Arsenal beat Newcastle by 4-0 on Sunday, and there were a few things very hard to miss for anyone who watched the game.
Shkodran Mustafi isn’t good enough to play for this club and that has been proven over and over again. Bukayo Saka is a teenage winger playing as a left-back at the moment. Nicolas Pepe is still somewhat finding his feet in the Premier League. Dani Ceballos just has just come back from a long injury absence. Eddie Nketiah has a lot of talent but the road ahead of him is still long before he becomes a player to regularly challenge for a place in the team. What (arguably) struck an observing eye the most as the lineups were announced was that it was perhaps a mistake for Mikel Arteta to start all these players together.
The first half seemed to confirm that theory, to an extent. Even though the statistical data will tell you the Gunners were the dominant team in the first 45 minutes too, it felt they often struggled to establish true control of the game and there were periods when the visitors pushed forward hard, keeping the ball in Arsenal’s half and circling the box.
However, there was obviously plenty said in the dressing room during the break which came with the game still goalless. The team that came out for the second period looked much better, despite not a single name on the sheet being different. Saka was suddenly exploiting the lack of Newcastle’s attacks down his side and started giving significant contribution up the pitch, which culminated in the 57th minute when he used his audacity, pace and trickery to beat two opponents before assisting Nicolas Pepe for the second goal. Pepe himself was very lively on the other side, having set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the opener himself. Ceballos took it upon himself to organize the play from deep, and his keen eye and incisive passes often opened up opportunities for the teammates in front. Nketiah suddenly looked a constant menace in the box, while improving his movement to give Pepe and Aubameyang more space. Even Mustafi’s game improved and he finally didn’t look out of place in a team which exuded quality all-round.
It was 45 minutes of Arsenal as they should be. Long may it continue, though the next step should be to turn those 45 into 90.