Arsenal missed the chance to go 10 points clear in the Premier League title race after being held 0-0 at home by a gritty Newcastle.
In what was a tempestuous encounter, Arsenal failed to score in a Premier League match for the first time in 17 games as they struggled to create quality chances against Eddie Howe’s team despite bossing possession.
Arsenal’s frustrations raised further in injury-time as a late penalty appeal for a handball from Jacob Murphy was not awarded by referee Andy Madley and VAR did not intervene. Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta called it a “scandalous” decision.
The result further strengthened Newcastle’s case for a top-four finish as they defended their box expertly and protected their goalkeeper Nick Pope. Howe’s side remain the best defence in the Premier League this season, conceding just 11 goals and keeping 10 clean sheets.
It was the Toon that created the best opening in the match just before the break but Joelinton’s header from four yards somehow missed the target.
Arsenal are now eight points clear of Manchester City, who play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night – live on Sky Sports. Newcastle remain third, one point off City.
Dogged Newcastle repel Arsenal’s attack…
Arsenal: Ramsdale (7), White (7), Saliba (7), Gabriel (7), Zinchenko (7), Xhaka (7), Partey (7), Saka (6), Odegaard (5), Martinelli (6), Nketiah (6)
Subs: Tomiyasu (6)
Newcastle: Pope (7), Trippier (7), Botman (8), Schar (8), Burn (8), Willock (7), Longstaff (7), Guimaraes (7), Almiron (6), Wilson (6), Joelinton (7)
Subs: Wood (6), Murphy (6), Saint-Maximin (6)
Man of the match: Dan Burn
Arsenal took just 66 seconds to score at Brighton on New Year’s Eve and were in the same sparky mood in the opening exchanges, posting five shots on the Newcastle goal in six minutes but the visitors stood firm with the ball pinballing around their box.
Newcastle composed themselves after the shaky start and turned the encounter into a scrap with good pressure in midfield frustrating Arsenal. It led to a period of five bookings across both teams in 16 minutes as half-time drew closer. With Arsenal struggling to find any composure, Newcastle almost hit them with a sucker punch on half time but Joelinton could not convert from four yards out from Fabian Schar’s near-post header.
- Mikel Arteta kept a winning formula by keeping the same XI that beat Brighton on New Year’s Eve.
- Callum Wilson returned for Newcastle after illness to replace Chris Wood in attack.
Schar then looped a header inches over just after the break as Newcastle’s threat from set pieces was causing Arsenal a big problem. Arteta’s side remained tidy in possession but Newcastle’s defence stood strong when asked to protect their goalkeeper.
Gabriel Martinelli thought he had flicked home what would have been a monumental goal in the title race when meeting a near post corner but his finish skidded inches wide. Eddie Nketiah then finally broke free of the clutches of Sven Botman with three minutes to go but his low finish from the angle was booted clear by Pope.
Newcastle had to repel one last attack in injury when Granit Xhaka’s cross from the left hit the outstretched arm of Murphy who knew little about it. There were furious appeals from the home side but ones that were waved away by the officials.
Arteta: We had two scandalous penalties
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking about Arsenal’s two penalty appeals, one on a shirt tug from Dan Burn on Gabriel and the Murphy handball incident: “I’m extremely proud of my players. The way we played, the way we dominated the game, the way we tried, the way we continued.
“We miss in the final third, we had so many situations and then we had two scandalous penalties.
“They are two penalties, it’s very simple. I’m talking about what I’ve seen, now, and it’s two scandalous penalties.
“We had enough chances to win the game.
“Newcastle haven’t played any team like this this season. It’s credit to my players.”
Howe had heart in mouth over penalty call
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe said on the late Arsenal penalty appeal: “Obviously at that stage of the game you’re thinking please no, the lads have given so much. That would have been a travesty for us.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty just because of the proximity, but you just never know. Me and Mikel, it was fine.
“I think it was a very, very good defensive display. A very good mentality from the group, I think you saw real teamwork today. Arsenal are very, very good, they pose you different problems, they really stretch you and we knew defensively we needed to be rock solid.
“They’re a top side and I think we did really well in the second half when pressure grew. Nick had one save to make, apart from that it was just pressure.
“I was just a little bit disappointed we couldn’t pose more of a threat.”
Neville: Arsenal made to pay for a lack of options
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:
“In the end, Arsenal just didn’t really have the answers. They couldn’t break them down, and they didn’t have the options to change the flow of the game. It became a frustrating, scrappy game.
“The Newcastle fans can be proud.
“I don’t think Arsenal played badly tonight but it’s a sign of where they’re at; if they get into these tight games at the top of the league, they’re just going to need that little bit more.”
- Arsenal failed to win on home soil in the Premier League for the first time in 11 games at the Emirates, since a 2-1 defeat to Brighton back in April.
- Newcastle are now unbeaten as a top-flight team in 15 games in all competitions (W9 D6) for the first time since December 1995.
- Newcastle have kept six clean sheets in a row in all competitions for only the second time ever, also doing so via a run ending in April 1982 (6 in total in that streak).
- There were nine yellow cards in this game – the joint most in a Premier League match in 2022-23 (along with Brighton v Aston Villa in November). Five of those yellow cards came in the first half of this game, the joint-most in any first period in the Premier League this season (also 5 in Man City v Everton on New Year’s Eve).
Arsenal play Oxford United in the FA Cup next Monday before returning to Premier League action on January 15 against Tottenham, live on Sky Sports. Newcastle have back-to-back cup matches to look forward to, firstly against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Saturday and then in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, when Leicester visit January 10.