Newcastle passed the 40-point mark and all but secured their Premier League future by beating Arsenal, whose terrible away record in 2018 continued.
Matt Ritchie’s 68th-minute goal earned the Magpies their fourth straight league win and put them on 41 points with five games remaining, 13 clear of relegation.
Arsenal, who reached the Europa League semi-finals with a 6-3 aggregate win over CSKA Moscow in Russia on Thursday, are the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to earn an away league point in 2018.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, playing for the first time together, had linked up for Arsenal’s opener in the 14th minute.
The Gabon striker received Shkodran Mustafi’s chip and clipped the ball to the far post for the arriving Lacazette to slide in and score.
Ayoze Perez equalised just before the half-hour mark, running in past Shkodran Mustafi, to guide in DeAndre Yedlin’s cross at the near post.
Calum Chambers should have put Arsenal back in front towards the end of the half, but he pushed an attempt wide as he slid in to meet Mustafi’s header.
It took until the 67th minute for either side to have a shot in the second half, with Ritchie then getting the winner a minute later.
Nacho Monreal failed to clear the ball and substitute Islam Slimani’s header was flicked on by Perez into the path of Ritchie, who coolly steered his shot past Petr Cech.
Kenedy almost made it three, his shot looping up and hitting the bar.
There were some nervy moments in the closing stages as Arsenal pressed for an equaliser, but Newcastle held on for a vital win.
Arsenal’s away-day blues
This was another dire away performance from Arsenal, for whom the only way to save their season will be by winning the Europa League to secure automatic Champions League qualification.
But they face a semi-final against Atletico Madrid, who are second in La Liga, and based on this display at St James’ Park, victory will be a tall order.
Arsene Wenger gave a Premier League debut to 18-year-old midfielder Joe Willock, while Hector Bellerin was not in the squad.
Despite resting a few players, Arsenal did field their two most expensive signings in a strikeforce with a combined value of £102.5m, as Lacazette partnered Aubameyang.
Early signs looked good, but they were let down by defensive mistakes, with a back four that was there for the taking.
The Gunners barely threatened after Newcastle went ahead, failing to register a shot on target in the final 45 minutes.
Defeat means they have now:
- Lost five successive away games in the league for the first time since December 1984.
- Lost 11 Premier League games this season; equalling their worst tally of league defeats in a season under Wenger (11 in 2005-06).
- Conceded 45 goals in the league this season – one more than in the whole of 2016-17 (44) – only in 2011-12 (49) have they conceded more under Wenger in a league campaign.
They stay in sixth place on 54 points, 33 points behind leaders Manchester City (87 points) and the same number away from bottom club West Brom (21 points).
Speaking about their away record, Wenger said: “It’s a lot about the head and sometimes there is no rationality in it. It doesn’t make sense.”
Newcastle reach magic number
The 40-point mark is the magic number supposedly needed to guarantee Premier League survival and the Magpies have now passed that.
Given the uncertainty over the club’s ownership and the lack of funds available to manager Rafael Benitez, Newcastle’s move towards survival is one of the stories of the league this season.
They have also ended a wretched run against Arsenal, having lost their previous 10 Premier League meetings with Wenger’s side.
After weathering Arsenal’s early attacking spell, the Magpies grew into the game and the excellent Jonjo Shelvey dictated the game, while Perez was tireless in the lone striker role.
With the game petering out in the second half, the introduction of Slimani, making just his second appearance following his loan move from Leicester, lifted Newcastle and they were good value for the win.
Mohamed Diame was a rock in the centre of midfield, making crucial tackles and covering more than 11km, while captain Jamaal Lascelles made vital clearances as he repelled Arsenal’s limited attacks.
Man of the match – Jonjo Shelvey.
Stats – Arsenal’s youth factory
- Lacazette’s opening goal was the 100th that Arsenal have scored in all competitions this season – they became the fourth Premier League club to reach this landmark in 2017-18 (after Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur).
- All seven of Matt Ritchie’s Premier League goals have come in home games (four for Bournemouth, three for Newcastle). Only four players have more Premier League goals without scoring away from home (Georginio Wijnaldum, Clive Wilson, Ronny Johnsen and Jeff Kenna).
- Joe Willock (born in August 1999) was just the fourth player who was born after Arsene Wenger’s first match in charge to make a Premier League appearance for Arsenal (Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah are the others).
- Willock was the 56th teenager to make a Premier League appearance for Arsenal – the most of any Premier League team – six more than Chelsea and Manchester United (50 each).