Newcastle United – Arsenal: Keeping The Title Race Alive (0-2)

At a time where Arsenal can not afford to drop points, a trip to Newcastle appeared daunting. However, Arsenal showed composure and resilience against a fast, direct, and high-pressing Newcastle side as Martin Ødegaard’s long range strike helped Mikel Arteta’s side to the three points.

Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.

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Newcastle came into this match in good form, having scored thirteen goals in their last three games. Eddie Howe lined his side up in their usual 4-3-3 shape, with a back four of Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schär, Sven Botman, and Dan Burn. Bruno Guimarães was in central midfield with Joelinton and Joe Willock either side of him, while the front three was comprised of Jacob Murphy, Callum Wilson, and Alexander Isak.

Arsenal meanwhile were able to bounce back from their Manchester City nightmare to beat a hapless Chelsea side last time out. They lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape here, with Ben White, Jakub Kiwior, Gabriel Magalhães, and Oleksandr Zinchenko at the back. In midfield, Jorginho was preferred over Thomas Partey to start alongside Granit Xhaka. Meanwhile the front four was a familiar one, as Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, and Gabriel Martinelli supported Gabriel Jesus up front.

Arsenal tame the chaos

As they often do at their home ground, Newcastle looked to play at a high tempo and unsettle their opponents in the early minutes of the game. Also influenced by a lively crowd, this can create very chaotic starts to games.

Arsenal were somewhat shaken by this initially, and had close escapes as Newcastle hit the post and had a penalty overturned by VAR in the first ten minutes. Arteta’s side were hesitant to play out from the back initially, and often ended up going longer to try and avoid the Newcastle press. They were also slightly out of their comfort zone in buildup due to having Kiwior as a left-footed right center-back, as Arteta clearly prefers to have center-backs which play on the side of their favoured foot.

Newcastle pressed from their 4-3-3 shape in which Guimarães has quite an aggressive role in pressing despite nominally being the number six in the team. He would often by the one who would push up onto Jorginho to try and disrupt him in buildup. In these cases, Joelinton and Willock would often take up covering roles in the halfspaces to mark Ødegaard and Xhaka. Alternatively, Guimarães would help cover the halfspaces if one if his midfield partners was marking Jorginho already.

The Newcastle front three meanwhile were able to stay narrow and close to the Arsenal backline. This was partly due to the fact that Zinchenko would often invert, and White stayed close to the center-backs as well. Newcastle could therefore establish quick pressure on the ball, and force Arsenal to play quickly.

Newcastle attempted to dominate with their pressing game.  

The goal from Ødegaard which beat Nick Pope from long range in the thirteenth minute seemed to settle Arsenal down somewhat, and they were able to play with more composure. Key to this was Jorginho, who justified his inclusion in the midfield by being one of the most influential players in bringing Arsenal to this composed state. He consistently offered for the ball in deep midfield areas and kept things moving, often with simple but necessary passes to connect through Newcastle pressure.

Arsenal went on to have a pretty decent first half based on this foundation. They were dangerous when finding the spaces behind the Newcastle press and on counter-attacks, and had chances to go in at half time with more than one goal.

A combative second half

Newcastle tried to begin the second half as they had the first, making a fast start and putting Arsenal on the back foot. In this period Newcastle created their best chances of the game, as Schär and Isak both had headers from close range which were denied by Aaron Ramsdale and the post respectively.

Arsenal in this game rarely went into many high pressing phases. Any time they did threaten a high press, Newcastle were keen to go long and play the physical duels anyway, so the home side often ended up dominating territory.

This meant that Arsenal were mostly defending in a mid or low block in a 4-4-1-1 shape. There seemed to be an emphasis on limiting Guimarães’ influence on the ball, and Ødegaard along with Xhaka who sometimes pushed up slightly were responsible for restricting space in Newcastle’s number six zone.

Newcastle’s best attacking play was mostly through wide areas. Trippier was prominent from right back, allowing Murphy to tuck inside and Joelinton to have a balancing role. On the left, Willock and Isak would often rotate between wing and halfspace. This helps to facilitate Isak cutting inside with his dribbling, and allows him to play closer to center-forward positions. Willock’s movement off the ball is strong, and the freedom of this role also suits him.

Arteta made his first substitution of the game after an hour, brining Kieran Tierney on for Zinchenko who had some trouble against Trippier and Murphy on Arsenal’s left side. Shortly afterwards, Howe made his own change in this area, bringing Miguel Almirón on for Murphy.

The game became quite combative and physical as the second half went on. Newcastle were increasingly desperate to get back into the game, spurred on by the crowd, which fed the high tensions on the pitch. With twenty minutes left though, Arsenal were able to release some of the pressure on them as they found a second goal courtesy of Schär who accidentally diverted Martinelli’s low cross into his own net.

Both managers went for more changes with around ten minutes left. Howe added Allan Saint-Maximin and Anthony Gordon to the attack in place of Willock and Wilson, shortly before bringing on Elliot Anderson and Matt Targett for Joelinton and Burn. Arteta meanwhile made his midfield more defense-focused, bringing Partey on for Ødegaard while also adding fresh legs with Leandro Trossard in place of Martinelli. Arsenal were able to see out their win, keeping the pressure on their title race rivals.


Newcastle were strong in the ways that one would expect them to be, playing aggressively and with tempo when possible. They created some good chances, and were probably a bit unfortunate not to score. They remain in third place as Manchester United failed to capitalize on this result on Sunday evening, keeping Newcastle in pole position in the race for Champions League football.

Arsenal had some challenging moments in this game, particularly early in both halves. Once they got settled in their possession though, they did a good job of taming the chaos that Newcastle look to bring at home. Jorginho’s inclusion proved to be an astute one as he led by example with smart play in possession.

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Josh Manley (21) is a student and aspiring coach. Heavily interested in tactics and strategy in football. Watching teams from all top European leagues, but especially Manchester United and Barcelona. [ View all posts ]


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