Arsenal's Champions League hopes hanging by a thread after Newcastle defeat

The Gunners must now rely on a favour from already relegated Norwich when they play Spurs on the final day of the season
Arsenal's Champions League hopes hanging by a thread after Newcastle defeat

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at St. James' Park. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

Newcastle 2 Arsenal 0

Callum Wilson’s first “goal” of 2022 may also prove to be the most significant, not so much for a Newcastle side coasting towards summer, but most certainly for North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

It was an effort that was eventually decreed a Ben White own goal and put Newcastle, celebrating their last home game of a season which has seen them enter the world of multi-billionaire ownership after their purchase by Saudi Arabia, on course for victory.

And it means that Arsenal, who could have clinched Champions League football four days ago had they beaten Spurs, no longer have the final say on whether they will finish in the top four.

A point for Tottenham on Sunday, at home to already-relegated Norwich, and Antonio Conte’s side will effectively be guaranteed the Champions League spot, regardless of what Arsenal do against Everton.

The killer goal came on 55 minutes after the recalled Wilson sprinted in to the near-post to meet a Joelinton cross with a challenge that saw the ball swept in via White.

Mikel Arteta ended the game with attacking subs Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli all off the bench but it was symptomatic of this sad end to their season that five strikers failed to create a meaningful chance of an equaliser.

And when Wilson was blocked by Aaron Ramsdale in his effort to claim a second goal six minutes from time, the ricochet broke for Bruno Guimaraes to slot the ball into an open Arsenal net.

That traumatic defeat at Tottenham on Thursday behind them, Arsenal, for all their shortcomings, had found themselves in a situation where victory in the north-east would have left their fate in their own hands on Sunday.

But, following on from that 3-0 derby defeat, the Gunners were immediately on the back foot against a Newcastle side welcoming back striker Wilson for his first start since Christmas.

It did not help that Ramsdale looked far from solid in the Arsenal goal, dawdling on the ball and seeing a hurried clearance blocked by Miguel Almiron, with the rebound squirming just wide of goal.

White, who had been kept on the bench during the debacle at Spurs to protect a hamstring injury, was booked for a foul on the speedy Wilson who was clearly intent on checking the defender’s fitness.

And that resulting free-kick, launched by impressive playmaker Guimaraes, bounced through a crowded Arsenal area and narrowly wide.

Sean Longstaff maintained the pressure with a cross which Ramsdale misjudged, requiring White to clear off his line, while the increasingly busy defender then did well to block an attempt from Joelinton after the Brazilian made space for himself on the edge of the area.

Arsenal briefly fought back as Bukayo Saka produced Arsenals’ first shot, well blocked by defender Dan Burn, and followed that with a first genuine chance for the Gunners, cutting across the face of goal and delivering a low shot which was well held by the diving Martin Dubravka.

But Arsenal’s respite was fleeting, even if Wilson’s effectiveness was limited for a time after he took a damaging blow to his mouth which seemed to dislodge some teeth.

After 36 minutes, Newcastle came closest yet to an opening goal as Allan Saint-Maximin surged over from the left wing, leaving Takehiro Tomiyasu in his wake as he did, before forcing Ramsdale into the save of the half with a low effort which the keeper turned round his post acrobatically.

The effort was too much for Tomiyasu, who limped off injured seconds later to be replaced by Cedric Soares as his team followed suit and limped their way to a much-needed half-time interval.

Arteta duly arrived there, facing a huge half-time team talk in the Gunners’ aim to have their Champions League fate in their own hands on the final day of the season.

It did not start well for the visitors, with Eddie Nketiah booked for an aerial foul on Fabian Schar which sent the defender to the ground and led to him being replaced by Jamaal Lascelles, under concussion protocols.

Arteta followed suit, throwing on Martinelli in place of the wholly ineffective Emile Smith Rowe, in search of the goal Arsenal so sorely needed with the young striker looking lively but, masters of their own undoing, it was a Nuno Tavares foul throw that led to Arsenal conceding Newcastle’s 55th minute opener.

It could have worsened for the Gunners, with Wilson flashing a 12-yard shot over from a Joelinton cross eight minutes later and White looked like he might be about to net his second own goal of the night when he lunged in to turn an Almiron cross just wide of the Arsenal goal after 67 minutes.

Wilson had an attempt deflected wide off the over-worked White, substitute Jacob Murphy should have scored on the break and Wilson’s late shot almost beat Ramsdale from 35 yards before a deserved second goal arrived.

Newcastle (4-3-3): Dubravka 7; Krafth 7, Schar 7 (Lascelles 49, 6), Burn 7, Targett 7; Longstaff 7, Guimaraes 8, Joelinton 8; Almiron 7 (Murphy 76, 5), Wilson 9 (Gayle 90), Saint-Maximin 7 (Fraser 76, 5). 

Substitutes (not used): Dummett,, Ritchie, Trippier, Fernandez, Darlow.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale 5; Tomisayu 5 (Cedric 39, 5), White 5, Gabriel 6 (Pepe 73, 5), Tavares 5 (Lacazette 61, 5); Odegaard 6, Elneny 6, Xhaka 5; Saka 7, Nketiah 6, Smith Rowe 4 (Martinelli 52, 8). 

Substitutes (not used): Leno, Sambi Lokonga, Oulad M'hand, Swanson, Patino.

Referee: D England 7.

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