Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a welcome double as Arsenal moved 10th in the Premier League with a 3-0 win over an impotent Newcastle side.
Under increasing pressure after their limp defeat at Bramall Lane last week, Steve Bruce’s side held firm until half-time at the Emirates, but were thankful to see Aubameyang turn a rebound against the post from a tight angle before the break.
The Gabon striker, with only one goal in his last nine league games, finally showed a glimpse of his scoring touch five minutes into the second period when beating Emil Krafth and firing past Karl Darlow at his near post for the opener.
Arsenal’s young guns have been the stars of their recent revival and Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka combined to seal victory on the hour mark, with the former outpacing Jamal Lascelles before squaring for a simple tap-in for Saka.
On an already pleasing evening for Mikel Arteta, one of his fringe players, Cedric Soares, then set up an open goal for Aubameyang to double his tally for the night and give his confidence a shot in the arm, as the Gunners recorded a fourth win from five league games.
Gunners come out firing after half-time
Bruce, perhaps with one eye on critics of his defensive style, named an attacking line-up for Newcastle’s trip to the Emirates, but his side produced an xG of just 0.04 before half-time as their forward-thinking gameplan failed to materialise.
Miguel Almiron’s hooked effort from outside the box would have been spectacular had it come off but that aside, the Magpies’ full attention reverted to defending early on; to their credit, Arsenal had little answer to their usual low block.
Aubameyang should have had the hosts ahead at the interval when presented with an empty net after Darlow had kept out Saka’s effort, but from a tight angle struck the far post on his weaker left foot as his barren spell threatened to continue.
“It wasn’t an absolute sitter but Aubameyang will be disappointed,” said Gary Neville at half-time. The forward probably wasn’t listening, but he certainly provided the perfect answer five minutes after the interval.
From Thomas Partey’s pass, he darted away from Krafth, who gave him too much room into the Newcastle box, and fired left-footed inside Darlow’s near post for an opener of the kind of quality Arteta will want to see far more regularly.
If there was to be a goal threat from Newcastle, history would suggest Andy Carroll would be the man to provide it, having scored more goals against Arsenal than any other Premier League opponent. And minutes after falling behind, the visitors did nearly level through their target man, but he saw his left-foot drive fly just past Bernd Leno’s upright.
Instead, Arsenal would assert their dominance with another glimpse of their future as Smith-Rowe danced past Lascelles and pulled the ball back for Saka, who got the goal his performance deserved.
Although they were never in danger of needing a third, Aubameyang will have done his confidence no harm by slotting in his second of the night following good work from Saka and Cedric down the right, with the latter setting him up for a simple finish 13 minutes from time.
The win takes Arsenal into the top half of the Premier League and only two points off Chelsea in seventh, while Newcastle remain seven points ahead of third-bottom Fulham in 15th.
Arsenal will play away to either Southampton or Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday at 12.15pm before returning to Premier League action at Southampton on Tuesday; kick-off 8.15pm.
Newcastle travel to face Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday at 8pm, live on Sky Sports.