunity – but didn’t grasp it. We rue the missed chances. You don’t get a lot of them here [?].”
“There were a lot of pleasing things. We’ve had a tough run.”
Mikel Arteta said: “It was very impressive from Emile Smith Rowe because he is playing with a lot of personality, a lot of risk. He is playing in areas where he needs to make things happen and he has got the talent to do it.”
“We want to keep going and win more games. It’s always important to stay in the competitions. We want to fight for this competition again, so today was a big game for us.”
Arsenal: 1Leno, 17Cédric Soares (Booked at 45minsSubstituted for Maitland-Niles at 120+1’minutes). 23David Luiz, 22Marí, 3Tierney, 25Elneny, 28Willock (Substituted for Xhaka at 66’minutes), 19Pépé (Substituted for Lacazette at 105’minutes), Willian (Substituted for Saka at 66’minutes), 24Nelson (Substituted for Smith Rowe at 56’minutes Booked at 90mins), 14Aubameyang
Newcastle: 1 Dubravka 17 Krafth (Substituted for Murphy at 68’minutes), 14 Hayden 6 Lascelles (Booked at 9mins, Substituted for Ritchie at 45’minutes) 2 Clark (Booked at 90 mins), 3 Dummett 24 Almirón (Substituted for Yedlin at 81’minutes), 36 S Longstaff 16 Hendrick 9 Joelinton (Substituted for Anderson at 81’minutes) 7 Carroll (Booked at 26mins, Substituted for Gayle at 105’minutes).