16 Conclusions on Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle: Jorginho, Guimaraes, Rice nonsense, Havertz, Howe

Matt Stead
Arsenal midfielders Jorginho and Declan Rice, Newcastle player Bruno Guimaraes and Mikel Arteta with Mo Elneny
Arsenal just battered Newcastle

Arsenal produced one of the best Premier League halves in recent memory to bully Newcastle. Vindication for Mikel Arteta, but embarrassing for Eddie Howe.


1) Mikel Arteta described it as “embarrassing to come here and work the way we’ve done it,” having already admitted that “we could not cope with the game we had to play”.

“It’s a really difficult night to swallow,” he continued. “They were much better than us from the beginning to the last minute. We had nothing in the game. They were much better in every department, better in the duels, the second balls, every time they kicked the ball up, they could manage to do so. We were poor with the ball, we didn’t defend restarts of play or set pieces the way we have to do. They were 10,000 times better than us today, in everything.”

It might seem strange to quote the Spaniard’s thoughts at one of Arsenal’s lower ebbs in the aftermath of such a phenomenal statement victory in the current day, but there is dual justification for both the Gunners and the team that inflicted that damaging defeat on them in May 2022.

Arteta had been Arsenal manager for 878 days by that point and for many, that result and performance reflected how he could take them no further. The Gary Neville “if they finish fourth, that’s in some ways as good as it gets” receipts are still kept somewhere, ready to be framed.

Not two years later, they produced one of the great Premier League halves to destroy the same opponent and underline title credentials already penned in bold and italics.

Eddie Howe has been Newcastle manager for 837 days and as difficult as it will be to pick any discernible positive out of a harrowing evening, there might be a modicum of solace in how far Arsenal have come when further evolution once seemed impossible.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates a win.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates a win.


2) Honestly, though, that Arsenal first half was stunning. Newcastle are a good side. They have been inconsistent this season, uncharacteristically poor defensively and largely shorn of the identity Howe had carefully crafted during his reign. But they have schooled Aston Villa and beaten Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and indeed Arsenal themselves this campaign. They are a difficult opponent.

Arsenal made them look amateurish in those first 45 minutes. The hosts were sensational from the first whistle to the respite of that eventual break. The Gunners understandably eased off a little thereafter but still added another couple through Bukayo Saka and the brilliant Jakub Kiwior to spawn that stat which earned the holy grail of Ally McCoist’s approval on commentary: Arsenal are the first team in Premier League history to score two or more goals in seven consecutive halves of football. They are devastatingly good when they are on it.


3) In terms of the starting line-up, there was a single change between this and the Porto game. In reality, there was a world of difference. Many felt Jorginho’s absence in midweek for a Champions League away knockout fixture was curious and while this commanding display did not entirely justify that call, it did at least contextualise it.

Jorginho was phenomenal. Newcastle either couldn’t get near him or never really bothered, so assured was he in possession. He had at least 25 more touches than any other player and everything ran through him. His rest defence was flawless, pinning the Magpies in relentlessly. Those clipped passes caused havoc in the defence. The resistance in terms of both Newcastle’s flimsy press and deciding not to shoot when the fans demanded it every time he was 25 yards or so from goal was impeccable.

He was the game’s best player, displaying all the assurance, calm and control of a man who wasn’t about to be bullied into either giving up the ball or proposing.


4) That made for a stark contrast with Bruno Guimaraes, whose lack of impact was neatly summed up by the fact he was never really on the ball long enough for Arsenal to boo him properly.

Arsenal’s aggressive press suffocated everyone in black and white and forced a ludicrous amount of turnovers; there is no shame in being swept up by that Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard tidal wave. But Guimaraes has to be the player capable of rising above that for Newcastle and dragging his teammates to shore at least on the odd occasion to relieve pressure.

The Brazilian offered nothing until the game was long since lost, was taken off in the 73rd minute – the first time he has been substituted in a Premier League defeat in his career – and showed those same petulant tendencies that often emerge when things go against him. He was fouled five times when no other player was fouled more than twice and that did not feel like a coincidence; Arsenal targeted him specifically and ruthlessly and it worked.

