Arsenal 3 Newcastle United 0 

Emirates, 18/Jan/21 

So… Here we are, the gloves are off! It’s my way or no way! Our manager said with determination in his voice (sorry I couldn’t make it through that sentence without laughing!).

The pre match build up began with watching the high pitched wailings of both Jamie Carragher & Gary Neville talking about our beloved club & not so beloved manager. As a fully paid member of the Rafa fanclub Carra unsurprisingly spoke more sense by correctly pointing out Rafa brought hope to the Toon Army and did what he could with what he had which wasn’t as good as the tools Bruce currently has in the box. With him saying we should be looking to aim for top 8 alongside the likes of West Ham & Everton. Ah a refreshing moment of clarity from the pundit world!

Neville on the other hand (despite claiming he’s not spoken to Bruce on 12 years) is clearly a paid up member of the FOSB, insisting that the football up here has been dire for near on a decade (he must have taken the season off Pardew finished 5th & I’m pretty sure he had Colo in his team of the season that year? Maybe YouTube is needed to check that? He ended by spouting the usual shite we crave a free flowing attacking team without recognition that we adored Rafa’s pragmatism and even cited “Managerial snobbery” as the very reason for this. Anyway enough of these two. On to the line up.

8 changes! That’s right 8! Darlow continued in goal as the great keeper debate raged on whilst Krafth and Lewis were brought back into the defence along with the return of the skipper. Matty was back (thank god!) but alarmingly was joined in midfield by the laziest footballer of the modern era in Jonjo Shelvey (the man with less legs than Lt Dan). Miggy returned to add much needed energy but the addition of Carroll just spelt “Long ball” to me especially with Jonjo back. Joelinton returned to add… erm.. Fuck all really! So let’s just see what the Steve Bruce way really looks like for the first time in 18 months. Time to see what these “Shite” players are made of!

So United started in a 4-4-2 formation with big AC and Wilson up front and a flat back 4. There was a definite change from the Sheffield game in the early stages with us retaining better shape without the ball & actually pressing as opposed to doing none of that Tuesday gone. Miggy looked full of running and bright and in the first 10 mins got by Tierney (no small feet) with his rapid pace but sadly his cross came to nothing, shelvey was keen to get on the ball and as he ran more than 5 yards in the first 15 mins of the game showed he was keen to show up tonight (but then he does against bigger sides doesn’t he). Despite the bright start there was a familiar feel of lack of possession with 75% to the home side, although you can let the lads off against Arsenal at the Emirates.

Arsenal were knocking it round as Arsenal do with a clear youthful exuberance in their play. It was this that gave us the first real scare and major chance of the game. Smith Rowe ran at us with relative ease slipped in Saka who cut in a cross for Abuymeyang, thanks to Darlow foot taking some zip off it he rushed it and hit the post, Newcastle still in the game. There was a lot of back and forth after this with us being back and Arsenal coming forth but United kept their shape & held firm with Miggy & Kraft doing particularly well to keep the fantastic Tierney from whipping in those killer crosses.

Miggy broke once again with searing pace on the 23 minute mark and really should’ve slipped in Wilson sooner but he chose Carroll who gave it back to him and a decent effort sailed comfortably over the bar. Shortly after that Arsenal were again on the break with Smith Rowe involved (I can see why they were happy to wave bye to Ozil now) but good defending by Krafth was enough to stop Abuymeyang despite shit housing for a pen that the ref easily waved away.

The Arsenal no14 ran at us again but thankfully it’s not last season or he’d have bent it in the top corner. At the 41 mins Mark we saw the best of Jonjo with a brilliant long range ball to Wilson shortly followed by the worst of him when he couldn’t even clear the first man with a corner. 43 mins and Darlow pulled off a reflex save to keep out a deflected effort with Luiz thankfully fluffing his header despite having the freedom of London. Half time and were still in it and thankfully not down to 10 men after Lewis cheeky backhand.

Back out for the second half unchanged, and Arsenal were back at us 1 minute after the restart with Lacazette bringing out a brilliant save by Darlow. Newcastle broke quickly and forced a corner, this was shortly followed by yet another shite Shelvey cross which led to the gunners regaining possession, a long crossfield pass straight to Abaumeyang who ran at Krafth who afforded him far too much room and Bang! 1-0. To quote Si “Game over” and that’s usually the case isn’t it?

Arsenal were in the driving seat now even more than they even were before with their slick passing and ball movement really starting to intensify, we kept plugging away and on the 55 min mark big Andy rolled back the years to fashion a chance but it was never really troubling Leno. Krafth found himself free down the right after collecting a shelvey pass but his cross was poor (again!) Now I know Arteta looks like a vampire lads but that doesn’t mean you have to stop crosses all together do you?

As a direct result of this poor cross Arsenal again broke with pace and fluency that we can only dream of with the brilliant Smith Rowe at the heart of things again, he drew players towards him then squared it to the industrious Saka for a comfy slot away for 2-0. Matty Longstaff must’ve been busy staring at the bright lights of the capital as he wasn’t paying attention to that run which served as a sad reminder of the casam of difference between our young guns & the young gunners.

By this point of the match our lads just looked beaten, mentally and physically. So what did our illustrious manager have up sleeve? He took Carroll off for Murphy whilst leaving the invisible man Joelinton on the pitch, I literally have no idea wtf this player offers us? Why does he still get games? I just give up! So the game moved on with us just praying for no more goals shipped and waiting for full time, this would’ve worked had the usual dependable Clark not lose the ball to Cedric who got to the by-line then even went 5 yards over it and crossed for Aubameyang’s 2nd of the night, not sure he’ll score easier goals.

The game ended on the 93rd minute (well it ended long before really didn’t it?) So what did we learn about the Bruce way? It’s still shite! It was only marginally better than the previous game and with the exception of Miggy and Darlow most players were just going through the motions. Now even if we were in form I think we’d struggle to beat this Arsenal side but at least we’d have made a better fist of it right? This was my first match report for True Faith and I hope the last Steve Bruce one I’ll ever do. In short tonight the gloves may have come off but there was a weak hand underneath it that failed to take hold of this game in any way.

CHRIS CURRIE – @wig82

Player Ratings to follow separately.