perspiration. If Emery’s introduction of Lucas Torreira helped Arsenal get a belated grip on midfi eld, Xhaka’s stunning free- kick changed the narrative entirely, prefacing an important – and judging by Emery’s body language, stress- busting – win.
With an elegant swipe of a Swiss boot, the harsh glare of the Premier League spotlight had switched to Benítez and his Newcastle side’s haul of only one point from fi ve games. That equals the team’s record bad start under Ruud Gullit in 1999- 2000, but 19 years on, no one expects Benítez, whose side have already faced four of the division’s top six, to emulate Gullit by resigning. “We’re not happy, but I’m not concerned because I know my team really well,” said Newcastle’s manager. “We’ve been close, but now we have to make the difference in the fi nal third.”
Emery agreed it had been a chameleon- style Arsenal performance. “In the fi rst half, we couldn’t control the match,” he acknowledged. “We couldn’t impose our ideas and we conceded a lot of counter attacking chances. The key was the fi rst goal, but maybe Lucas gave us better balance.”
Early- season top- tier statistics indicate that no goalkeeper has been more involved with his feet than Petr Cech but, despite this win, Emery’s commitment to playing out from the back remains a work in progress. Accordingly, Cech and his defence frequently looked hesitant as Newcastle bombarded their box. Arsenal have won consecutive Premier League away games for the fi rst time since May 2017.
Benítez has a habit of approaching games against the division’s elite with extreme caution but, here, he made a radical tactical departure that resulted in his unusually aggressive side harrying their visitors out of possession by pressing them high up the pitch and rudely interrupting their goalkeeper’s efforts to initiate those patient build ups. In marked contrast, Benítez’s side have played more long balls than anyone in the division – Neil Warnock’s Cardiff included – and have enjoyed the least possession of any team.
Such no- frills directness has, so far, hardly paid dividends, yet with the decibel level rising every time Mesut Özil was bundled unceremoniously off the ball, it initially seemed the ideal way to thoroughly faze Arsenal. Yet, although Jacob Murphy’s diving header forced Cech into a splendid save, it tellingly represented the closest either side came to scoring during an opening half punctuated by the lack of a killer fi nal ball. Murphy p y frequently accelerated behind Héctor Bellerín but he and his team team- mates lacked the necessary subtlety to capitalise.
Repr Reprieved, Emery replaced Mattéo Guendouzi with Lucas in the midfi el eld holding role and, shortly afterwa afterwards, all Benítez’s homework – and his h team’s hard work – went to wast waste, as Federico Fernández fouled Pierre- P Emerick Aubameyang and Xhaka Xh stepped forward to curl a free kick k , which Martin Dubrav ka touched but could not hold, into the top righ right corner from distance.
The time t had come for the sudden suddenly infl uential Özil, liberated by Luca Lucas’s arrival, to silence his doubters. When Alexandre Lacazette’s shot was blocked, the rebound fell for the German to apply the fi nishing touch.
Newcastle were unable to sustain their early energy. They could easily have fallen further behind before Clark’s stoppage- time header afforded the scoreline a semblance of respectability, but provided zero Geordie consolation.
Newcastle 4- 2- 3- 1
Arsenal 4- 2- 3- 1