READ MORE: Newcastle ready to cash in on £100m Guimaraes to fund summer spending


5) Guimaraes at one stage was pressed so uncompromisingly by three Arsenal players on the edge of the Newcastle area that he passed the ball out of play for a corner, then went down appealing for a non-existent foul.

That came after Fabian Schar inexplicably took an age on the ball as Odegaard stood there waiting to set his trap, the Norwegian intercepting the centre-half’s eventual pass in Newcastle’s own area once again but failing to quite make it count.

Newcastle were annihilated by a plan which was carried out sensationally in terms of organisation and coordination. The visitors genuinely didn’t seem capable of putting together a move of more than two passes and as little as they offered in attack, the extent to which they were tormented in defence was distressing. They have never seemed further from the top teams under Howe.


6) Kai Havertz was wonderful and key to that Arsenal press. But his greatest virtue came in the air. From the first minute the German’s height was exploited, kick-off being played back to David Raya who proceeded to hit it long for Havertz to chest the ball down and hold it up. The Gunners won two corners in quick succession from that. Newcastle looked vulnerable at both and that theme would continue.

Havertz won at least twice as many headers as any other player but he also rarely stopped running, leading the charge, setting the tone and robbing Schar early on with the scores level.

The tangible reward of a goal and assist in the same Premier League game for the first time since December 2022 was an added bonus. After undeniable teething problems and a considerable amount of external doubt, Arteta might feel that investment is on course to be vindicated.

Kai Havertz celebrates for Arsenal against Newcastle
Kai Havertz had a fine game for Arsenal


7) The sight of Kieran Trippier timewasting after 12 minutes was unsurprising. The defender went down clutching his knee and stared at the sidelines just long enough to decipher when the medical team was about to enter the field of play, so he could properly time his sudden recovery and avoid the ignominy of having to leave the pitch for treatment.

That was at 0-0. Fair play to Newcastle for sticking to their guns at 2-0 down when Guimaraes was pressed into oblivion by Rice yet again, going down to secure the foul before complaining and removing his boot. Paul Tierney called for the physio before the midfielder simply willed the problem away and put his boot back on, presumably fearing the irreparable damage that might be inflicted on a Newcastle side reduced to 10 men even briefly, considering how the full quota of 11 had been ripped apart.


8) For all Arsenal’s dominance, they could not find a way past Loris Karius. The German produced routine saves from Rice and Saka as he continued his vain attempts to try and exist outside the vacuum of the 2018 Champions League final, not realising that the football content gods simply will not allow it.

The breakthrough came from a corner technically assisted by Saka but actually set up by Nicolas Jover, while the second somehow saw Newcastle simultaneously deploy a laughably deep defensive line and let a runner in behind.

Howe could perhaps accept his side struggling under immense pressure in possession against a superb side in a difficult atmosphere. But some of Newcastle’s defending was genuinely incompetent, not least the pinball played by Sven Botman and Tino Livramento after Karius saved well from Gabriel’s header. There was no Arsenal player within a good three yards or so yet both hacked and snatched at their respective clearances so shambolically as to force it over the line.


9) Jorginho’s pass, Martinelli’s run and cutback and Havertz’s movement for the second was impeccable, encapsulating just how starkly Newcastle were unable to keep up with the pace of the game. The Magpies had 11 touches in Arsenal’s half after 30 minutes. Their first touch in the penalty area came in the 43rd minute, by which point Arsenal had had 32 touches in theirs.

Besides, Newcastle’s big moment culminated in Miguel Almiron running through and vaguely trying to dribble past Raya from Lewis Miley’s through ball, only for a) the Arsenal keeper to thwart him with virtually no effort, and b) the flag to go up for offside.

A minute later, Trippier almost played Almiron in down the other side but Raya was across again to intercept and clear the ball to safety. They were genuinely Newcastle’s two best attacks of the first half and that is wild.


