Eddie Howe’s first game in the dugout as Newcastle manager ended in defeat as the Premier League’s bottom club were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon.
The new Toon boss clearly relished being back on the touchline after missing out last week, and he was incredibly animated on the edge of his technical area throughout, clapping and barking orders to his men. But today will have been a timely reminder of just how much work he has to do during his tenure at St James’ Park as Newcastle were played off the park by Arsenal for the majority of proceedings.
Arsenal have never lost a Premier League home game against the side starting the day bottom of the table and looked like maintaining that record from the opening whistle. In fact, the biggest criticism that can be levelled at Mikel Arteta’s men is that they should have had more.
The Gunners dominated a fairly turgid opening 45 minutes in north London and could have been out of sight at the break given the number of gilt-edged chances they were afforded. Their biggest opportunity to break the deadlock came through Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang after a close-range header from Emile Smith-Rowe was parried away by Martin Dubravka. The ball landed at Aubameyang’s feet but, incredibly, the Gabon international could only strike the post. One of the misses of the season, without question.
Despite Arsenal’s control, the Magpies, content with soaking up pressure and attacking their hosts on the break, fired a huge warning shot when Jonjo Shelvey picked up a loose ball and fired an immaculate curling effort goalward bound. Fortunately for Mikel Areta’s side, Aaron Ramsdale continued his scintillating form by tipping the ball onto the crossbar and away to safety.
Newcastle’s resistance was broken ten minutes into the second-half through the lively Bukayo Saka after some neat play between Smith Rowe and Nuno Tavares freed him down the left flank and the young winger duly sent the ball past a helpless Dubravka. Unfortunately for the goalscorer, by some distance the best player this afternoon, he tweaked his hip soon after and was forced to leave the pitch with just under half an hour left to play.
Wonderful, quick passing move from Arsenal, lead by Saka and finished by Saka 👏
Lovely goal 🌶️🔥
Newcastle thought they had won a penalty after a heavy Tavares nudge on Callum Wilson in the Arsenal box, but referee Stuart Attwell waved it away. Almost immediately after, Gabriel Martinelli made it 2-0 after finessing a side-foot volley effort into the far corner - he had only been on the pitch for less than a minute.
The win will have come as a welcome tonic for Arsenal after their seven-game unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an abrupt halt at the hands of Liverpool last weekend. For Newcastle though, Howe’s rebuilding job continues at second-from-bottom Norwich City on Tuesday night and three points will be absolutely vital.