Unusually smooth ride at St. James Park

Pre-match talk from the pundits – this is the poorest Arsenal team in twenty years.

One-nil to the Arsenal – the score for the majority of the game takes on a different meaning these days.

Any funny how a game ten years ago, when Newcastle came back to score 4 in the second half, still lingers in the memory.

Arsenal have only lost one in nineteen games against Newcastle. And Aubameyang has a good scoring record against them.  But Newcastle are in good form – ominous, After Fernandez came back – they have not lost in three. Ritchie recovered and was in a midfield five. They could also play in a more relaxed way – relatively free of relegation, nine points ahead of Fulham. But it seem to work the other way.

Ryan replaced Leno in eight changes for Arsenal. Luiz, Gabriel and Bellerin were in, Elneny and Ceballos in midfield, with Willian, Odergaard and Martinelli just behind Aubameyang.

Luiz lofted a pass to the byline for Bellerin to lob into the middle, where Aubameyang showed his lack of form by hashing the connection – but it found its way to Elneny who let fly and it ended up in the net past Dubravka despairing drive, for his first Premiership goal. He’s been practicing shooting with Steve Round.

Martinelli drove well down the left and crossed low to Aubameyang who fired it into the hoardings.

After 15, Saint Maximin started to go on some slaloms which looked dangerous. And on 18 his shot took a deflection forcing Ryan to tip over.

Soon after Xhaka dived in on Saint Maximin and got an unnecessary yellow. What were the odds on a red, to add to his three for Arsenal already? And move Arteta’s team total into double figures.

Willian won the ball on the right and crossed for Aubameyang who send a shot well wide. Something wasn’t right with him.

Newcastle were targeting space on the right behind Bellerin, with Wilson running the channel.

A good Arsenal move involving Bellerin and Willian led to Xhaka firing in – saved by Dubravka.

Almiron headed off the line from a Willian corner – from Elneny, Arsenal’s secret attacking weapon.

Martinelli beat Murphy for a third time and dinked to Ceballos who messed up the attempt. Arsenal needed one of these efforts to go in. Newcastle score 67% of goals in the second half.

At the start of the second half, David Luiz pulled a hamstring sending a long ball and was replaced by Calum Chambers. Last time in an Arsenal shirt? He was having a good game. Would Arsenal be weakened? The feeling was yes. He was exuding experience.

Xhaka perfomed a mindless block on Murphy which could have been yellow.

Aubameyang got blocked in a one two, it bounced to Odergaard who found Martinelli on the left who sent in a pinpoint cross for Aubameyang to volley home with a high boot.

Arsenal took control with their passing possession game. Pepe came on for Aubameyang.

Schar lunged in on Martinelli with force and caught his heel and got a straight red. There are some players who play in a way that attracts injuries, and unfortunately Martinelli is one.

Bruce said: “You can’t tackle anybody. A real harsh sending off. Fab has worked hard for three months to get back.

“Arsenal played well. Not close to where we’ve been. Arsenal were the better team.”

Aubameyang said: “The last five (minutes)I was tired. The docs did incredible work with me. I have to say thanks to them

“Important to take confidence and win this game – and hopefully we are going to get through (the Europa League tie).”

Mikel Arteta said: “We got what we wanted, to win the game and keep a clean sheet. We had strong performances individually and collectively we were the better side.

“I wanted to be fresh for today and Thursday so that was to give an opportunity to everybody. That will give us a headache.

“We missed Aubameyang for a few weeks with illness. He is getting back to fitness slowly. Today we played him to see how he was and he looked good.

“Winning and playing the way we have done today gives the team comfort and confidence. It’s exactly what we need. We believed we can beat them and we did.”

Newcastle: 1Dubravka, 23Murphy, 18FernándezBooked at 62minsSubstituted forSchärat 72’minutes (Booked at 90mins,  2Clark (Substituted fo rGayle at 84’minutes), 3Dummett, 11Ritchie, 36S Longstaff, 8Shelvey, 24Almirón (Booked at 31mins, Substituted for Joelinton at 73’minutes), 13Wilson, 10Saint-Maximin

Arsenal: 33Ryan, 2Bellerín, 23David Luiz (Substituted for Chambers at 53’minutes), 6Gabriel, 34Xhaka (Booked at 20mins), 25Elneny, 8Ceballos, 12Willian, 11Ødegaard (Substituted for Partey at 85’minutes), 35Martinelli, 14Aubameyang (Substituted fo rPépé at 78’minutes)