Having been thrashed in Thursday’s (May 12) crucial north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal traveled to Newcastle United in search of a timely reply on Monday night (16 May).
Surprisingly, none of the Gunners’ players stepped up to the challenge and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against Newcastle. Ben White’s own goal and Bruno Guimaraes’ 85th-minute strike were enough to seal the Magpies’ first Premier League win over Arsenal in 34 games.
Despite gunning for Champions League football, Mikel Arteta’s side lacked courage and urgency at St. James Park. They were also careless in possession and gave Newcastle their first opportunity after only eight minutes of play. Callum Wilson intercepted goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale’s sloppy distribution, but fortunately for him, the ball deflected away from goal and went to White.
The Gunners’ first clear attempt came in the 24th minute when Bukayo Saka took the liberty to go for the near post. Martin Duvrabka, however, was unfazed by the youngster’s tame effort. At the other end, Allan Saint-Maximin dashed past Takehiro Tomiyasu and lodged a shot on goal. Ramsdale made a smart save to parry his effort away.
The hosts, who enjoyed a comfortable first half, deservedly went ahead 10 minutes after the break. Joelington zipped in a cross across the face of the Gunners’ goal for a lurking Wilson. White got in the way and deflected the ball into his own net. Seventeen minutes later, Wilson got himself in a favorable position inside the Arsenal box. His shot took a deflection off White and sailed just over the top-right corner.
In the 85th minute, Guimaraes made the Magpies’ dominance count, tucking home after intercepting Ramsdale’s doomed clearance. The 2-0 lead crushed the Gunners’ spirits, keeping them from stringing meaningful passes together until the final blow of the whistle.
The defeat leaves Arteta’s side in fifth position, two points behind Tottenham with a game to play. Since they have an inferior goal difference, they’ll not only need to win against Everton on matchday 38 but also hope Spurs to lose to Norwich City.
Here are five Arsenal players who underperformed to leave their side in dismay before the final game of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign.
#5 Nuno Tavares
Left-back Nuno Tavares is not a dependable defender, but his willingness to push forward generally makes his inclusion worth the risk.
On Monday, however, he completely failed to justify his inclusion into the starting XI, proving ineffective in both attack and defense.
At St. James Park, Tavares only completed 10 passes, lost possession 10 times, did not create a single chance, and lost two of three ground duels.
Another night to forget for the young full-back.
#4 Takehiro Tomiyasu
Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu had to be withdrawn with a hamstring injury in the first half.
Before being subbed off prematurely for Cedric Soares, Tomiyasu arguably endured the longest 39 minutes of his career.
Tomiyasu profusely struggled to keep up with Allan Saint-Maximin, who comfortably brushed aside almost every one of his attempted blocks.
He completed only five passes, lost all five ground duels, ceded possession four times, and rarely made forays into the opposition box.
It was an utterly disappointing stint from one of the Gunners’ more talented players.
#3 Bukayo Saka
Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka cut a frustrating figure on the right wing on Monday night.
He tried his best to create opportunities and even lodged the Gunners’ first shot on target, but nothing came off as we as he’d expected. Matt Targett expertly dealt with his threat, not allowing him even a single free pass.
In Monday’s encounter at Newcastle, Saka completed only 14 passes, misplaced two long balls, and lost four of his seven duels.
He also lost possession nine times and did not find the courage to try even a single dribble.
#2 Eddie Nketiah
Eddie Nketiah has been one of the first names on Arsenal’s team sheets over the last couple of months, and deservedly so.
The forward produced strong performances against Chelsea and Leeds Untied, scoring braces in both fixtures.
In the last couple of matches, however, he has looked ordinary, struggling to get into the game.
Nketiah failed to hold his ground against the Magpies on Monday night, let alone threaten their goal. He did not lodge a single shot on target, and his only shot was blocked.
Nketiah also lost 12 of his 14 duels, ceded possession nine times, and committed a foul (on Fabian Schar), for which he was booked.
#1 Martin Odegaard
Following a disastrous performance against Tottenham Hotspur last week, the Gunners’ young skipper Martin Odegaard needed to produce something special at Newcastle.
Instead, he once again went anonymous, struggling to do anything of note.
The Norwegian, who completed only five passes in the first half, could not test the keeper and his creativity was also below his sky-high standards.
Against Newcastle, Odegaard played only 24 passes, misplayed two crosses, and lost eight duels. He also ceded possession nine times and committed two fouls.