Arsenal get ideal Villarreal warm-up with routine win at Newcastle and Aubameyang among the goals

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jack Rosser
·4-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Following two tumultuous weeks, Mikel Arteta could have hardly asked for a more routine afternoon ahead of the biggest game of his managerial career to date.

Arsenal’s season hangs on Thursday’s Europa League semi-final, second leg against Villarreal, so the Spaniard could ill-afford any more drama against Newcastle.

The Gunners started the day in the bottom half of the Premier League table and - while their season is riding on Thursday - Arteta will be desperate to ensure he does not become the first Arsenal manager to finish outside the top 10 since 1995.

After a fortnight of utter chaos, from the Super League to Spotify and their result in Spain on Thursday, the north Londonders were in need of some serenity.

But facing a resurgent Newcastle side who had lost just one of their last eight, expectations were hardly high at St. James’ Park. “Very little,” Roy Keane said on Sky Sports when asked what he anticipated from Arsenal this afternoon.

Little expected, but not much was needed as goals from Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw the Gunners cruise past a meek Magpies side.

Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arteta insisted the eight changes he made from Thursday were purely to get the best result on the day and not with the second-leg in mind, a rather diplomatic answer perhaps, but they had the desired impact.

The Gunners started with plenty of energy and were ahead after just five minutes when Elneny - who will likely start in place of Dani Ceballos on Thursday - rattled in his first ever Premier League goal on his 66th appearance in the competition. The Egyptian midfielder fired low past Martin Dubravka on the follow-up Aubameyang failed to turn home a Hector Bellerin cross.

Newcastle made a sloppy start but began testing Arsenal through Allan Saint-Maximin, though the visitors managed to hold out and were soon back on the front foot.

Elneny could have had his second Premier League goal were it not for MIguel Almiron heading off the line from a corner won when Dubravka was forced to tip a Granit Xhaka drive over the bar.

The only frustration for Arteta at the break would have been that the lead remained at one goal - with every outfield player aside from Willian having attempted a shot at the Newcastle goal in the opening 45 minutes.

Newcastle made things a little more difficult after the break but Arsenal were still in control. Gabriel should have made it two when sending his diving header over the bar from close range, but moments later Aubameyang made their dominance pay.

The visitors had been putting together some nice moves but upped the ante as Martin Odegaard found Gabriel Martinelli. The young winger curled a fine ball into Aubameyang at the far post and he made no mistake, notching a 10th Premier League goal of the season.

A two goal cushion for the Gunners meant Arteta did not have to risk Bukayo Saka or Emile Smith Rowe from the bench, keeping the two youngsters safe ahead of Thursday’s encounter.

Aubameyang gets going

It has largely been a season to forget for Aubameyang.

A huge new contract ahead of the campaign proceeded a season which has not matched up to the standards he has set in north London, while a battle with malaria has made the last month especially trying.

The Gunners captain made his first start since recovering here and will be hoping to play a significant role in their push for Europa League glory before the campaign is out - and started as he means to go on with a goal here.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Aubameyang looked lively in the box from the off but fluffed an early chance from Bellerin’s cross - though Elneny spared his blushes on the follow up, before sending one narrowly wide of the near post after a cut back from Gabriel Martinelli.

That same combination proved to be Newcastle’s undoing in the second half as Aubameyang scored a fourth goal of the season against the Magpies.

The striker was withdrawn after 77 minutes ahead of Thursday, where he will be hoping to begin a triumphant end to the season.

Luiz injury a blow

David Luiz managed to return from his knee injury ahead of schedule, but the sight of him hobbling off holding a hamstring will trouble his manager.

The former Chelsea defender, who is out of contract in the summer, has been uncharacteristically consistent this season and - having won silverware before, including two Europa League titles - his experience on Thursday and, hopefully beyond, could prove vital.

At 34, however, that may well be the defender’s season - and Arsenal career - over.

Read More

Arsenal player ratings vs Newcastle: Mohamed Elneny shines; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bright in easy win

Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal: Aubameyang and Elneny on target as Gunners cruise to much-needed win

Arsenal injury blow as Kieran Tierney and Alexandre Lacazette set to miss crucial Villarreal clash