Five things Arteta got wrong as Arsenal suffer huge Champions League blow
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Arsenal saw their Champions League hopes crushed after a damaging 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at St. James' Park saw the Gunners hand bitter rivals Tottenham the advantage in the race for a top-four Premier League finish.
The loss means the Mikel Arteta's men are now two points adrift of their North London foes heading into the final game of the season on Sunday and have been left hoping already-relegated Norwich can do them a favour against Spurs. At a hostile St. James' Park, Arsenal struggled to get a foothold in the game from the off and were forced to weather a first-half Newcastle storm.
Aaron Ramsdale got down low to deny Allan Saint-Maximin's fierce drive shortly before the interval but shortly after the break, the Magpies made their pressure pay. Joelinton's dangerous cross was steered into his own net by the returning Ben White to give the home side a deserved lead on the night.
Arsenal then saw their hopes of a top-four Premier League finish – and their Champions League dream – spectacularly go up in smoke as Bruno Guimaraes slotted home a late second. Here, Daily Star Sport take closer look at the big decisions that Arteta got wrong on a disastrous night for the Gunners.
Gambling in defence
Arsenal's biggest injury fears heading into their clash with Newcastle lay in defence. White had missed the Gunners' last three Premier League matches with a hamstring strain while Gabriel was pulled from proceedings against Spurs with a similar issue.
Despite fitness concerns to the first-choice centre-backs, Arteta opted to risk the duo at St. James' Park, admitting he was going "All in!" Prior to kick-off, the Spaniard revealed: "We had some issues, we managed yesterday to clear them out and they are ready to start. It's the stage of the season. We have two games to play. All in!"
With Holding suspended following his rash red card against Tottenham, Arteta had little alternative than to take such a gamble in defence. But it was a decision which backfired. Despite the defence just about standing firm in the first half, the Gunners backline was breached in the second as the retuning White got his positioning all wrong and put through his own net to give Newcastle a deserved lead.
Approach to the game
Ahead of kick-off, Arteta pulled no punches as to what he hoped to achieve this season. "We want to be playing in the Champions League, and that's the end. We've come so far," he admitted.
With European football at stake and Arsenal entering the encounter on the back of a humiliating North London derby defeat, Arteta knew his side would have to remain calm, composed and cautious. After all, the Gunners capitulated against Spurs as a result of the likes of Holding allowing the occasion to get the better of him.
However, if anything, Arsenal lacked fight in this one as they were made to pay for their overly cagey approach. Whatever Arteta said ahead of kick-off, it didn't work as the Gunners look shell-shocked and devoid of ideas as the repercussions of Thursday's night's damaging defeat to Spurs were clear for all to see.
Playing out from the back
Arsenal found themselves seriously under the cosh at times in the first half and they only had themselves to blame. Arteta's side invited pressure by playing out from the back far too often and it only appeared to invigorate their opponents.
The Magpies seemed to grow in belief and St. James' Park only become more vocal and raucous as the Gunners found themselves pinned back and unable to get up pitch. It was bold from Arteta to stick to his game-plan, especially in such a hostile environment, but some may deem the Spaniard's decision as foolish.
The tactical ploy played into Newcastle's hands and only increased their confidence while adding to Arsenal's apprehension. With the Magpies having been handed the momentum, it came as little surprise to see them take the lead shortly into the second period before adding another late on in a dominant display.
After Arsenal were comprehensively beaten by Tottenham on Thursday, Arteta had little choice by to reshuffle his backline. One such change was recalling Nuno Tavares at left-back and moving Takehiro Tomiyasu over to the right of defence as Cedric Soares dropped out.
Tavares has been called into question at times this season and his inconsistent displays at left-back have only emphasised the absence of the stricken Kieran Tierney. Throwing the 22-year-old back in away to Newcastle was certainly a risk and a real show of trust from Arteta.
However, it was from Tavares' inexplicable foul throw that Newcastle broke for the opener. The left-back lasted just over an hour before being hauled off in favour of Alexandre Lacazette as Arteta desperately sought to turn the tide. How the Gunners could have done with Tierney during this decisive run-in.
Recalling Emile Smith Rowe
In addition to recalling White and Tavares, the third of Arteta's changes was to select Emile Smith Rowe ahead of Gabriel Martinelli. With Tavares entrusted at left-back, it appeared the Gunners boss was keen to provide the Portuguese defender with more reliable cover in the form of Smith Rowe.
However, it was a decision which just didn't work. The England starlet struggled to get into the game and it came as little surprise to see him substituted early in the second period, with Martinelli entering the action in his stead.
The Brazilian was one of few positives in Arsenal's second-half and carried a threat for the Gunners in an otherwise uninspiring team performance. It remains to be seen if the first half in particular would have been different had the winger started, but his attacking instincts were certainly missing in a flat first 45 minutes.
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