No defence, M’lud

Strangely, there was a weird sense of optimism amongst many Mags I encountered in the run up to the game – a fixture that historically has been as productive for Newcastle United as Lee Charnley in a transfer negotiation.

Personally, I expected nowt, so whilst disappointing, the result didn’t ruin my weekend. I had already mentally prepared for a standard 0-2 reverse at a ground that generates less atmosphere than an Ikea store on a rainy Bank Holiday Monday.

Eddie Howe may be tactically astute, articulate and generally someone you’d happily allow to marry your daughter, but amiracle worker he is not – Eddie still has the same undercooked, under coached players to choose from as his predecessor, and while he will undoubtedly improve each player as the season progresses, he was never going to have enough time to change the outcome of yesterday’s game.

In any other season, yesterday would have been seen as the proverbial ‘free hit’ – the problem is, thanks to the absolute carnage left behind by Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley, we are now winless in 13 games and totally out of games we can accept getting nothing from because “it was Arsenal / Man City / Chelsea” etc. (delete as applicable).

Our Achilles heel was once again there for all to see on Saturday lunchtime – Newcastle United’s defenders simply seem incapable of doing the very job they are paid to do.

Whilst Emil Krafth was the focus of blame for the first goal in many Mags eyes, in my opinion Jamal Lascelles was equally if not more responsible. Once the impressive Sako had been played in Lascelles had two options that would have potentially avoided the ball ending up in Dubravka’s onion bag…

Option 1: As captain, take responsibility and marshal yourdefence; look along your line, and STEP THE FUCK UP. Anyone with half a footballing brain could see the ball in behind was on before Tavares made the pass.

Option 2: Read the developing situation that saw your full back lose his man, move across with play to cover your teammate and put the ball – and the man if necessary – into row fucking Z.

Unfortunately, Lascelles took the less preferable third option and did his best impression of the statue of liberty.

The defending for Arsenals second was equally as bad as our back line decided that the best way to work as an organised unit was to form an impromptu isosceles triangle across the park, before Martinelli stroked the ball past a slow to reactDubravka.

On a positive note however, yellow cards for Ritchie and Lascelles may be the best thing to happen to Newcastle United this season, as it removes the need for Eddie Howe to do the necessary and drop them both for Tuesdays game – a decision that could have potentially had a negative impact on squad morale given their respective dressing room presence.

Fortunately, Ritchie and Lascelles have unwittingly made that decision for him, and Howe now has the opportunity to reshape and freshen up a defence that looks like it will concede whenever either of them came within 5 yards of the football.

A back four made up of Manquillo, Fede, Schar and Lewis on Tuesday please, Eddie?

However they perform, it can’t get any worse.

Lee Forster @LeeDForster

Blame it on covid brain fog

Defensive, negative football. Players played out of position. Krafth inexplicably back in the starting line-up and Big Jow stinking out the place. ASM disinterested, Wilson completely isolated. In short, it was vintage Bruceball – our former manager laughed so hard watching that he nearly choked on his chicken kebab.

Post-covid brain fog is the only plausible explanation for Howe’s team selection and tactics. Krafth was at fault for the first goal and could easily have got a second yellow for a clumsy foul on Smith-Rowe who had glided past a static Shelvey.

Overall, Jonjo worked hard and saw a fizzing strike well saved by Ramsdale, who continues to justify his price tag. However, the Shelvey – Willock pairing simply isn’t working. Hayden lacks Willock’s deft touch and eye for goal but is much more suited to the role of midfield enforcer and must surely start on Tuesday.

Equally, Almiron must have laid a strong claim to inclusion in the starting 11 after an excellent cameo as sub. His pace and directness helped push Newcastle further up the pitch and barring one suicidally sloppy pass, he used the ball really well. Fernandez was again sorely missed, and his continued absence raises questions about dressing room discord.

This is a team which couldn’t beat a depleted Brentford last time out. Arsenal was always going to be a tough task, made harder by Howe’s baffling approach to it. He will have to do much better if we are to stand any chance of staying up.

Dan Jenkins / @PlumsGinger

And the wait goes on…

it was a funny feeling yesterday. Arsenal away is probably not one of the games that will keep us up – the next week will, but as one of my fellow true faith writers said, “we have used up all of our free hits”.

I know Howe has to come out and say how well we played but I failed to see anything there that says to me we are going to get the points tally needed.

Once the first goal went in we were beaten in all honesty. This side hasn’t the stomach or the ability to turn a game around at a side who I thought were very average minus two or three players.

