Nicolas Pepe was the game changer for Arsenal as they beat Newcastle United 4-0 to record their seventh Premier League win of the season on Sunday.
After a frustrating first half wherein Newcastle United were the better of the two sides, Arsenal sprang to life post the break. Just seven minutes into the second period, the Gunners’ captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put the hosts ahead, heading in from Nicolas Pepe’s cross. Three minutes later, Pepe then grabbed a goal for himself to put Arsenal two the good.
The game was put beyond any doubt late on, as Mesut Ozil scored Arsenal’s third from close range before the win was rounded off by Alexandre Lacazette with one of the final kicks of the game. The result took Arsenal to 34 points, with a top four spot now coming within sight. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
Leno did not really have a great deal to do, with Newcastle hardly mustering up shots on target. However, he was clutch in ensuring Arsenal were not down a goal just a quarter of an hour in after he stayed alert to keep the ball out of his net after it had deflected off Dani Ceballos. Distributed well and was involved in the move that led to Alexandre Lacaette’s goal.
Hector Bellerin: 7/10
Bellerin did not make the best of starts to the game, struggling against the pace and trickery of Allan Saint-Maximin. However, the Spaniard improved as the game wore on and was not troubled at the back at all in the final 45 minutes of the game. Going forward, he linked up well with Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos, although end product needs improvement.
Shkodran Mustafi: 7.5/10
Another game wherein Mustafi was preferred at the heart of the Arsenal defence. And, the German continued his fine run of form. While not always at his best with the ball at his feet, Mustafi was composed while off the ball, more than making up for the faults in his distribution. A colossus in the air, Mustafi won 7 aerial duels other than making 9 clearances. In the form of his life.
David Luiz: 7.5/10
Unlike Mustafi, Luiz was precise when building up play from the back bar the odd misplaced pass. Kept things simple this time, letting Ceballos and Granit Xhaka take charge. Defensively, Luiz kept the backline organised for large parts of the game, showing incredible reading and positioning to keep Joelinton quiet all throughout. A solid display.
Bukayo Saka: 8.5/10
Another incredible performance in a season wherein Saka just continues to grow in stature. The teenager did not quite enjoy himself against Miguel Almiron and Valentino Lazaro to begin with. However, Saka was the catalyst for the turnaround, starting by posing a constant threat down the left flank.
Saka provided the assist for Pepe’s goal, showing an incredible piece of skill to get past Lazaro before laying the ball on for the Ivorian. Some of his numbers are just incredible. Saka completed more take-ons (6) than anyone, made 3 recoveries and delivered 7 accurate crosses. Hard to believe he is just 18.
Dani Ceballos: 8/10
A game of two halves for Ceballos. Making his return to the starting lineup after a considerable period, he took time to settle in and struggled to get up to the pace of the game. However, Ceballos was the player who turned things around for Arsenal post the break.
Taking charge of the proceedings, the Spaniard ensured Arsenal assumed control of the game. Showing incredible footwork and superb close control, Ceballos linked up brilliantly with Pepe, pulling the strings from the middle of the park. His return to form might be critical for Arsenal.
Granit Xhaka: 7.5/10
Xhaka continued his solid run of form under Arteta, yet again showing great discipline to make sure Arsenal did not necessarily get overpowered, even at their worst. Xhaka also showed great awareness to drop into the left-back slot whenever Saka charged forward, meaning the teenager was never caught out of position. A steady display.
Nicolas Pepe: 9/10
Nicolas Pépé for Arsenal against Newcastle:
🔴 Most recoveries (10)
🔴 Most touches in opp. box (8)
🔴 Most assists (2)
🔴 =Most chances created (4)
🔴 =Most shots on target (3)
🔴 =Most goals (1)
A coming-of-age display. 💥 pic.twitter.com/nygb2PEMp5
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 16, 2020
Top class performance. Back into the side after being dropped last time out, Pepe looked like a man on a mission, although his forays did not exactly translate into the required end product to begin with. However, the Ivorian still carried much of the threat for Arsenal in a difficult first half; he would go on to create the joint-most chances in the game (4).
The screws turned completely in the second period, starting with the assist for Aubameyang’s goal, delivered to perfection by Pepe. He then grabbed a goal for himself, appearing in the right place at the right time to net his fourth Premier League strike of the season before laying on another assist, this time to Lacazette. A coming-of-age game for Pepe.
Mesut Ozil: 8/10
Ozil was by far Arsenal’s most assured player in the first half, looking to find teammates in pockets of spaces while himself looking to create space. Was helped by a smooth first half for the entire team, which took some burden off him.
With that, he ran the show and helped Saka out. Ended up getting a goal as well, although he was aided by Martin Dubravka in the process. Incredibly, every single Arsenal player had touched the ball in the build-up to his goal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7.5/10
For a while, it looked as if it was Burnley all over again for Aubameyang, who did not look sharp to begin with. Indeed, the Arsenal captain took his time to get to grips with the pace of the game, but when he did, he looked extremely dangerous.
Opened the scoring with a peach of a header from Pepe’s cross and then helped Nketiah by playing as the second striker, enabling the youngster to flourish. As always, Aubameyang worked incredibly hard off the ball, helping young Saka in the defensive phase.
Eddie Nketiah: 6/10
A frustrating game to begin with for Nketiah, who fed off scraps for much of the first half, rarely seeing any action. As Aubameyang moved into a more central position, Nketiah got more involved and helped release Pepe with his run for Arsenal’s second. Much to learn for the youngster.
Lucas Torreira: N/A
On for Ceballos, Torreira helped see the game out.
Alexandre Lacazette: 7/10
Lacazette was not on the pitch for long enough to usually warrant a rating. However, this was a cameo wherein he helped put the game to bed. Incredibly selfless to pass the ball on to Ozil for Arsenal’s second before scoring a goal himself, finishing off from Pepe’s pass. With his drought at an end, this should be a big confidence booster for the Frenchman.
Joe Willock: N/A
A late introduction, Willock barely had any time on the pitch.