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Dear Goonerholics Forever Readers,

We have been working hard this past six weeks on a campaign in support of Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation. All our coming efforts celebrating Arsenal’s Double year of 1970-71 you’ll see during the month of May are the results. We’ve added a donation tile at right, in hopes you’ll find something in your hearts (and wallets!) to share with the good folks at Willow. Let them know how much you enjoy(ed) our efforts. And bid in our Auction, starting Monday 3 May.

Thank you!

The Team from Goonerholicsforever.com

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On the eve of the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest games in the history of the Arsenal Football Club, when a group of 11 men in red and white had to achieve victory or a 0-0 draw at the home of our local rivals to win the club’s first league title in 18 years, we have a strange build-up to a strange game. It’s been a long time since we have had a meaningless Premier League match. Almost invariably for over thirty years we’ve had something to fight for in the latter stages of the top division. In the best of years, it was the title, often it was to secure the best possible qualification position for the Champions League though latterly it was to secure any kind of European qualification. While the latter remains a mathematical possibility, there are so many teams between us in 11th place this morning and the lowest league position offering Europa League qualification that few believe it achievable. 

Mid-table mediocrity was predicted for us in 2012 by American friends who knew Stan’s record stateside and so we have finally achieved his long-term business objective. Low risk self-sustaining investment without the expense of fighting for trophies (“If you want to win championship you wouldn’t get involved”) and safety from an unprecedented plunge into relegation – for this season anyway. It would be nice if the players chosen to start decided that a bottom half finish was an insult to the club and to their own professionalism and decided to play for the badge and their own self-esteem. Will it happen? Do they know what players wearing that shirt have achieved in the past? Do they care? Which Arsenal will turn up?

Arteta chose a starting eleven with an eye on next Thursday, our most important remaining match of this season, protecting key players whilst giving game time to several returning from illness and injury and others who have been underutilised recently. He made 8 changes from the Villareal game last week and 9 changes from the last league game against Everton:


Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Xhaka

Elneny, Ceballos

Willian, Ødegaard, Martinelli


Subs: Leno, Cédric, Chambers, Marí, Partey, ESR, Saka, Pépé, Nketiah

Newcastle kicked off with a win today taking them within reach of PL safety and with the welcome return of Wilson and Saint-Maximin up front but Arsenal started on the front foot. Martinelli found Auba in front of goal in the 6-yard box only for him to be smothered by two defenders but we kept pressing. On 5 minutes Hector galloped onto a Luiz ball over the top of the opposition defence, took it to the bye-line and cut the ball back to Auba in the Toon box. Auba swung but missed. However, it squirmed to Elneny who was waiting on the edge of the box and he fired it into the bottom left hand corner for his first PL goal!

Finally, a good start!

Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal, Elneny, 5 mins

With that goal, confidence suffused throughout the team in red. Ten minutes in and we were dominating the game with Newcastle confined to a solitary Saint-Maximin dribble and cross from our right which was well taken by Mat Ryan. We were finally looking good to watch. Martinelli jinked down the left and cut the ball back to Auba who flicked it past the near post.

After a quarter of an hour, Newcastle finally had a spell of pressure and Ritchie overlapped on the left and cut the ball back to Saint-Maximin on the edge of our box. He waltzed past two players and his deflected shot seemed to be looping over Ryan into our net. Ryan leapt brilliantly to touch the ball over the bar and subsequently dealt well with the resultant corner. On 19 minutes Xhaka was given a yellow card for a strong challenge on that very Toon player.

At the halfway point in the first half, Newcastle had raised their game to make it a more even contest and our period of domination seemed over. Nonetheless we were moving the ball around well in possession whilst Newcastle relied on swift breakouts through Almeiron long balls to their pacey frontmen.

A square ball from Ødegaard was well struck by Xhaka forcing the Toon keeper into a Hollywood save. Almeiron then headed a firm Elneny header off the line from the resultant corner. Martinelli then curved a shot past the far post. On 30 minutes, Almeiron caught Ceballos whose dying swan impression bought the Barcode a yellow card.

