GV 5 TALKING POINTS! Newcastle United 2-1 Arsenal: Gunners Throw Away Lead As Magpies Resurgence Continues

GV 5 TALKING POINTS! Newcastle United 2-1 Arsenal: Gunners Throw Away Lead As Magpies Resurgence Continues

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Newcastle United continued their recent resurgence with a 2-1 comeback win over Arsenal on Tyneside.

Rafa Benitez’s side made it four successive league wins, to firmly entrench themselves in mid-table and move 13 points clear of the relegation zone with five games remaining.

It could have been very different for the Magpies, who fell behind after just 14 minutes, when Alexandre Lacazette volleyed home Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross.

But Ayoze Perez continued his own recent good form with a clever finish in the 29 minutes, turning DeAndre Yedlin’s cross past Petr Cech at his near post.

Arsenal were not at full strength, nor at their best, with their focus now very much on the Europa League, where they will face Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals.

But they have little chance of seeing off Diego Simeone’s side if they continue to defend with such carelessness, and when Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka both waited for a looping aerial ball, Islam Slimani made it his, Ayoze touched on and Matt Ritchie fired home the winner.

Five talking points from St James’s Park here…

1. Wenger continues to resist 4-4-2

Arsene Wenger’s greatest Arsenal creations – back when they were Premier League champions and contenders year after year – played 4-4-2.

Sure, that is overly simplistic, given the movements of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Freddie Ljungberg et al, but when you broke it down, that was effectively how the Highbury Gunners went about their business.

Over the last 10 years, as football has developed, Wenger has been resistant to going back to 4-4-2, preferring variants on 4-3-3 and, mostly, 4-2-3-1.

Here, his starting XI was ripe for a return to the Frenchman’s bygone age, with both Lacazette and Aubameyang starting up top.

Instead, the club’s record signing – who scored just one of his 143 Borussia Dortmund goals from outside the penalty area, lest we forget – was jettisoned out to the left wing, with Lacazette ploughing a lone furrow through the middle.

2. Time to go for Shko

Shkodran Mustafi has a World Cup winners’ medal in his trophy cabinet back at home, but the £35million defender has now been found culpable two Sunday’s running.

It’s no secret that the Gunners were ready to cash in on the German last summer, but the 25-year-old remained and has once more been a key member of the Arsenal defence this season.

But not only did he fail to keep his defensive line for the equaliser, he was then too slow to react to DeAndre Yedlin’s cross, allowing Ayoze Perez to nip in front and flick past Petr Cech.

And for the Toon’s second, Mustafi was completely unaware of Islam Slimani’s positioning as the ball looped in the air – Slimani then finding Ritchie to score.

With Laurent Koscielny turning 33 in September and increasingly feeling the strain of carrying a defence that has been sub-par for too long, Mustafi’s future may come under question once more this summer.

One centre-half of quality is a necessity, but they almost certainly need a new central defensive double act if they are to get back where their support demands.

3. Ayoze hits form at just the right time for Rafa

In his opening 28 Premier League games this season, the Spanish forward notched just twice – at an average of a goal every 900 minutes.

But in the last three matches, the Spaniard has suddenly taken centre stage, scoring winners against Leicester and Huddersfield, plus the equaliser here – a rate of a goal every 86 minutes.

Just as Benitez’s side looked deep in the relegation mire, the talented forward has hit top form, playing a key vital role in the Toon Army’s rise to mid table and safety.

Benitez has shown a lot of faith in Perez over the last two and a bit years, and is now seeing that faith justified.

4. Shelvey again shows his capabilities

For many, Jonjo Shelvey is little more than a figure of fun.

But Rafa Benitez persists with the playmaker because, quite simply, the Romford-born midfielder doesn’t lack for quality.

When he is on top of his game, Shelvey is one of the most astute English midfielders around, capable of shaping and dictating games.

In his last seven games for Newcastle, they have won five of them. With Benitez constantly on at the ex-Liverpool man, is the 26-year-old finally starting to get it?

He’s impressed in recent weeks and this was another smart, hard-working display.

5. Encouragement for Burnley

With Arsenal’s focus so clearly on the Europa League, Burnley’s recent excellent run – five successive league wins – has kept Sean Dyche’s Clarets on their coat tails.

Burnley have been seventh for much of the season, but now find themselves just two points behind Wenger’s side after the end of their own run of three successive league wins.

On the penultimate Sunday of the season, Burnley’s visit to the Emirates promises to be very interesting.


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