Tactical adjustment wins the points

Could Arsenal bounce back from Liverpool? Would the post-match inquest bear fruit?

Newcastle had no wins yet in the Premier League this season. Would the bounce come under Eddie Howe, now present in physical form in the dug-out.

Arsenal have won 17 of last 18 games against Newcastle and have never lost a home game in the Premiership against a team at the bottom.

Odegaard in for Lacazette was the only change for Arsenal. Dubravka and Willock were back for Newcastle.

Newcastle formed a solid 5-4 block with Wilson up front and relied on counters. It was an afternoon when Arsenal needed patience. Although overall Arsenal’s passing and movement was fluid the pace was too slow in the first half, enabling the opposition to get into position.

Nuno Tavares – ANR Man of the Match, with test of character

This was a game which showed coaching tactics working. Arsenal came out in the second half with more intent, faster passing and movement and players getting behind the back four.

This was illustrated by the goal. Saka moved from the right to left wing creating an overload. He passed to Smith Rowe who held it while his colleague moved into the Newcastle area, before the Croydon man found Tavares on the edge, and his deft touch set Saka in space, and he drove across Dubravka into the far corner of the net.

It emphasised the importance of Saka to the side – and worries were visible as he hobbled off with what could be a muscular injury.

But any gloom was dispelled when Tomiyasu lobbed a high ball into the Newcastle area, which was tracked by the onrushing substitute Martinelli and he volleyed expertly past Dubravka.

Good that Tavares got an assist, after the nightmare of Anfield, and all credit to Arteta for giving him another chance. He seemed determined to score a piledriver to make up for it – with four wild off-target shots in the first half. In fact, Newcastle had one less shot on target than Arsenal 5-6, with 8 shots to Arsenal’s 24. Shelvey tested Ramsdale with some long range efforts.

Like the last home game, the opposing manager focused on a contentious decision at a crucial juncture – and given the vagaries of VAR, some could say Arsenal had a slice of luck. Tavares shoulder charged Wilson in the Arsenal area, with the ball bouncing up invitingly to be struck.

“The key moment has to be Callum going through one-on-one with a chance to equalise and a penalty’s not given. I can’t understand why Callum would go down there if it’s not a foul,” said Howe.

The only potential worry was the form of Aubameyang, who looked slightly off the pace in this increasingly youthful side.

As if offering a portent of the second half, Saka dropped a shoulder, reached the byline and cut back to Smith Rowe whose header was parried by Dubravka to Aubameyang for a sitter, which he missed. He seemed to be off the pace of the game again losing a few balls and was booked as his last act. The fact he will be away at the Africa Cup of Nations will maybe speed up the search for a medium / long term successor.

After the match Saka said: “We had to be patient. They made it difficult for us. The manager said at half-time play fast against the low block and the goals will come.”

Eddie Howe said: “We were good for the first 35, solid but creaked before and after half time. The ‘penalty’ and second goal were critical. Ramsdale saved a couple. Callum looked through one on one. And the second goal straight after was a killer blow.

“You saw a committed team. We could have been better on the counter. I saw positive signs.”

Mikel Arteta said: “We played OK in the first half without being a threat. We didn’t understand how to attack the block and didn’t occupy the right spaces. The shots were not hitting the target. In the second the rhythm was better, and we generated chances. Saka gave us creativity and spark against the low block.”

Premier League: Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0

Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 18Tomiyasu, 4White, 6Gabriel, 20Varela Tavares, 7Saka(Substituted for Martinelli at 64’minutes),5Partey (Substituted for Elneny at 85’minutes),23Sambi Lokonga, 10Smith Rowe, 8Ødegaard, 14Aubameyang (Booked at 76 mins, Substituted for Lacazette at 76’minutes)

Newcastle: 1Dúbravka, 17Krafth (Booked at 48mins), 6Lascelles (Booked at 63mins, 5Schär, 11Ritchie (Booked at 44mins, Substituted for Almirón at 67’minutes), 21Fraser, 8Shelvey (Substituted for Hayden at 88’minutes), 28Willock, 10Saint-Maximin, 9Wilson, 7Joelinton (Substituted for Murphy at 67’minutes)