Newcastle briefly threatened to defy the norms established both by their work this season and a decade’s worth of endeavours at the Emirates, but ultimately normal service was resumed. They remain winless in all competitions and they have now lost 11 straight games at Arsenal’s home, this defeat ending up as comfortable as most of them.
Eddie Howe could take the positives of a respectable first-half performance in his first match overseen from pitchside but after the restart their opponents were too strong, scoring well-taken goals through Bukayo Saka and his replacement Gabriel Martinelli. His side remain bottom, a fact few away from Tyneside will mourn, while Arsenal maintain interest in a top-four spot after casting aside any residual gloom from last weekend’s heavy defeat at Liverpool.
Howe selected a team that, while heavy on intent at first glance, would inevitably be required to ration its attacking ambition. When they felt emboldened to show some, they were within inches of taking the lead. Arsenal had taken control since the 15-minute mark but, on the half-hour, a swift break saw Ryan Fraser’s delivery from the right half-cleared. Jonjo Shelvey loves to feed on scraps within shooting range; his eyes lit up as the ball broke to him 25 yards out and, via a steadying touch, he whipped a precise effort towards goal. It was heading in when Aaron Ramsdale, extended to full stretch, tipped it on to the crossbar and behind. Shelvey had another go in the aftermath of the resulting corner but this time Ramsdale grabbed an optimistic daisycutter.
There was no shame in striking the woodwork from that range, but the same could not be said for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang four minutes before the interval. The Arsenal captain produced a candidate for miss of the season and, put bluntly, it will add ammunition to suggestions he is losing his touch. Saka wriggled to the left byline and did superbly to stand a cross up to Emile Smith Rowe for a headed opportunity that, even for player short on aerial prowess, should probably have been converted. In the event Martin Dubravka did well to save, but he must have cursed his luck when his parry fell straight to Aubameyang. The finish seemed a sure thing but Aubameyang sidefooted against the left post when any contact seemed bound to result in a goal.
It meant Newcastle could retreat to the dressing room feeling broadly satisfied. They had been compact, Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall making sure of that with constant cajolement from the technical area, and went relatively untroubled for long spells until Aubameyang’s embarrassment.
The opening stages had been notable mainly for a series of grapples between Callum Wilson and Gabriel Magalhães, but a beautifully arrowed pass from Sambi Lokonga towards Saka eventually opened Newcastle up. Saka got the wrong side of Matt Ritchie and, had he made a true contact, would have troubled Dubravka severely. His finish squirted wide of the near post, but Arsenal took their cue to seize some initiative. Shortly afterwards Dubravka made a flying save from Martin Ødegaard’s free-kick, which he would have been expected to repel despite the acrobatics, and that was the sum of the action until bar, post and bafflement intervened.
Arsenal managed 12 goal attempts in the first half, although a number of them had been wild. Saka corrected that after a far more convincing re-emergence from the hosts. He had already forced Dubravka into another save after floating inside from the right when, in a tight spot on the opposite flank, Saka found Smith Rowe before setting off into the box. Smith Rowe immediately located Nuno Tavares and the left-back, whose inclusion after a ropey performance at Anfield had prompted surprise, rolled a smart right-footed pass into the onrushing Saka’s path. The angle was tight but perfect for a low, raking drive into the far corner; Saka produced exactly that and Arsenal had their breakthrough.
It was his last meaningful contribution. In the 64th minute, having picked up a knock, Saka hobbled off to be replaced by Martinelli. The change did Arsenal no harm. Within 90 seconds Takehiro Tomiyasu lofted a deft first-time pass towards Martinelli, who had run into yards of space on the right of the area. Martinelli let the ball drop over his shoulder, watching it all the way before helping it past Dubravka on the volley. It was his first goal since May, and a forward of such explosive promise can only benefit from breaking that drought.
Before that, Wilson had run on to a long pass from Shelvey but failed to get a shot away under the attentions of Gabriel and Tavares. Appeals for a penalty rightly met deaf ears; the game would soon be put of Newcastle’s reach and, while Ramsdale saved late on from Allan Saint-Maximin, the scale of Howe’s task is clear.