Three things learned from Newcastle United 2-0 Arsenal
This is a difficult one to write about. Arsenal’s season petered out on Tyneside, as they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United. This loss (the fifth in nine games), it would seem is the nail in the coffin for the Gunners’ top four ambitions. The North Londoners are a single point behind Tottenham Hotspur, and only an improbable win on the last day from already relegated Norwich city against Spurs can stop the inevitable. Here are three key takeaways from the latest damaging loss.
Squad depth vital
Ok, maybe this is more something we’ve learned over this stretch of games. I know we had added context of a season with no Europe. Small squad, no distractions. Ultimately, this is not a team that can afford to play its back up players for stretches in the season.
This became apparent when Tomiyasu, Tierney and Partey all had long term injuries. The team did well to recover from the losses to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton. The subsequent run of victories against Chelsea, West ham and Manchester United put the gunners in contention for something they were not quite ready for.
However, even as noble as some of the “squad” players have been, their performances and Arsenal’s overall lack of depth is one of the reasons this journey has run out of steam. Yes, the club bear some responsibility for not finding cover in January but you have to temper that with the acknowledgement that January is a very tough window to find what you need.
Refereeing decisions can be on your mind but look at the difference makers that the teams likely to finish above Arsenal have. The North Londoners started a process last Summer, It needs to be built upon, all incomings need to be quality depth, capable of challenging the status quo. It is the only way that Gunners will improve and put days like this in the past.
Arteta decision making to be brought into focus
Much like his youthful team, Mikel Arteta is still on a developmental journey as Arsenal Head Coach/ Manager. One thing the manager has a reputation for is being ruthless.
The slow but steady transformation of the Arsenal squad from overpaid mercenaries to Hale Enders and talented young internationals looks to be something that shows that progress is occurring with this group. It shows a clear sense of vision and purpose that the manager (and backroom) should be applauded for.
A constant theme however, that seems to be rearing its head time and time again is Arteta’s lack of consideration for the game state and available player’s suitability to contribute to changing that. This is even more true if it appears that the manager has a lack of trust in the player or if he believes their development isn’t where it needs to be therby making the player selection a risky proposition.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a good player in Nuno Tavares. The player has had a mixed season at Arsenal, but he was looking threatening before he was taken off prematurely just after the 60th minute. These are the type of players that have to work for Arteta. A club without the riches of Manchester and Pep can’t have the luxury of out of favour players, you don’t trust, just occupying space on on the bench.
The decision not to bolster in January may turn out to be a masterstroke going forward but being -17 in goal difference behind your bitter rivals is a bitter pill to swallow in the short term. Will Arsenal learn from this and will the gaffer learn from it? He has to.
Newcastle look primed to pounce
As the end of the match approached and the cameras panned to Saturday night icons, Ant and Dec rubbing shoulders with the Saudi ownership, the imagery was strong. The toon could be resurgent force. Arsenal had the chance to buy Bruno Guimaraes in January but let Newcastle take him. He scored the second goal in a dominant performance that nobody in that Arsenal midfield was capable of matching.
The Gunners have had various sides challenge their existence in the traditional top 6 over the years, but this might be the club that turns it into a “big 7”.