An eighth consecutive victory over Newcastle raised as many questions as it answered regarding the Gunners’ credentials to finish top at the end of May.
Full-back turned full-throttle walking opinion Neville leads the plethora of pundits happy to write-off any hopes Arsene Wenger’s side may have of ending the Chelsea-Manchester City duopoly at the head of affairs in English football for the past two years.
“We don’t take too much notice,” the Wales international said of the early-season flak, among the most cutting of it from Sky’s Neville, who pulled few punches when questioning Arsenal’s strength of character.
In fairness to the former Manchester United defender, it was just about the only area in which the visitors were out-performed by Newcastle, who put in an admirable display to limit the damage following the early red card Aleksandar Mitrovic had been flirting with in the three weeks since his Premier League debut.
“We know what we are capable of doing,” added Ramsey, whose shot, parried by Tim Krul, was dispatched into the bottom corner from a narrow angle by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain courtesy of a significant deflection off Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini early in the second half.
Ramsey added: “We know the kind player that we have and it is just important for us to concentrate on that, and come to these sort of places and grind out results.”
Arsenal head into the international break five points behind leaders Manchester City, the entirety of that deficit surrendered in their first two home games this season to see worries again raised over the quality of Wenger’s side at both ends of the pitch.
A second consecutive clean sheet, perhaps the easiest Petr Cech will earn all season as Newcastle failed to muster a shot on target for the second successive game, went some way to easing concerns over the defence. But a Theo Walcott miss and a clear first-half penalty shout aside, there was little to suggest Arsenal were ever going to exploit their numerical advantage.
“There’s a big difference between the chances we are creating and the goals that we are scoring,” admitted Wenger, who expects Mesut Ozil to recover during the next fortnight from a knee problem that necessitated his exclusion. “We made 713 passes during the game, so at least we don’t have to work on our passing in training.”
Give it time, the Frenchman seemed to be saying. Ramsey added: “I’m confident this squad can challenge for honours this season, and for years to come. My view on it is look at the table after 10 games, and let’s see where we are then.”
It’s a view with which Newcastle would no doubt concur.
The immediate wave of home sympathy for Mitrovic in the wake of the red to add to two cautions he had already received in his embryonic career at the Magpies seemed to have dissipated somewhat as his team-mates reflected on a winless start to the season, albeit with enough signs of encouragement to suggest Newcastle won’t have to resort to a repeat of their final day escape from the drop last season.
“I don’t really want to say anything about him,” said Papiss Cisse, the Newcastle striker who is set to benefit more than most from the three-match ban Mitrovic will sit out for raking his studs down the shin of Francis Coquelin, to all but seal Newcastle’s fate just 16 minutes in.
Cisse added: “For him to do something like that was hard for the team because after that, the game was over. Sometimes things happen that are bad for the team, but that’s football. Next time maybe he’ll learn to do better.”
Krul 7; Janmaat 7, Mbemba 7, Coloccini 7, Haidara 7; Anita 7 (Perez 72, 5), Colback 7; Sissoko 7 (Cisse 78, 5), Wijnaldum 5, Thauvin 6 (de Jong 86, 5); Mitrovic 3.
Cech 7; Bellerin 7, Gabriel 7, Koscielny 7, Monreal 7; Coquelin 7, Cazorla 7; Oxlade-Chamberlain 8 (Arteta 81, 6), Ramsey 7, Sanchez 8; Walcott 5 (Giroud 69, 5).
Andre Marriner 6