Goals from Daniel Crowley, Stephy Mavididi and Serge Gnabry helped the Young Guns leapfrog Aston Villa back into second place with two games in hand over Derby County, whose lead at the summit has been cut down to five points.

In front of a well-attended crowd at the Emirates following their narrow but frustrating exit from this year’s FA Youth Cup at the semi-final stage, Arsenal got off to the best possible start with two goals in quick succession.

Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return to competitive football, while Tomas Rosicky also featured and the first team midfielders were involved in both goals. For the first goal, it was great forward play between Rosicky and Mavididi. The latter teed up Crowley nicely, and he weaved past two defenders before keeping a cool head to slot home from close-range.

 | Photo: Arsenal's official Twitter
Jack was effective playing as a deep-lying midfielder, where he was able to cut passing lanes and also given freedom to start attacks. | Photo: Arsenal’s official Twitter

A minute later, Mavididi turned goalscorer after taking advantage of a sleepy Newcastle backline, who were inviting far too much pressure in their half. It was punished to devastating effect when the striker netted his 12th goal in all competitions to double the lead with no hesitation after Rosicky’s teasing through ball.

Mavididi made no mistake to double the lead in quick succession - his 12th goal in all competitions this season. | Photo source: Josh Smith
Mavididi made no mistake to double the lead in quick succession – his 12th goal in all competitions this term. | Photo source: Josh Smith

Lack of fortune gives Newcastle hope

The visitors did well to grab a foothold in the game, despite their slow start. Krystian Bielik, defensively solid and assured as usual, was very unfortunate to score an own goal after attempting a sliding clearance. Instead, the ball flicked past a helpless Matt Macey at the near post, creeping in to give Newcastle renewed hope that they could actually get something from the game, especially having struggled in the early exchanges.

Macey was forced into a number of sharp reaction saves as you could tell the momentum shifted dramatically in the visitors’ favour before an innocuous knock forced Marcus McGuane off with Jeff Reine-Adelaide coming on in his place.

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Sparkling Serge

Serge Gnabry was certainly a man on a mission to prove his critics wrong, showing what the first team has been missing in recent months with a fresh impetus of pace and direct play when running through on the front foot. The talented 20-year-old restored our two-goal cushion after 34 minutes with aplomb, speeding past his marker on the flank before rifling goalwards, sending goalkeeper Nathan Harker sprawling as his effort nestled into the corner.

Gnabry had plenty of joy operating on the wing. | Photo: Getty
Gnabry was able to weave past his marker on multiple occasions operating down the flank – and netted a goal for his efforts too. | Photo: Getty

In the second half, the tempo dropped significantly at times and there were less attempts on-goal. Unsurprising, given the comfortable lead, Steve Gatting’s side was reluctant to relinquish possession cheaply to give Newcastle an opportunity to counter-attack at speed.

Chris Willock was our third and final substitution on the evening, and it was clear from his introduction that the winger was definitely lively in all the right areas as he looked to rubber stamp his presence on the fixture.

Chris Willock of Arsenal breaks past Callum Roberts of Newcastle during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 8, 2016 in London, England.
Chris Willock of Arsenal breaks past Callum Roberts of Newcastle during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on April 8, 2016 in London, England.

Unfortunately for him and the rest of his attacking team-mates, they were unable to add to their lead, but Newcastle began to gradually frustrate with continuous cynical and crunching fouls in various areas of the pitch to slow down our momentum, which certainly meant the final stages began to drag slightly but the result was virtually sealed and ultimately confirmed at the referee’s final whistle.

A good first half performance, a solid second-half display, and a welcome three points for the Young Guns. Work still to do if we’re to top Group 2 this season, but with three games in quick succession, there’s no reason it cannot be done.