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.
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Arsenal: Leno (6), Cedric (7), Luiz (6), Holding (7), Tierney (7), Partey (7), Xhaka (7), Saka (8), Smith-Rowe (7), Aubameyang (8), Lacazette (7).
Subs: Eleny (6), Willian (6), Martinelli (n/a).
Newcastle: Darlow (6), Krafth (5), Lascelles (6), Clark (5), Lewis (5), Almiron (6), Longstaff (5), Shelvey (6), Joelinton (5), Carroll (6), Wilson (6).
Subs: Murphy (6), Hendrick (6), Anderson (n/a).
Man of the match: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
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.
- Arsenal were finally able to recall Thomas Partey in midfield, while Cedric Soares and Kieran Tierney also returned.
- Steve Bruce made eight changes to Newcastle's line-up, bringing in strikers Andy Carroll and Joelinton to an attacking-looking line-up.
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.
What the managers said...
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta: "The first half, it takes a while to break down a structure like this - we had a few big chances which we needed to score and we didn't, but we were in total control of the game, I don't think they had any shots on target.
"It was about keeping the structure right, keep it simple, keep attacking the box as much as we could, we corrected a few things which we could do a little bit better - and then we produced the moments of the goals."
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce: "In the first half, we got ourselves in decent positions and didn't take advantage of it. I didn't see us being 2-0 down within an hour, we'd been caught high up the pitch just after half-time and punished.
"We repeated it five minutes later, and that's the situation we found ourselves in. We're in a difficult moment at the moment, that little bit of confidence ebbs away at you, we're on a difficult run, and the only way through it is to keep working away and hope results change and bring that confidence back."
Man of the match - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Finally back among the goals and the width of a post away from a hat-trick, Aubameyang will need to prove one swallow doesn't make a summer if he really is to return to being the goal machine of the past few years.
Arsenal have struggled so often recently to break teams down and breach that line of resistance - and his opener may have proved the most telling moment of the game from the hosts' perspective, giving them the freedom and confidence to play with Newcastle forced to open up.
Certainly, the confidence boost he will receive from finding the back of the net twice will do neither the player nor his side any harm at all.
"That'll be vital for the manager," Jamie Carragher told Monday Night Football. "You need someone, a goalscorer in your team, and they've got one."
- Arsenal have kept five consecutive clean sheets in all competitions for the first time since February 2009 (6 in total in that run).
- Newcastle are without a win in seven Premier League games (D2 L5), their longest run without a victory in the competition since October 2018 (10).
- There were just nine days between this win and Arsenal's 2-0 FA Cup victory against Newcastle at the Emirates on January 9th, the shortest gap for the Gunners between home wins against the same opponent since January 2008, when they beat Newcastle twice at the Emirates in the space of three days.
- Newcastle made eight changes to their starting XI in the Premier League for the first time ever and are the first side to make 8+ changes in the competition since Manchester City also made eight against Burnley in June 2020.
- Arsenal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his 400th appearance in European League football (Arsenal 102, Borussia Dortmund 144, St Etienne 87, Monaco 19, Lille 14 and Dijon 34).
- Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has either scored (5) or assisted (2) in six of his seven games against Newcastle in all competitions, finding the net in each of his last four against the Magpies.
- Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey registered his first league assist in 48 appearances, since April 2019, for Atletico Madrid against Valencia in La Liga.
- Emile Smith Rowe has either scored (2) or assisted (5) in seven of his 10 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions, whilst the Englishman has provided two more assists than any other player for the Gunners this campaign (5).
- Only Nicolas Anelka (30), Cesc Fabregas (28) and Theo Walcott (12) have been involved in more Premier League goals for Arsenal as a teenager than Bukayo Saka (11 - 5 goals, 6 assists).
Live Premier League
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.