Arsenal does not give up in the race for the Premier League title and this Sunday they defeated Newcastle United 0-2 on Matchday 35 to stay one point behind the leader, Manchester City .
Mikel Arteta ‘s Gunners fought the most difficult game of their remaining season after winning at St. James Park with a great goal from Martin Odegaard and an own goal from Fabian Schär .
Odegaard opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a low left foot from long range to reach 15 goals for the season and tie the record held by Cesc Fàbregas , who is the midfielder with the most goals in a season in Arsenal history.
The second fell thanks to a counterattack led by Gabriel Martinelli to get into the area and take a diagonal that was looking for Odegaard, but it was deflected by Schär and ended up embedding the ball into his own goal at minute 71.
Arsenal reached 81 points, one point behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who has one game less. The Gunners close the season against Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Wolves.
While City will face Everton, Chelsea, Brighton and Brentford in the Premier League, in addition to the Champions League Semifinals against Real Madrid.
Newcastle beat Arsenal 2-0 last May on a hugely damaging night that essentially cost them Champions League qualification, the aftermath of which was caught on camera by Amazon’s “All or Nothing” documentary of the Gunners’ season.
The players held a team meeting earlier on Sunday, during which they watched footage of the match again and Arteta believes this proved the catalyst for their much-improved display on Tyneside.
“We had to feel it,” he said. “It wasn’t enough just to talk about it, we had to feel it, we had to see it, we had to recognise our faces. Not just the players but what it meant for the staff as well. That’s football. You can win or lose but that feeling that we didn’t do enough on the day, we had to put it right.
“I was looking at the video so I didn’t see their faces. You don’t have to be genius to see it. The word was ‘pain’ and then the desire for revenge. I think they had that today in their bellies.
“When you have question marks you have to resolve them straight away. When you have the emotions we had last year in that dressing room, you have to feel them again, realise how nasty they are and then find a way to approach the game differently because demands were going to be different from last year.
Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale epitomised Arsenal’s steel, making several world-class saves at crucial moments. He said the collective memory of what happened at Newcastle last year had been a massive motivation.
“Immense pride and relief, especially after what happened here last year,” Ramsdale said. “It wasn’t mentioned up until the meeting before we left the hotel. The manager showed us the video of the documentary and we had a burning desire that it wouldn’t be the same today.”
City still hold an advantage at the top of the table, but their domestic run-in is complicated by a two-legged Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid starting on Tuesday and Arteta hailed a victory that will turn up the pressure on their title rivals.
“[It shows] that we are there, that we want to keep digging,” Arteta added. “The prize is there, not too far. The only thing we can do is keep insisting and not turn our backs and lose focus on something else. Be determined every single day. Let’s keep going and see what happens.”
Both teams had chances later in the first half – Arsenal when Gabriel Martinelli and then Bukayo Saka were denied by Nick Pope and Newcastle when Joe Willock forced a good save from Aaron Ramsdale.
The two goalkeepers produced excellent saves throughout the match, notably when Pope used his feet to stop Ødegaard getting a second right at the end of the first half and also when Schär’s close-range header was palmed away by Ramsdale.
Martinelli nearly extended Arsenal’s lead when he hit the bar before playing a crucial role as his side did go 2-0 ahead, driving into the Newcastle box before seeing his cross deflected in by Schär’s attempted interception.
With that own goal, Arsenal could see out the remainder of the game in a more comfortable fashion.
Mikel Arteta’s side has another tough test against Brighton on Sunday before finishing the season with games against Nottingham Forest and Wolves – all of which Arsenal realistically has to win in order to boost its slim chances of overtaking City at the top of the table.
“The desire to keep digging, keep believing – that reward is so big,” Arteta told Sky Sports. “Today, we had to do it here and we did everything we had to do to win the game.”
Before making the journey to St. James’ Park from the team hotel, Arsenal’s players were shown video clips from last season’s 2-0 loss at Newcastle that cost them a chance to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
They were bullied and outplayed that day, but appeared to have learned their lesson.
“We had to see our faces and understand the emotions, not just the players but the staff also,” Arteta said of the video. “You don’t want to be like this anymore, it is a horrible feeling. Today we had to show a different type of competitiveness, desire and then quality.”
Odegaard’s goal came against the run of play. Newcastle had already struck the post through Jacob Murphy and seen a penalty overturned following a VAR check by the time the Norway playmaker slammed a low shot through the legs of Newcastle defender Sven Botman and past goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Alexander Isak also hit the post with a header and Newcastle paid for its profligacy when Gabriel Martinelli’s cross was diverted into his own net by Schar.
“The noise was there today,” said Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, whose team lost at home for just the second time this season. “We just needed to score and it would have helped us take off.”
With its Premier League survival virtually secure, West Ham can maybe afford to focus on winning a European trophy in the final weeks of the season.
The win over United lifted West Ham to 37 points, seven above the bottom three with three games left — two of which are against teams lower in the standings in Leeds and Leicester.
West Ham is still involved in the Europa Conference League, with a two-legged semifinal against Dutch club AZ Alkmar starting with the home game on Thursday.
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