Outclassed by Newcastle in 2-0 defeat, Arsenal need a miracle to qualify for Champions League
Ben White’s own-goal condemned Arsenal to a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle and probably to a SIXTH campaign without Champions League football.
Brazilian wonderboy Bruno Guimaraes, who pulled the strings throughout, pounced on a follow-up to score his team's second and get the electric St James’ Park fans out of their seats.
In a must-win game after Tottenham momentarily leapfrogged their hated rivals into fourth, Arsenal were so inept that they made Newcastle United look like Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid.
Make no mistake, Eddie Howe’s men deserved their three points, putting in a convincing and flawless performance from start to finish.
They pressed the Gunners high up the pitch from the off and fashioned a number of clear-cut opportunities. Besides, they defended determinedly and stoutly, not that there was much for their backline to be worried about.
But the North Londoners were clueless and rudderless. Pedestrian and disinterested. They let Toon play their game and eat the whole buffet.
Truth be told, Mikel Arteta’s men were nowhere to be seen and didn’t look like a side challenging for the top-four, let alone a team willing to earn bragging rights and see their fierce North London rivals play in the Europa League next season.
This is the second year in a row that the Gunners stumbled at the penultimate hurdle after already failing to get past Villarreal in the Europa League last term.
A competition they will probably play in next season, unless they can beat Everton and Norwich miraculously see off Tottenham.
But neither appear likely based on the two North London clubs’ current form.
Newcastle were simply terrific, making a statement of intent and giving their fans a wonderful send-off ahead of the most exciting transfer window in the club’s history.
Early on, Miguel Almiron forced Aaron Ramsdale into what could have been a costly mistake. He closed him down after a backpass, but the ball somehow stayed out of the net. The first alarm bells were ringing for the visitors who looked laboured and anxious and didn’t know how to cope with Newcastle’s ferocious pressing.
Bukayo Saka tried to settle some nerves, but his low effort, after cutting inside from the right, was comfortably saved by Martin Dubravka.
French maverick Allan Saint-Maximin then showed his impressive skills and strength to outfox Takehiro Tomiyasu but Ramsdale leapt to his right to deny a certain goal.
Newcastle kept knocking on the door and when Joelinton cut down the left to send in a ball for Wilson, ex-Brighton and Hove Albion anticipated Callum Wilson but inadvertently tapped the into his own net.
Wilson then missed a hat-trick of chances to score.
He first sent a volley over after a laser-guided cross from Bruno near the byline on 63 minutes.
Then had a goal-bound shot diverted out for a corner by White, who redeemed himself after the unfortunate own-goal.
In between Jacob Murphy saw his shot blocked by the outstanding Ramsdale, who was keeping Arsenal in the game. Had it not for him, Toon would have won by a larger margin, no doubt.
Late in the game, Wilson almost caught Ramsdale off the line with a thunderous strike from about 40 yards out. But the ball didn’t end up in the net for an inch.
Arsenal kept chasing shadows and were again bailed out by their goalkeeper who dived full-length to push Murphy’s low drilled effort away.
Arteta’s side shot themselves in the foot with their lazy attitude and may now have to make do with playing on every other Thursday in the less glamorous Europa League next year.
Antonio Conte and his players' joy will be unconfined tonight. Call it Freude. But also Schadenfreude.