Gunners up to third with Newcastle stroll
Ramsey 30, Lacazette 82
Newcastle United 0
Arsenal moved up to third place in the Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 win against Newcastle United at the Emirates this evening.
At times tonight the Gunners were excellent and, in truth, the result was never really in doubt – although it did take the home side until the 82nd minute to make absolutely sure of the points.
This is the second time I have seen Newcastle in north London this season – after their 1-0 defeat to Spurs at Wembley a month or so ago - and they have failed to muster more than half a chance in both games put together.
Aaron Ramsey, set for Italy and Juventus this summer, scored the first Arsenal goal and was at the heart of much of the Gunners’ creative play in the first half.
His goal came after half an hour, when Matteo Guendouzi’s through-ball split the Geordie defence. Welshman Ramsey latched onto it and played it on to Alexandre Lacazette. The ball then fortuitously bounced back to Ramsey, but there was nothing lucky about the finish – Ramsey coolly slotting home with his left foot.
Arsenal are going to have their work cut-out trying to find a replacement for Ramseyin the summer. The Welshman has at times in his career at the Emirates been a source of frustration, not always able to repeat the highs he reached such as when he scored winning goals in FA Cup finals against Hull City and Chelsea.
But in the latter half of this season his performances have been as consistent as they have been since his best season in a Gunners shirt, when he scored 16 goals and created many more in 2013-14, which ended in him scoring the first of his two FA Cup Final winning goals – this time in the 3-2 win against Hull City in which the Gunners came from two goals down.
Ramsey could, in fact, have been on the score sheet earlier this evening. Just 13 minutes in his far post strike was ruled out by referee Anthony Taylor, who had spotted a pull by Sokratis on Florian Lejeune. The call was probably correct, but in truth you see 10 such incidents in every game which go unpunished.
It was the first of two Arsenal goals Taylor rather harshly ruled out – the second late on from Lacazette who was penalised for a handball which was in fact made by the Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
As the first half wore on Mesut Ozil began to come to the fore. His intricate play on the edge of the Newcastle penalty area created numerous chances for the Gunners, and when he is in this kind of form he is a joy to watch.
First, great combination play between Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Sead Kolasinac down the left led to a cross from Kolasinac which was gathered by Dubravka.
Then on the stroke of half-time a wonderful move by Arsenal, which started with a back-heel from Iwobi, ended in a shot on the turn from Lacazette who blasted the ball towards goal - only for Matt Ritchie to clear.
The Gunners continued where they had left off in the second half, great interchange play down the right between Ozil, Lacazette and Kolasinac almost led to a second while the home side also had an appeal for handball in the box against Paul Dumett turned down.
Newcastle must have been cursing their luck when they saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replace Iwobi, and as the chances continued to come it was only a matter of time before it was 2-0.
That goal duly came on 82 minutes. Guendouzi’s forward ball found Lacazette, whose ball to Aubameyang was returned to the French striker, who beautifully chipped the keeper.
Then came the second disallowed goal, but it was not important, the damage had already been done.
At the end of February Spurs were 10 points ahead of Arsenal, but with this win the Gunners leapfrog their north London rivals into third, and Tottenham now find themselves not in a fight for the title, as had been the case just a few weeks ago, but rather embroiled in a battle to qualify for the Champions League with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Arsenal have the friendliest of all the top-four challengers’ run-ins, and although they do face tough-looking trips to Everton this coming weekend and also to Wolves, they will be delighted with how the league table looks this evening, knowing they have the chance to make it back to Europe’s top table after a two-year absence.
Arsenal: Leno, Mustafi, Papastathopoulos, Monreal (yellow 59), Maitland-Niles, Ramsey (Elneny 66), Guendouzi, Kolasinac (yellow 72), Ozil (Mkhitaryan 83), Iwobi (Aubameyang 60), Lacazette.
Subs: Cech, Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Suarez, Jenkinson, Nketiah.
Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lejeune, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie (Kenedy 74), Perez (Muto 76), Diame (yellow 72), Hayden (Ki 66), Almiron, Rondon.
Subs: Ki, Shelvey, Muto, Kenedy, Fernandez, Manquillo, Darlow.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)