Arsenal slipped to yet another embarrassing away defeat to opposition they should be beating easily on Sunday, as Newcastle ran out 2-1 victors at St. James Park.
Arsenal took an early lead through Alexandre Lacazette, but yet more mistakes from their error-prone defence let the hosts equalise before half-time.
As the forwards pushed to find another goal in the second half, the defenders gifted Newcastle a second, allowing Rafa Benitez’s side to sit back and easily soak up pressure for the remainder of the 90 minutes.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because a similar description could be applied to many matches this season. Bottling leads against Bournemouth, Watford, Swansea City and more, Arsenal are the masters of offering nothing at the back after they do their job up front.
So how did the players do individually?
Petr Cech 3
Beaten at his near post for the first, Cech honestly didn’t have much chance with the second. It seems the clean sheet against Watford (his only clean sheet in all competitions in 2018) was just a one-off, and we’re back to normal now.
His distribution was significantly better than against CSKA though. Given he only managed 18% pass accuracy that day, that wasn’t hard.
Calum Chambers 3
Chambers had a mixed game, in that I don’t think he was at fault for the goals, and he was generally decent defensively. However, he was beaten far too easily by Perez on one occasion, and was pretty shocking in possession. He never looked dangerous with his crosses and through balls. Plus, he snatched at his chances to score.
Shkodran Mustafi 2
When Mustafi let Shane Long get a run on him to score against Southampton, many wrote it off as a mistake. Even more correctly pointed out that Petr Cech could have come off his line.
When Mustafi let Fyodor Chalov get a run on him to score against CSKA Moscow, people were a little more annoyed. Twice, in just a few days? Surely the first mistake should be a wake up call?
Then Mustafi let Ayoze Perez get a run on him to score against Newcastle. At this point it’s not a mistake, it’s a deficiency in his game, or an inability to analyse his own performances and learn from them.
I wanted to give Mustafi an even lower score, but the fact is one of his long balls finally came off in a big way to allow Aubameyang the chance to set Lacazette up. Then he made a good block when the game was already lost. Still, I can’t help but feel like Arsenal might’ve won with someone else at the back.
Rob Holding 3.5
He made a few good tackles, and was only partly at fault for Newcastle’s second. The problem was more that he was left marking two players on his own on that occasion. He also gave the ball away less than anyone else in the defence. Still, he has to take his share of the blame for throwing away the lead.
Nacho Monreal 2.5
Monreal’s header, which allowed Newcastle to get in for their second goal, wasn’t a good one. What was even more disappointing was the fact he stood frozen to the spot watching for a second or two. He needed to shift across, and allow Holding to do the same. His hesitance left Holding stranded, and ultimately cost Arsenal the match.
The Spaniard did get forward pretty well, but couldn’t pick anyone out when he did.
Mohamed Elneny 5
Not a terrible performance from the Egyptian, and he kept up his insanely high pass accuracy with 95%. The trouble was he fell back into his safe pass routine, never really threatening Newcastle. He was also caught on the ball a couple of times. Thankfully his name isn’t Granit Xhaka, so people will happily forget that by tomorrow.
Granit Xhaka 6
Most of Arsenal’s positive moves went through Xhaka in one way or another. Unfortunately there wasn’t much quality around him to work with. You could certainly see the midfield improvement on Thursday’s match though.
Joe Willock 5
Most fans will only remember the chance he missed, unfortunately, and this was a tough debut for Willock. He did show his fight on a number of occasions though, winning all of his four attempted tackles, and making a couple of interceptions and clearances. The three fouls given against him were very harsh.
Alex Iwobi 7
Iwobi had a good game, despite everything going on behind him. He held up the ball well, he made chances, his shooting was significantly better than on Thursday. I thought he was unfortunate to come off for Nketiah, but Arsene Wenger clearly wanted all of his goalscorers on the pitch.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 7.5
Aubameyang had a great first-half, and played a perfect ball across the box for Arsenal’s opening goal. He worked hard, and showed some skill to get away from Newcastle players pressing him.
His performance dropped off towards the end, but overall he was Arsenal’s best player, and kept up his record of one goal contribution per game in the league.
Alexandre Lacazette 7
Lacazette finished expertly to give Arsenal the lead, and linked up well with Aubameyang. Later in the half his choice to pass instead of shoot was slightly questionable, but the unselfish decision might’ve led to a goal on another day, or with another player alongside him.
Conversely, in the second half he should’ve cut the ball back instead of shooting. Overall though he got involved in an effective way, won a lot of free-kicks and like his fellow forwards was unlucky to be on the losing side.
Danny Welbeck 6
Looked lively, but couldn’t really make anything happen in his limited time on the pitch.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 6
Maitland-Niles actually had a couple more touches on the ball than Welbeck, despite playing 10 fewer minutes, but most of them were just passes back and forth as the team searched for openings.
Eddie Nketiah N/A
Nketiah only got four minutes and didn’t touch the ball once so it’s hard to give him a rating.