The home side lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 system. Olivier Giroud lead an attack supported by Cazorla, Ozil and Podolski in attacking midfield. Deeper sat Arteta and a returning Aaron Ramsey whilst Szczesny’s goal was protected by Monreal, Sagna, Koscielny and Mertesacker.
Newcastle lined up in a 4-5-1 seemingly in an attempt to stifle Arsenal’s midfield that thrives in advanced central spaces. A back line of Dummett, Debuchy, Coloccini and Williamson protected Tim Krul behind a 5 man midfield consisting of Gouffran and Sissoko on the wings flanking a trio of Tiote, Gosling and Anita. As expected Loic Remy lead the attacks singlehandedly.
In a match where Arsenal were always going to dominate territorial and in terms of possession, Newcastle’ were to use the counter with the pace of Remy in order to prosper (even more so given the little attacking threat offered from central midfield). On this basis, it was imperative that Arsenal counter-pressed immediately, especially in central spaces in order to force Newcastle backwards, and regained organisation with the midfield recovering a defensive position quickly. The latter of these is something Arsenal has been criticized for frequently over the latter half of the season however in this match they worked well, especially given the free movement of Ozil, Cazorla, Podolski and Ramsey.
With a central midfield trio of Tioté, Anita and Gosling, Newcastle offered little attacking threat centrally which made their attacking plan much difficult as they didn’t provide any deep threat and the majority of attacking was done by the wings and at times Remy himself. Their lack of attacking prowess showed as they managed just 3 shots inside the area (compared to Arsenal’s 17). This also benefited Arsenal’s attack as well, as they could dominate the centre with more freedom as the likes of Ramsey moved forward without worrying of a Newcastle CM breaking into the space left behind.
For large portions of the first half, Arsenal were resigned to patiently passing between the backline as Newcastle pressed with intensity whenever a midfielder gained possession. However, as a CM usually pushed up in order to create a 4-4-2 mid-block in order to put pressure on Arteta who dropped as a pivot, gaps opened up between midfield channels which made the vertical pass quite threatening.
A common pattern of play for Arsenal was for originally-central players to make runs behind the full-backs, who were often drawn their Arsenal counterparts. This worked well and often threatened Newcastle’s backline as their wide midfielder (e.g. Gouffran) often covered Arsenal’s wide attacker (Cazorla) who came inside. This created a 1v1 on the wing between the two full-backs, given the poor marking from Newcastle, Ozil could often drift into the wide spaces in order to create a 2v1 overload and find space behind the full-back who moved out to meet his opposition.
For Arsenal’s final goal, a 2v1 situation is created against Newcastle’s Anita who temporarily filled in at right back for Debuchy. Ramsey had the ball as Anita stalled him following concise build-up play on their left flank before a completely unmarked Mesut Ozil easily overlapped the Welshman to cross to (an also unmarked) Giroud who converted from 3 yards out after many chances had fallen his way.
Arsenal’s wing play was aided in general by Newcastle’s narrow midfield which often left the full-backs unsupported. This allowed them to easily play cross-field balls to the full-back or midfielder who drifted to the touchline – through this, Arsenal created 1v1 situations frequently in which they could exploit an emphasised technical superiority.
Newcastle’s pressing subsided the later the game went on as one of the early signs of this lead to Arsenal’s second goal. Arteta collects possession deep in Arsenal’s half and is allowed to proceed unchallenged to the centre-circle as Newcastle are in a 4-5-1 (instead of the previous 4-4-2 press).
At this point he can easily pick out a through pass with the time and space he has been given. Giroud makes great movement behind the defensive line and although he makes a very poor attempt to finish the one-on-one, an albeit offside Ozil is there to finish.
The record-signing midfielder had one of his best games in a red shirt so far as he created 6 chances overall, assisted the 3rd goal with an excellent cross and made 50 passes at an accuracy of 94%. Pardew clearly set out his midfield 3 to stop the likes of Ozil and Cazorla however the interchanging of positions and off the ball movement easily disorganised their defence.
The second goal dispirited the away side as the energy levels dropped significantly and Pardew was unable to raise any motivation. With the team not working anywhere near as hard, Arsenal began to open up pockets of space with ease as they all began to cover less space individually (and thus collectively)which allowed Ozil to put in the great performance he did.
Arsenal improved steadily as Newcastle repeatedly lost their concentration and defended abysmally. The midfield paid little attention to Arsenal’s off the ball movement (a critical aspect of their attacking game) and in the end could’ve conceded well over the 3 goals they did had it not been for good saves from Krul.
Following Arsenal’s 3rd goal, the game subsided into a very tame finish as Arsenal looked to rest players such as Ozil.
The loss continues Newcastle’s shocking form as the team look completely disinterested as the end of the season comes ever closer. Pardew needs leave imminently however that decision is under Mike Ashley’s control and with that will always bring uncertainty.
That being said we cannot take anything away from a confident performance from the Gunners. After Everton’s recent blip the Champions League is Arsenal’s to lose and looks near confirmed as Everton are to face title challengers Man City in the next fixture.