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Three standout players as Arsenal punish Newcastle.


Arsenal returned to Premier League action with a comfortable 4-0 win against Newcastle United. After an uneventful opening half an hour in which the Magpies looked the more likely side to open the scoring, Arsenal began to improve and four second-half goals ensured that they took three points for only the third time in Mikel Arteta’s reign. This article will look at the three standout players in the ultimately convincing victory.

Bukayo Saka

What a future this man can have. At just 18 years old, he has found himself playing out of his favoured position, but instead covering for injuries at left-back. And he has coped admirably. As one would expect, he appeared somewhat defensively suspect in the opening stages of the game, but he grew into his role and was impressive going forwards, completing 6 dribbles – the most in the game.

His persistence was rewarded with an assist, a low cross being swept home by Nicolas Pepe. It capped a beautiful passage of play from the youngster, whose confidence was evident as he produced a beautiful nutmeg on his opposing full-back, Valentino Lazaro, before sliding the ball across to Pepe.

Saka has been a beneficiary of Mikel Arteta’s system of play which sees Xhaka cover his left-back position in attacks, in turn allowing him to maraud forward. Even with Bellerin back on the opposing flank, the teenager is given license to roam forward and create width on Arsenal’s left-hand side. His impressive performances must surely be worrying natural full-backs Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney, both of whom must now be seeing the Englishman as direct competition for their spot.

Mesut Özil

The former German international has endured a difficult season, finding himself in and out of the side under previous managers. Under Arteta, however, he has started every league game, as the Spaniard looks for some much-needed creativity within his squad.

Against Newcastle, his trust was rewarded. From the 30th minute onward, Ozil was a huge part of everything that Arsenal did right. His silky passing and acute ability to find space caused Newcastle problems, and perhaps his biggest strength, of knitting attacks together, was clearly present. The 31-year-old also covered the second-most distance in the game, behind only Granit Xhaka. Ozil capped off his fine performance with a goal, his first in ten months for the club. Good performances from him are key to Arsenal’s overall success, and his potential contributions will be invaluable as the Gunners look to close out the season strongly.

Ozil’s performance cannot only be credited to him. His success was enabled by the fact that a ball-playing midfielder was deployed behind him – namely Dani Ceballos. His ball-retention and ability to beat the press allowed Ozil to stay forward rather than drop deep to try and get on the ball. Arsenal’s midfield balance means that Ceballos is unlikely to play every game, but it is no coincidence that Ozil’s best performance came with the Spaniard operating behind him.

Nicolas Pepe

My nomination for the man of the match, Nicolas Pepe had his best game in an Arsenal shirt to date. Reintroduced into the side at the expense of Gabriel Martinelli, the Ivorian took 3 shots, completed 2 dribbles, and looked as if confidence was running through his veins as he cut in from the right.

Pepe’s cross for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to open the scoring was weighted to perfection, inviting the forward to attack the ball. Three minutes later, he found himself in the perfect position to sweep in Saka’s cross, before his late pass allowed Alexandre Lacazette to end his nine-game goal drought. Although Saka claimed the Man of the Match award, it was Pepe who claimed the perfect 10/10 according to Whoscored.

The Ivorian has taken a lot of abuse from same-club and rival fans alike, justifiable in some cases but for the most part unfair. For the hefty price-tag, perhaps more can be expected from the new signing, but in a new league under three different managers, it is understandable why his brilliance has only been seen in flashes. He can certainly not be labelled a ‘flop’ as many are quick to announce, and performances on this level reproduced on a regular basis will see Nicolas Pepe blossom into one of the best forwards in the league, and he is certainly an exciting player to watch.

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