Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle: Tierney continues to stand out, but unsung hero Xhaka the real game-changer


A hard-fought matchup at the Emirates this evening saw Arsenal get the better of Newcastle, to book their spot in the 4th-round of the FA Cup.

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle: Tierney continues to stand out, but unsung hero Xhaka the real game-changer

Gunners get the job done… just

Mikel Arteta’s men welcomed the Magpies to north London a short time ago, for the opening fixture in the defence of their FA Cup crown.

The capital giants of course entered proceedings with their tails up, on the back of a timely upturn in form of late.

On the back of 7 straight outings without a Premier League win, Arsenal rattled off a trio of consecutive victories over the last couple of weeks, the latest of which saw them make short work of West Brom last weekend.

Newcastle, on the other hand, were winless in six, a stretch which included four defeats, and an exit from the League Cup at the hands of Brentford.

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle: Tierney continues to stand out, but unsung hero Xhaka the real game-changer

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – JANUARY 01: Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on January 01, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

As such, prior to kick-off, it felt safe to assume that a routine Gunners victory would likely be forthcoming.

When all was said and done, however, Arsenal required all of 120 minutes to scrape past a game Newcastle side.

An altogether forgetful 90 minutes of normal time so nearly produced a telling moment right at the death, only for Bernd Leno to save the hosts’ blushes, with a tremendous double save:

And the German’s heroics proved telling upon the clash rolling into extra-time, as a pair of late strikes eventually guided Mikel Arteta’s holders into the FA Cup’s last-32.

First, a quick exchange on the edge of the Newcastle area saw Alexandre Lacazette nod into the path of substitute Emile Smith Rowe, who made no mistake with a pinpoint finish into the far bottom corner of Martin Dubravka’s net:

Then, with just minutes remaining, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got in on the act, netting just his 2nd goal in 8, on the back of yet more fine work down the left courtesy of Kieran Tierney:

Xhaka the game-changer

On the back of proceedings coming to a close at the Emirates, there is not a whole lot to discuss when it comes to standout performers.

The clash, all told, proved a disappointing one, with few having truly impressed over the course of the 120 minutes.

One who did continue to shine, despite the general lack of quality, however, was Kieran Tierney.

Scottish stopper Tierney has emerged as one of Arsenal’s most important players of late, with his lung-busting runs up and down the left flank having proven central to the upturn in form being enjoyed by the Gunners..

And tonight proved no different, with the former Celtic man having looked equally impressive at both ends of the pitch, acting as the hosts’ main source of creativity over lengthy stretches.

He was eventually rewarded with the assist for Aubameyang’s result-clincher, with Tierney’s ever-growing influence perfectly summed up by the statistic showcased below:

Tierney, whilst no doubt the Man of the Match in the eyes of most, though, did not actually prove the deciding factor in Arsenal’s eventual victory.

The flow of the clash in fact largely turned in the favour of the hosts on the back of the introduction of Granit Xhaka.

Oft-maligned midfielder Xhaka completely changed the tempo of the hosts’ play after replacing Joe Willock, opening Newcastle’s defence up with pinpoint passing on numerous occasions.

One such delivery set Tierney free to tee up Aubameyang late on, after Bukayo Saka had wasted another opportunity set up by Xhaka with a heavy first touch shortly beforehand.

He also forced a fine stop out of Dubravka with a dipping volley in extra-time, all told, simply adding some much needed quality to Arsenal’s ranks in the middle of the park.

The 28-year-old, for reasons which do not require delving into, will of course never be a favourite amongst the Gunners faithful.

However, on his day, and in the right system, Xhaka remains a more than capable player, who should stand as the favourite to join Thomas Partey in Mikel Arteta’s midfield upon the Ghanaian’s return over the weeks ahead.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Liverpool FC 17 16 33
2 Manchester United FC 16 9 33
3 Leicester City FC 17 10 32
4 Tottenham Hotspur FC 16 14 29
5 Manchester City FC 15 11 29
6 Southampton FC 17 7 29
7 Everton FC 16 6 29
8 Aston Villa FC 15 13 26
9 Chelsea FC 17 11 26
10 West Ham United FC 17 3 26
11 Arsenal FC 17 1 23
12 Leeds United 17 -3 23
13 Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 17 -6 22
14 Crystal Palace FC 17 -7 22
15 Newcastle United FC 16 -8 19
16 Burnley FC 15 -11 16
17 Brighton & Hove Albion FC 17 -7 14
18 Fulham FC 15 -10 11
19 West Bromwich Albion 17 -28 8
20 Sheffield United FC 17 -21 2
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 13
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 12
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 11
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 11
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 11
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 10
Bamford, Patrick Leeds United 10
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace FC 8
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 8
Rashford, Marcus Manchester United FC 7
Ings, Danny Southampton FC 7
Lacazette, Alexandre Arsenal FC 7
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 6
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 6
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion FC 6
Abraham, Tammy Chelsea FC 6
Grealish, Jack Aston Villa FC 5
Firmino, Roberto Liverpool FC 5
Barnes, Harvey Leicester City FC 5
Soucek, Tomas West Ham United FC 5