We were hard done to by the officials on the pitch and the ones in the Batcave in Hertfordshire or whatever place they hide, as I firmly believe that two of the four(?) possible penalty shouts would have been given if it’s at the other end.

That to me muddies the waters of another tame defeat. The team personnel was set out to attack with only Lascelles and Krafth in my book bona fide defensive minded players but when did we get at them?

Shelvey to be fair had a crack. Have a go, you never know what might happen as was proved by Ramsdale’s wonder save preventing us from leading and if we had scored then you might have saw a different side from the one who collapsed into a well-used shell immediately before and after half time.

The defence was helped by Dubravka organising and looked ok for a lot of the game, you can’t fault the heart there, but changes will be now forced on us with suspensions.

The more worrying aspect of yesterday was the going missing of Fraser, St Maximin and at times, Willock and Joelinton, who followed up last week by a good first minute.

Not those players fault we didn’t win yesterday but they are going to have to give a lot more than that to get us out what is becoming a realistic prospect -relegation.

Scott Robson

Standard.

3,000 Geordies made the long journey down to the English capital this lunch time as Arsenal hosted bottom of the league Newcastle United in the latest round of fixtures from the best league in the world. Once more, joint owners Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben watched their team from the stands, and they would be keen to show their support to Eddie Howe who was able to take his place in the Newcastle dugout for the first time. The Geordie faithful were keen to show their support for their new manager by chanting “Eddie Howe’s Black and White Army” when he emerged from the tunnel.

The game got off to a slow start with neither side really making any serious threats in the opening period until Martin Dubravka was forced to pull off a good save to his right-hand side following a decent free kick from Odegaard. Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey stinged the palms of Arsenal stopper Aaron Ramsey with two good efforts at goal showing a glimpse of what he can be capable of. The rest of the first half was an exchange of chances between the two sides. Matt Ritchie picked up a yellow card bringing his tally to five for the season so he will miss the next game due to suspension.

Sutty’s Half Time Thoughts: So far it has been a tale of the keepers with both Ramsdale and Dubravka making smart saves to keep the scores level. The referee has had a poor game so far with some of his decisions being questionable and the visiting supporters may feel hard done by. Allan Saint-Maximin has had a quiet game and Eddie Howe will be wanting more from him if they are to challenge for the win.

The second half kicked off with no changes being made to either side. Arsenal took the lead in the 55th minute through Saka who runs onto a ball from Tavares and his low driven effort finds the far corner. Newcastle had a stonewall penalty appeal waved away just ten minutes later when Callum Wilson was brought down by Tavares but VAR deemed it not to be a foul. Arsenal doubled their lead only a minute later when they get the ball down the other end of the field after the penalty shout, Tomisayu looping the ball in for substitute Martinelli who smartly finished beyond the stranded Dubravka. Eddie Howe brought on Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy for Matt Ritchie and Joelinton respectively in an attempt to shake things up. Newcastle fans will be happy to know that Lascelles will now miss the next game too after picking up his fifth yellow card of the campaign as the skipper has been a bit of a liability in recent weeks. The rest of the second half was dominated by Arsenal as you could tell the visitors heads had dropped.

Sutty’s Full Time Thoughts: Arsenal deserved their win this afternoon after another shocking defensive display. Eddie Howe will be frustrated at how his side turned out and he will know that there is a lot of work to do if they are going to get out of this sticky situation they find themselves in.

What is next for the two teams? Newcastle United host Norwich City at St James Park on Tuesday Evening in what will be a must win game for the Magpies as they still search for their first win of the campaign. Arsenal travel to Manchester on Thursday Evening as they face the Red Devils Manchester United.

Arsenal Line Up: A Ramsdale, T Tomisayu, B White, G Magalhaes, N Tavares, B Saka, T Partey, A Sambi Lokonga, E Smith-Rowe, M Odegaard, P Aubameyang.

Arsenal Subs: B Leno, K Tierney, A Lacazette, A Maitland-Niles, R Holding, N Pepe, M Elneny, E Nketiah, G Martinelli.

Newcastle United Line Up: M Dubravka, E Krafth, J Lascelles, F Schar, M Ritchie, J Shelvey, J Willock, R Fraser, Joelinton, A Saint-Maximin, C Wilson.

Newcastle United Subs: K Darlow, C Clark, J Lewis, I Hayden, J Hendrick, J Manquillo, J Murphy, M Almiron, S Longstaff.

Match Officials: Stuart Atwell (Referee), Harry Lennard & Daniel Cook (Assistants), Robert Jones (Fourth Official), Darren England (VAR), Mark Scholes (Assistant VAR).

@jsuttonwrites