A nice run and cutback from Martinelli then found Ceballos in the box but the Real Madrid player couldn’t sort his feet out for a decent shot. We were again dominating the game with 10 minutes left in the first half, moving the ball through midfield sweetly and pulling the Toon defenders around. Luiz, Xhala and Ceballos were changing the point of the attack with some lovely long passes to feet. Martinelli in particular was probing the opposition defence and a Luiz header from a corner was cleared off the line. Even Willian was lively and made several mazy dribbles from his right-wing position to find more centrally placed players with accurate passes. Meanwhile in our short spells out of possession our defensive organisation was nicely stifling the Newcastle attack

However I began to feel that we might regret not consummating our advantage as the stats showed 12 attempts, 3 on target and 14 touches in the opposition box in the first 40 minutes. Almeiron avoided a second yellow for tripping Ødegard as he ran towards the D. Sadly the Norwegian’s free kick went straight into the wall.

A Newcastle corner in the final minute felt like the script of an oft seen horror movie but fortunately the header went over. Two minutes of added time saw a clutch of free kicks but no more goal mouth action.

HT: Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal

We had dominated almost all of the first half, moved the ball sweetly and crafted a few chances without absolutely peppering the Toon keeper but we deserved our half time lead. Yet after the performances we have seen this season, I had little confidence that the points were secure. Oh for that ’70-71 grit!

Newcastle, who have a record of scoring more goals in second halves, started this second half much sharper and with more pressing, forcing us to play long passes rather than playing our earlier silky midfield passing and movement. Five minutes in, after misjudging a through ball, Gabriel went down in our box with minimal contact from Wilson and was very lucky to get the foul. A minute later David Luiz went down with a pulled left hamstring, a sad end to an impressive return to action, to be replaced with Calum Chambers. The latter had to immediately hook clear a dangerous Ritchie ball into the box.

The game settled down to alternating midfield possession then a foot race between Chambers and Saint-Maximin ended with a poor pass under pressure by the latter with Wilson yelling for the ball in a central position. At the other end, Martinelli was proving our liveliest attacker linking well with our emerging left back, Xhaka. On 62 minutes, Fernandez was booked for a foul on the latter on the edge of their box. Ødegaard found Gabriel’s head with the free kick but his crouching header looped over.

A difficult curling cross from our right was well taken at full stretch by Ryan. On 65 minutes a lovely move led to a sweet cross from Martinelli which Auba met at the far post with an athletic leap to hook the ball into the net.

Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal Aubameyang, 66 minutes

Ryan showed safe hands and good anticipation to catch a deflected cross from his left. Then Bellerin broke into the Toon box on 70 minutes but his firm shot was deflected wide. A spell of Arsenal pressure followed the resultant corner but ended with a long range shot from Xhaka that went wide.

As the last quarter of an hour loomed we seemed to have the game well under control and were camped in the Newcastle half, passing the ball around with an accuracy that had seemed alien to this team earlier this season. On 77 minutes, Pépé replaced Aubameyang and took up position on the left with Martinelli moving to the centre. This seemed to waken Newcastle up and a strike on goal was blocked by Chambers only for Wilson to be flagged offside. 

As we entered the last 10 minutes the commentator came out with a rare statement these days, “The Arsenal defence holding firm.” With 6 minutes left Partey replaced Ødegaard and Gayle replaced a Toon defender.

With just over two minutes left, Ryan again demonstrated safe hands by clutching a high cross from his right, under pressure from Wilson. We were again playing it nicely out from defence. As the 90 minutes approached, Schär then got a deserved red card for needlessly diving in and clattering Martinelli’s ankles from behind, halfway inside their half. Our lively Brazilian was limping badly as he got to his feet after treatment. We then played out the 5 added with a consummate display of possession football while the team in black and white ran around fruitlessly. Fortunately there wasn’t an olé to be heard!

FT: Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal

A well-deserved victory that is the fruit of a competent display in our 8th away win, double last season’s tally. There were lots of positives. 

