Arsenal end troubling wait for a win as second half blitz puts paid to Newcastle
Arsenal 4 Newcastle United 0
Four second-half goals – two of them in the space of three minutes soon after the turnaround - lifted Arsenal from their first half angst to claim a long-awaited win.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 17th goal of the season and Nicolas Pepe’s sixth put the Gunners on course for a first win in the league since the New Year’s Day victory over Man United.
Mesut Ozil and sub Alexandre Lacazette added the icing on the cake in the final moments
It was only the Gunners’ seventh win of the campaign, such has been the dramatic drop in standard this season, and it will come as welcome relief to Mikel Arteta as he strives to make the club a force once more.
It would have been a huge embarrassment had three points eluded the Gunners yet again, given the well-publicised winter-break trip to Dubai to recharge batteries and get some work done on the training ground.
But the ease with which Arsenal broke through after the break was in stark contrast to their first-half labours.
It wasn’t until midway through the first 45 minutes that the Gunners managed to get in a shot on goal – Bukayo Saka’s curler from the left edge of the area drifting just wide and another effort from Aubameyang proving no sweat for Geordies keeper Martin Dubravka.
Aubameyang, having been detailed out on the flank by Mikel Arteta with Eddie Nketiah entrusted with the central striker role, came closer with one hit from a more central position, albeit with the shot fading wide of Dubravka’s left-hand post. Pepe then struck a free-kick from distance that was tipped over, offering further encouragement.
Newcastle broke purposefully and at pace and looked the better side at the beginning.Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron showed ambition and the willingness of Danny Rose to get forward in support inspired much booing of the ex-Spurs defender by home fans, but a source of hope for the visitors.They too, however, lacked quality in the final third.
Ozil and Pepe combined well at the start of the second half to give Nketiah an opening but his shot on the turn clipped the top of the crossbar.
Yet it was to be a portent of better things to come because on 54 minutes, the Gunners opened the scoring – and in the simplest way imaginable as Pepe hoisted a ball up towards the back stick for Aubameyang to head down into the bottom corner.
And the lead was doubled in the 57th minute, as Saka ghosted past two Newcastle defenders on the left before rolling the ball back for Pepe to put away.
Aubameyang clipped the top of the crossbar with a floated cross as a more relaxed Arsenal kicked in.
The Gunners were fortunate not to be pegged back, first when Ciaran Clark missed a sitter for the Geordies, and then when Saint-Maximin’s shot cannoned back off the inside of a post, but they finished with a flourish.
Ozil started and finished a breakaway, tapping home after Pepe and Lacazette had worked the ball back to him.
Dubravka should have done much better with the softest of shots but allowed it to slip through his fingers.
And in added time, Lacazette scooped the ball past Dubravka with another assist from Pepe – the Geordies’ defence having long departed the scene.
It ended the Frenchman’s long goal drought stretching back to December.
All much needed for Arsenal, then, but with six points still to make up on fifth-placed Tottenham – and fifth spot may be enough to Champions League football next season – there is still so much to do.
Line up: Leno - Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka – Ceballos (Torreira 82), Xhaka – Pepe, Ozil (Willock 90), Aubameyang – Nketiah (Lacazette 85). Subs not used: Martinez, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Martinelli