Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle: Mesut Ozil volleys Gunners into top four
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 17/12/17 9:19am
Mesut Ozil's stunning volley fired Arsenal up to fourth in the Premier League with an unconvincing 1-0 victory over struggling Newcastle.
The Germany international's thunderous 23rd-minute effort proved enough for the Gunners who limped to their first league win in their last four outings.
Arsenal's profligacy inspired a spirited Newcastle display, but it was not enough to halt their alarming winless run which extends to nine games.
To make matters worse, the defeat sees Newcastle drop into the relegation zone while Arsenal leapfrog Burnley - who drew at Brighton - into the top four.
Arsenal: Cech (6), Bellerin (6), Koscielny (6), Monreal (6), Maitland-Niles (6), Xhaka (6), Wilshere (6), Ozil (8), Iwobi (6), Sanchez (6), Lacazette (5).
Subs: Giroud (5), Welbeck (5), Coquelin (n/a).
Newcastle: Elliot (6), Yedlin (5), Lascelles (5), Lejeune (5), Manquillo (5), Murphy (5), Hayden (5), Merino (5), Atsu (4), Perez (5), Joselu (4).
Subs: Gayle (5), Diame (5), Ritchie (6).
Man of the Match: Mesut Ozil
Restored to the starting line-up, Alexandre Lacazette tried to vindicate his inclusion with a quick-fire third-minute shot but Rob Elliot, who replaced Karl Darlow in the Newcastle goal after his error against Everton, saved well from the Frenchman.
Jamaal Lascelles drew Petr Cech into action two minutes later but Arsenal remained on top as Hector Bellerin's goal-bound effort was blocked before Ainsley Maitland-Niles left three Newcastle players in his wake but fired into the side-netting.
A frustrating first half looked to be unfolding in front of the Gunners until a volley of the highest quality from Ozil broke the deadlock, the Germany international firing a clearance beyond Elliot with interest from just inside the area.
Bellerin and Granit Xhaka spurned chances to double Arsenal's tally before Florian Lejeune prevented Ozil from doubling his tally with a chipped finish as Newcastle reached the interval without falling further behind.
Alexandre Lacazette returned to replace Olivier Giroud in the Arsenal starting line-up. Newcastle made five changes as Rob Elliot, Isaac Hayden, Jacob Murphy, Ayoze Perez and Joselu were recalled by Rafa Benitez.
Christian Atsu deflected the ball inches wide of his own goal within four minutes of the restart before the introduction of Matt Ritchie breathed life into Newcastle as Josh Murphy stung Cech's palms on 57 minutes.
Lacazette should have put the game to bed on the hour only for his poor, chipped effort to let Newcastle off the hook, but the visitors were unable to punish the Gunners' wastefulness as Joselu's deflected effort and two presentable chances for Ayoze Perez went begging.
- Newcastle are without a win in nine Premier League games (D1 L8), their longest winless run in league football since May 2015 (10).
- The Gunners have won each of their last 10 Premier League games against the Magpies, a run stretching back to March 2012.
- Rafa Benitez has never enjoyed a victory away to Arsenal in the Premier League in seven attempts, drawing two and losing five.
- Jack Wilshere started consecutive Premier League games for Arsenal for the first time since May 2015.
- Mesut Ozil has been directly involved in six goals in his last five Premier League games at the Emirates (2 goals, 4 assists).
- Petr Cech has now kept 199 Premier League clean sheets.
Man of the Match - Mesut Ozil
With Newcastle putting in an improved defensive display, it needed a moment of brilliance to unpick the Magpies - and boy did Mesut Ozil deliver that.
The German read the situation superbly to anticipate where the ball would drop and produced a similarly superb finish to fire the Gunners back to winning ways. On an afternoon where so many of his team-mates were ineffective, Ozil's contribution was telling.
Arsene Wenger: "It was more uncomfortable than we would have liked. We created the chances for it to be comfortable and, in the last five minutes, we became a big edgy, but we didn't make a mistake at the back. Ozil's goal was a gem to watch. I'm happy for Mesut because that is what you want from him, that decisiveness. It was a fantastic goal."
Rafa Benitez: "It's frustrating to lose. We were pushing and working so hard, especially in the second half. It's a pity. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, sometimes it's the final decision. We've had these situations in the last two or three games, losing to one goal, but at the same time you can see the reaction of the players and the effort they put on the pitch - that's the positive thing."
Arsenal host West Ham on Tuesday in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup before entertaining Liverpool in their final game before Christmas on Friday Night Football. Newcastle's final game sees them travel to West Ham on Saturday.