Ryan looks a safe pair of hands and worth signing permanently to compete with Leno for first-choice keeper. We saw glimpses of Hector at his best, both attacking and defending. Luiz was excellent both defensively and as quarter-back and would almost certainly have started on Thursday but for the hamstring injury. Gabriel had a largely competent performance defensively and made several incisive forward runs and passes. Xhaka was excellent at left back, coped well with both his early yellow and also with Saint-Maximin and found time to make several excellent attacking contributions. It’s the best I’ve seen the pairing of Ceballos and Elneny play, the former keeping the ball moving in midfield and the latter scoring a lovely goal and making himself available all over the pitch. Ødegaard had a much better game than against Villareal and looked lively. Willian had one of his best performances in red and white, was in constant motion and contributed well both with and without the ball. Martinelli was our liveliest attacker, full of energy, pressing, tracking back and a constant danger in possession. I hope he’s fit for Thursday! It was nice to see Aubameyang leave the pitch with a smile on his face after a well taken goal and a good 77 minutes to get back his sharpness.

On to Villareal.

Coming tomorrow to a blog near you (this one!)

And….. on to the Anniversary celebrations on Goonerholics Forever, starting tomorrow with a video conversation between Bob Wilson and Pat Rice about the ’70-71 league campaign culminating in that game at the Lane on 3 May 1971 and our auction of signed memorabilia (see The Double/Willow Auction tab at the top of the page for details).

Celebrate the Arsenall’s first double at Goonerholics Forever. Watch Bob and Pat’s videos, read the fan reminiscences, bid for memorabilia and most importantly, donate to the Willow Foundation to support their important work.

Bob leaps for victory on winning the league at White Hart Lane. Bob was ever present that season with 56 appearances and a stunning 26 clean sheets! Legend!

9 Drinks to “Bringing Goals to Newcastle”

  1. 1
    Countryman100 says:

    Ultra fast Bathgooner!

  2. 2
    Osakamatt says:

    yep, sprightly stuff Bath!
    A very positive report and a
    pleasure to read.
    We did well on both flanks and
    ended up carving a goal from
    each. That 2-0 will suit me fine
    next match 😄

  3. 3
    North Bank Ned says:

    As swift as Marinelli, Bath, and as lively a report. It was encouraging to see Artetaball working, especially the long crossfield passes from Luiz to Martinelli, but Villareal will provide a sterner test of it than Newcastle managed. I still worry about our possession to shots on target ratio.

  4. 4
    TTG says:

    Great report Bath. I worried from the 20th minute that Granit would reveal feet of clay after his booking especially with Saint Maximin on the pitch .It was a supremely comfortable victory with the Jekyll aspect of the team uppermost . We really are quite impressive away from home especially against mediocre teams . My only real concern was that Willian really did the square root of bugger all . In contrast Martinelli represents the exact opposite- his work rate and enthusiasm create so much more than the languid, passive Willian . Interesting we started four more Brazilians than Brits and three of them did very well .
    Luiz is showing signs of frailty but his long-range passing is excellent . Ødegaard and Aubameyang needed the run-out but I wouldn’t start the Norwegian on Thursday . Martinelli is our big hope for Thursday

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    Have to say I was very impressed with Saint Maxim. I’d swap him for Willian in a heartbeat.

  6. 6
    scruzgooner says:

    well in, baff. i enjoyed the game, not so much the split-screening between the chaos at old toilet and our game. and rebecca lowe sounded like an excited schoolgirl about what was going on…so did the sky guy, though he was trying to sound “professional”.

    also glad that our “second string” got to play (sorry, luiz, about your hamstring), most of them put in a good or better performance. not sure still about willian, and ødegaard wasn’t as impressive as he could have been. xhaka again a mixed bag. i liked the ghosting forward of gabriel, and thought callum did a fine job in his limited time. that pass from martinelli was the cream, though mo’s shot was pretty too…and tough, off that spinning bounce.

    i do hope we can win vs. villareal.

  7. 7
    bt8 says:

    Thanks Bath for an excellent report on a highly satisfactory dispatching of Gloomy Toon. We couldn’t have asked for much more other than no Luiz injury but it puts us in the right frame of mind for Thursday.

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bad news for Thursday: Neither Lace nor KT3 likely to make the squad.

  9. 9
    scruzgooner says: