Havertz and Saka inspire Arsenal to emphatic win against Newcastle

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kai Havertz;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kai Havertz</a> celebrates after doubling <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Arsenal;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Arsenal</a>'s lead against Newcastle.</span><span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Observer</span>

Where there had once been rage, now there were only rays of sunshine. Mikel Arteta had been apoplectic in November when Arsenal slipped to a narrow defeat at St James’ Park, barely able to express his disbelief at the VAR decisions that had influenced the outcome.

This fixture had enough spice in its recent history to suggest fireworks and Arteta had made a point of asking the Emirates choirs to hit new decibel levels. His team struck a perfect pitch of their own and, assuming this is to be a three-way title race until the end, they show no sign of being the spare wheel.

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Arteta had nothing to complain about here and nor did Eddie Howe, whose Newcastle side were ground into dust. Arsenal smothered them in an extraordinarily one-sided first half, comfortably winning every individual battle while looking like the collective that has now won six straight league games to an aggregate of 25-3. They operated several speeds ahead of their visitors despite the strain of a 72-hour turnaround from their niggly defeat in Porto. Their manager deserved to bask.

“We’re in a good moment,” Arteta said. “Things are flowing. We’re scoring goals in different ways and, especially, we want more. When we score one we want two, or three, or four. I love that mentality from the team.”

Newcastle had eked some sort of foothold in the second half when Bukayo Saka, finishing after Kai Havertz had seized on an error by the accident-prone Sven Botman, pulled Arsenal three goals clear.

Almost immediately Jakub Kiwior’s header sneaked in via a sizeable deflection off Lewis Miley and these were the sequences that gave Arteta particular joy. Arsenal are putting teams away where once they might have gifted them a route back. Howe might have smelt possibility after the restart but encountered opponents who have learned to be ruthless.

That said, a two-goal interval lead hardly reflected Arsenal’s dominance or their level of play. “It could have been much more today as well, we have to demand that,” Arteta said, and he had a point. After keeping Arsenal at bay early on Howe thought Newcastle might have weathered the storm; instead he found that it just kept coming and, while last season’s visit here had been scrappy and goalless, there was never the faintest sense they could ride things out this time.

Loris Karius, making his first Premier League appearance in almost six years after Martin Dubravka fell ill, made saves from Saka and Declan Rice inside the first 10 minutes but was powerless when next called into action. Saka’s right-sided corner was met, as so many are, by a soaring Gabriel Magalhães and Karius did well enough to repel the header. As the ball spun up Botman attempted to clear but failed to make contact; when it came down Tino Livramento could only knock it against him and, while Karius eventually smothered, it had already squirmed over the line.

“We knew the corners were coming and we should have done better,” Howe said. Arsenal are modern-day masters at set pieces and, for all the goal had owed plenty to luck, the routine’s initial execution had been straight from the textbook of their specialist coach Nico Jover.

Open play proved equally fruitful. Jorginho was masterful on his return to the starting lineup and, when Newcastle’s latest aimless clearance was recycled his way, he lofted a clever pass into the path of Gabriel Martinelli’s run. Martinelli had darted from the left side over to Arsenal’s right and, after cushioning the ball while in full flight, pulled it back from the byline. In dashed Havertz to convert emphatically from six yards and the outcome was all but sealed.

“Hugely disappointing from our perspective,” said Howe of the first half. “I don’t think we competed well enough, which was really not like us.” Nobody could demur. Another example came when Fabian Schär allowed Martin Ødegaard to pick his pocket, thanking Sean Longstaff for a last-ditch intervention with Havertz ready to score again. Martinelli missed a header before the break and Karius saved well from Saka; Newcastle did not manage a shot.

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They had some encouragement when Havertz missed a sitter straight after the restart. It shifted the tone slightly and Alexander Isak, whose return was a rare bright spot, threatened twice while Anthony Gordon flickered on the left. But Arsenal were a coiled spring now, resembling a practiced unit that could sniff out mistakes. Saka cut inside and drilled low across Karius before Kiwior flicked on another corner at the near post to improve Jover’s night further.

Joe Willock, another returnee from injury, applied some salve with a looping header against his old club but Newcastle had been outclassed. They have conceded 31 times in 12 games and Howe’s concerns are light years from those of his opposite number. “We have to make sure we believe we can do it,” Arteta said of Arsenal’s late-season prospects. It is currently hard to think otherwise.