Arsenal’s Christmas spirit comes at an end
Newcastle were always likely to be stubborn opponents and so it proved, with the two teams playing out a 0-0 draw at Emirates Stadium.
Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk has tuned in to the last two Arsenal games, such is his hunger to move to north London, but if he was watching this one he’d have been tempted to switch off.
Arsenal put seven goals past West Ham and Brighton in their first two games since the World Cup break, however Newcastle found a way to keep them out.
Eddie Howe’s side were disciplined and organised, everything you’d expect from a team with the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Credit to the Magpies for this draw, which means Arsenal only extended their lead at the top of the Premier League over Manchester City to eight points, as they turned this match into the game they wanted to play.
It was a stop-start affair, lacking the usual flow Arsenal like to play with. By half-time there had been 16 fouls and five yellow cards.
Three of those yellows came for Arsenal and that only added to the feeling of frustration at the Emirates. Arteta was particularly incensed, going back and forth with the fourth official over various refereeing decisions.
On the pitch, the Gunners were becoming frustrated too. Their best period actually came at the very start of the match, where they opened up Newcastle on a number of occasions. Bukayo Saka, Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard all failed to make the most of the half-chances, though.
After that initial flurry, Newcastle found their rhythm and shape. They broke up Arsenal’s attacks before they could develop and it was in fact they who had the best chance of the first-half, with Joelinton somehow heading over at the back-post on the stroke of half-time.
The second-half followed the pattern of the first, with Newcastle dropping deeper and deeper as the minutes ticked by.
Their resolve, however, was not dropping and, especially in the last 10 minutes, they demonstrated why they are sat third in the League.
It is no fluke and the performance of their full-backs was particularly impressive as, unlike many other teams, they managed to keep Gabriel Martinelli and Saka largely quiet.
Martinelli did go close to scoring, though, flicking a header just wide from a corner. On that occasion Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope could only watch as the ball went past his post, but minutes later he was at his best to deny Eddie Nketiah.
The striker, who had led the line tirelessly all night, managed to roll his defender and he looked destined to score. Pope, however, stuck out a huge leg to deny him.
Arsenal didn’t stop there and late cries for a penalty saw Arteta and Howe exchange words on the touchline. Frustration for the Gunners, both on and off the pitch.