Arsenal were at their very best at the Emirates on Saturday, and Newcastle simply couldn’t contend with them. Here, we break down the numbers behind their performance.

From the very first whistle at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, there was a relentlessness to Arsenal that spelled trouble for the visitors.

Events in recent meetings have meant Newcastle United have grown to become a fierce rival for Mikel Arteta’s side, and this home fixture provided the perfect opportunity for revenge for the controversy – considered an injustice by sections of the Arsenal fanbase, and no doubt Arteta himself – of the 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park in November.

On top of the motivation of the chance to send a further warning shot to their title rivals, Arsenal had the possibility of getting their own back on Eddie Howe’s men. Captain Martin Ødegaard admitted after this win that “what happened to us against Newcastle last time gave us a little bit of extra fire today.”

The crowd were up for it and were producing a decent din before kick-off, but the noise inside the stadium was nothing compared to the show the players would put on. Often big games are made into spectacles by the atmosphere and the players respond to the fans, but for this game, it was the other way around. Arteta had his side fired up, and the players produced a performance that would get the home fans off their seats.

Arsenal launched the ball forward from kick-off and piled players forward to join the attack. They won two corners in quick succession inside the opening minute and had Newcastle on the back foot right away.

Two and a half minutes in, Kai Havertz was charging after a backpass and forcing Fabian Schär into a mistake before fouling Kieran Trippier by the corner flag. The tone had been set.

Newcastle tried to play their normal passing game to get up the pitch but time and again ran into a wall of red. They just could not get out. Arsenal’s pressing was relentless, and they suffocated the visitors with a ruthless efficiency.

Every Newcastle pass that went backwards or sideways was an opportunity for Arsenal, led and directed by Ødegaard, to steal a few more yards, squeeze up the pitch and make the area for Newcastle to play in even smaller. Everyone defended on the front foot, and nobody needed asking twice to jump out of position to pressure the ball. Seeing centre-backs William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães stepping into midfield to intercept a pass was a common occurrence.

It was a blistering first half from the hosts, and Newcastle just could not cope.

Arsenal dominated the first 45 minutes to an astonishing degree. They were 2-0 up within 24 minutes, and the fact they needed a little helping hand from Sven Botman, who opened the scoring with an own goal, should take nothing away from their performance.

Arsenal ended the match having won possession in the attacking third of the pitch 14 times – their highest total in a game this season – but 11 of those came in that sensational first-half showing. No team has won the ball in the final third more times in the first period of a Premier League game this season – their total is level with two teams in game from last month: Tottenham vs Brighton and West Ham vs Nottingham Forest.

Arsenal final third possession win v Newcastle first half

At the break, Arsenal had tallied 11 shots worth 1.73 expected goals. Newcastle had managed only one touch in the Arsenal box and failed to have a single shot – the first time they’ve had no shots in the first half of a Premier League game in almost a decade (March 2014 vs Southampton).

While Spurs scraped an injury-time winner to beat Brighton and West Ham fell to a 2-0 defeat, Arsenal turned the screw and made their dominance count. Newcastle grew into the game and managed to get in behind the Arsenal backline on the odd occasion with more direct play up the pitch, but Arsenal scored twice more to take the game well out of their opponents’ reach.

Two of their goals came from set-pieces, taking their total for the season to 19 (18 when excluding own goals) – more than any other side in the English top flight. They also lead the way for headed goals, with 13.

arsenal xg from set-pieces

By the time Newcastle had woken up, it was far too late. They eventually managed three shots, and even breached Arsenal’s goal, Joe Willock popping up with a well-taken header, but it was all far too little, way too late. Arsenal were out of sight.

Arteta’s side have been in exceptional form recently, with this rout taking their goal tally for their last six games to 25. They will hope the Champions League defeat at Porto last week can be written off as the blip that this display suggests it was. Another Emirates performance anything like this one will surely see that deficit overturned.

Each of their previous wins in this six-game winning run have been impressive in their own way, but the Newcastle performance might have been the best of the lot

The Liverpool win was more important because it came against a direct title rival, but there were times when it looked like Arsenal might throw that one away, while they contrived to concede an equaliser when they had barely even given up a chance before that.

arsenal 4-1 newcastle stats

Then, by seeing off Crystal Palace, West Ham and Burnley, they scored more but had been playing out-of-form opponents. In the 2-1 victory at Nottingham Forest, they didn’t play at anything like their best.

Here, Arsenal proved, arguably more than ever before under Arteta, that they really do mean business. They might still be third favourites for the title but this was as ominous a warning to their title rivals as they come.

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