Xhaka’s stun­ning strike turns the tide for Ar­se­nal

The Observer - Sport - - Football Premier League -

Mid­way through an ini­tially awk­ward af­ter­noon, Unai Emery was quite pos­si­bly brac­ing him­self for the sort of un­com­fort­able post- match scru­tiny with which Arsène Wenger even­tu­ally be­came so wearily fa­mil­iar .

Emery’s Ar­se­nal ended the fi rst half seem­ingly barely able to string two passes to­gether and ap­par­ently strug­gling to em­brace their new phi­los­o­phy of ad­vanc­ing with in­tri­cacy right from the very back.

With New­cas­tle press­ing their guests into fl us­tered sub­mis­sion, Rafael Benítez was win­ning his bat­tle of wits with Wenger’s suc­ces­sor. Yet as good as Benítez’s tac­ti­cal plan ap­peared, he lacked a striker suffi ciently preda­tory to pol­ish off Matt Ritchie’s stel­lar crosses and Jonjo Shelvey was only fi t enough for the bench.

The scene was con­se­quently set for Granit Xhaka to se­cure an ul­ti­mately restora­tive win by re­mind­ing ev­ery­one that a mo­ment’s in­spi­ra­tion is some­times all it takes to undo any amount of

ALEX LIVESEY/ GETTY IMAGES

New­cas­tle goal­keeper Martin Dubravka tries in vain to reach the curling free- kick of Granit Xhaka ( be­low) )

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