Goals from Aaron Ramsey in the first half and Alexandre Lacazette in the second was enough to see off a dogged performance from the visiting Newcastle side, but it was an ultimately warranted win for us – with Ramsey and Ozil running the boys in black and white absolutely ragged.
Surprisingly, Unai Emery changed up his team in the face of some previously impressive performances before the international break.
Out went Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and in came Alex Iwobi. The same went for Granit Xhaka, who was a slight doubt with injury. Matteo Guendouzi replaced the Swiss midfielder. The last change was Skipper Laurent Koscielny, with Shkodran Mustafi the man coming in to replace him.
We started strongly, but overall quite cagily. Both sides were keen to avoid errors in possession rather than dare to make an opening. We still bossed the ball though, and had roughly three quarters of possession in the first half.
Openings were sparse though, until the thirteenth minute. We put in a corner, and Newcastle were all at sea. A flick on found Ramsey at the back stick and he instinctively volleyed home, but Anthony Taylor disallowed the goal, with a foul on Florian Lejeune from Sokratis the reason for chalking the goal off.
A soft decision, but Rambo would get his goal.
In the meantime, we had to try and break down Newcastle, and we were making hard work of it. The Toon were defending in packs, and we couldn’t quite make the final pass. It was turning out to be a frustrating evening.
The thirtieth minute changed that though.
A flick from Ramsey was the catalyst, and it set free Lacazette. He was crowded out though as he tried to cut in, and the loose ball bobbled to Ramsey in the box. His first time finish was an execution in precision, a low shot curling away from Dubravka in goal, and in off the far post.
A great finish, and it gave us the lead we deserved.
We didn’t stop there, although Rondon gave us a worry when he shrugged off Sokratis to fire in a low shot that required a smart stop from Leno. Time was ticking down toward half time, would we have time to put this game to bed?
If it wasn’t for Matt Ritchie’s head, it would have been.
Lacazette was found in the box, but with his back to goal. A fantastic swivel was met with an even better connection as he blasted toward goal. It beat Dubravka, but Ritchie behind him headed clear.
That was it for the first half, and we went in leading, but it could have been a lot better.
The second half was marginally more open than the first, with us a little more scheming than the first 45. Ozil and Ramsey were increasingly pivotal, with Newcastle clinging on as we tried to wriggle into the box.
We didn’t quite manage it though. A misplaced pass here, an offside flag there. The margins were inches, but they weren’t in our favour.
As the match wore on, Anthony Taylor began to become a little more involved. He denied us a blatant corner, he booked Nacho Monreal for a great tackle. The ref has previous with Arsenal, and with a one goal advantage, it started to become a little more nervous.
Unai Emery saw the need for change, and brought on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Alex Iwobi. We had our top trio on the pitch, would it get us the goal we needed?
We were getting closer though, and keeping up the pressure. A weak penalty shout for a Dummett handball preceded an off-target header from Sokratis. The screw was turning, but we had to stay alert at the back.
We were forced into another change with little more than twenty minutes to play. Aaron Ramsey went down under a challenge and immediately gave away the captains armband. Mohamed Elneny was his replacement, and although Ramsey walked off the pitch unaided, it is worrying in a time with matches coming thick and fast.
Our best chance fell to Auba in the 72nd minute, with a sumptuous Ozil ball finding an onrushing Aubmaeyang, who fired toward goal but Dubravka saved well. The start of the move stemmed from Guendouzi snatching possession.
We got that goal, and what a finish it was from Lacazette. Aubameyang headed forward and it was a straight race between Lacazette and Lascelles, and Laca got the edge he needed. His finish was lofted over Dubravka, and we had the two goal cushion.
Mesut Ozil went off shortly after, with Mkhitaryan replacing him, and we started to really up the tempo. A wonderful ball from Maitland-Niles was just missed by Aubameyang in the box. A minute later, Laca thought he had his second as he headed home from a corner, only for Taylor to whistle off the goal – again.
We looked good, the second half had needed something a little more and we had duly obliged – and despite no assists or goals, we had Ozil to thank. Top in the team for passes in opposition half, successful passes and key passes, he had kept our play flowing, and his presence had been felt across the pitch.
The final whistle blew, and we had earned our tenth successive home win, something we hadn’t achieved since our Double in 97-98.
We now sit in third spot, and while we have five away games to deal with, we have it in our hands.
We’re a team on the up!