10) Funnier still is that those last 10 minutes or so were probably Arteta’s favourite period of the game. Managers are performatively weird like that and it is not difficult to imagine the Spaniard deriving more joy out of his players knuckling down and having to properly concentrate on defending after more than half an hour of uninterrupted brilliance at the other end.

The way Arsenal switched seamlessly to show some grit, determination and cohesion was wonderful, with Gabriel’s inch-perfect slide tackle to dispossess Guimaraes on the edge of the area after Jorginho was beaten the highlight.


11) The chances both sides traded at the start of the second could have changed the complexion of the game. Havertz ought to have scored when played through by Martinelli but he skewed his finish just wide, while Alexander Isak never pulled the trigger after evading the defence and half-rounding Raya from a Guimaraes pass.

Matches hinge on those moments: Newcastle could well have crumbled if they had conceded a third so early into the second half, yet equally Arsenal might have collapsed if their superiority was reduced to a mere one-goal lead with more than 40 minutes left to play. The former admittedly feels a somewhat likelier outcome.


12) Rice, freed by the deeper deployment of Jorginho to operate in that more advanced role on the left, was exceptional and involved in two of Arsenal’s goals, delivering the corner from which they scored the fourth and helping knit together the move before Saka’s finish.

“Doesn’t get enough goals, doesn’t get enough assists,” was one withering critique and Roy Keane was far from alone in suggesting Rice was not worth the £100m Arsenal spent; Neville and Souness come to mind as similarly questioning his attacking output.

It turns out he just needed to take more corners. And play in an outstanding team not managed by David Moyes, which really might help.


13) Newcastle have conceded four goals in four of their last 11 Premier League games and have the worst defensive record in the top half. Relatively early in his reign, Howe bristled against “this reputation of not being a good defensive coach” which had developed during his time with Bournemouth, saying “the collective ambition is to be a really good team in and out of possession”. Both aspects were abysmal at the Emirates and have been for some time.

The Magpies are currently on course to concede 66 goals across the season – Newcastle’s worst tally since letting 65 in during their most recent relegation campaign, and roughly on par with what Howe’s Cherries allowed in the top flight. Injuries have played an undoubted part but they cannot fully explain the sort of disastrous performances Schar and Botman put in, nor why Newcastle’s left side is so vulnerable whether Dan Burn or Livramento play there.

If Joelinton is that important to your system, it is damning.

Newcastle transfer
Newcastle United duo Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton.


14) It will be entirely necessary for some of these players to come along for the ride in what is ostensibly designed to be a squad game at the highest level. And that remains the point Newcastle must strive to reach, despite it seeming further away than before.

But the Magpies have to be merciless in abandoning some of these passengers as starting options. Jack Grealish was always right on Miguel Almiron and Longstaff could not be much further out of his depth.

Arteta has introduced Mo Elneny in three Premier League games this season: the 5-0 against Sheffield United, the 6-0 against West Ham and now this. That is humiliation enough to force meaningful, lasting change which should reverberate throughout the entire Newcastle squad.


15) The concession of a late goal might ordinarily suggest this was not quite a perfect victory for Arsenal, yet the identity of said scorer meant that even that was a cause for some mild respectful applause in the circumstances.

Joe Willock came on for his first appearance since November to introduce the concept of a Newcastle midfield, and instead cropped up with a fine header from Burn’s cross to make it 4-1. A goal from one of Arsenal’s own, introduced three minutes before Arteta chucked on Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson for a tap-in of a triple substitution to please the supporters further and anger those precious few who want them to receive more meaningful minutes.

Even with that late Willock header, Arsenal have the best goal difference in the Premier League, one ahead of Liverpool and six clear of Manchester City. They were eight behind both 35 days ago and that is silly.


16) An unblemished evening for Arsenal, but another one ruined for Sean Dyche – which in turn only unexpectedly improves the Gunners’ mood.

Everton dropping points to a stoppage-time header at Brighton was bad enough but two more set-piece goals for Arsenal must be sickening. Mad that you’re not really meant to score goals from set-pieces but if you’re Arsenal you’re allowed. Even madder that there is definitely no-one out there talking about Arsenal scoring goals from set-pieces. The MSM have a lot to answer for.