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Pepe stars, Arsenal crushes Newcastle

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Nicolas Pepe had a goal and two assists as Arsenal handled Newcastle United 4-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil scored the other goals as Arsenal moved into 10th place, seven points back of the top four.

It was a tale of two very different halves for Newcastle, who entered the day even with Arsenal on 31 points, and leaves it in 13th place. The Magpies were very good in the opening 45, and dismantled in the second stanza.


Three highlights

1. Arsenal defense finally approaching Leno’s level: There were moments for Newcastle’s tricky wide men, but Mikel Arteta‘s defense continued its improvement under his watch. Bernd Leno saved Arsenal’s lives on so many cases earlier in the season, and he’s finding life a lot easier as the Arteta era finds its footing.

2. Pepe powers Gunners attack: Nicolas Pepe entered the day leading Arsenal in assists and dribbles per game, and was second in key passes despite starting just 14 of his 21 appearances. Mikel Arteta trusted the Ivorian on Sunday, and boy did he deliver the goods in being involved in all four goals. But there’s so much more.

Pepe was credited with four key passes and three big chances created, winning 7 of 13 duels with an interception and two tackles. Three of his seven crosses were on target and he passed the ball at 83 percent.

3. Saka continues to impress: We’ve had to remind ourselves that Bukayo Saka is still just a teenager so many times this season. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene as a fun winger, but has become an able left back with incredible threat moving forward. The Gunners have a wealth of fine young players with promise. Imagine if they’ve found the boss to organize them.

Man of the Match: Pepe, with notes of appreciation for Saka, Saint-Maximin, and Aubameyang.


Arsenal held the ball for most of the first four minutes, but Joelinton drove past Shkrodan Mustafi to pick out Valentino Lazaro, whose shot was blocked for a corner.

Allan Saint-Maximin wanted a penalty call when fouled by Granit Xhaka, but neither Lee Mason not VAR thought it the case.

A training ground routine off a corner kick led to a Sean Longstaff rip from 25 yards, and Leno had to act quickly to stymy a deflected effort.

Joelinton then just missed a near-post chance after a bit of Saint-Maximin wizardry. The Frenchman soon drew a dangerous free kick that Longstaff sent into orbit.

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The game was wide open, Bukayo Saka missing with an arrow meant for the upper 90 and Miguel Almiron wasting the end of a long, wonderful dribble.

Arsenal grew into the game and Eddie Nketiah looked more and more dangerous in tearing into a shot that Dubravka caught in the 38th. Dubravka then tipped a Nicolas Pepe free kick over the bar.

Saint-Maximin then dribbled the Arsenal team to push a pass through the six, but Joelinton was hobbled and didn’t follow the play.

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Arsenal burst out of the halftime gates and Nicolas Pepe set up Nketiah for a point-blank chance cranked off the top of the crossbar.

Aubameyang pushed Arsenal onto the score sheet in the 54th minute, heading home from close range after a terrific Pepe cross.

Pepe got on the board soon after, the Ivorian star igniting the Gunners.

Ciaran Clark ripped a Saint-Maximin pass that was deflected out for a corner, and Saint-Maximin later smashed the far post with a shot from distance.

The third Arsenal goal was a Dubravka error. Ozil led a rush and spotted Pepe, who passed to Lacazette before Ozil pushed a clumsy shot to goal that defied Newcastle’s star keeper.

Pepe was back involved in the fourth, Joe Willock‘s incisive pass to the winger doing the heavy lifting en route to Lacazette’s finish.

FA Cup: Liverpool’s kids triumph; Saint-Maximin stunner saves Newcastle

FA Cup replays
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There was drama throughout the FA Cup’s fourth round replays on Tuesday, including a dominant performance from Liverpool’s youngest team ever.

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Only one other Premier League side was in action, and they managed to throw away an early 2-0 lead at League One opposition.

Liverpool 1-0 Shrewsbury Town

Liverpool’s kids more than held their own at Anfield, they dominated League One side Shrewsbury to leave little doubt about how this would’ve gone had Jurgen Klopp deployed even a handful of senior players.

The Reds took the first nine shots of the match, and Shrewsbury Town scored on its first shot of the night but saw it disallowed by VAR.

Canadian 20-year-old Liam Millar was one of many Reds to make their senior debut in the win.

An own goal ended up being the difference on the day for Liverpool, who will enjoy a fifth-round visit to Chelsea.

Derby County 4-2 Northampton Town

Andre Wisdom scored early and American midfielder Duane Holmes had the Rams up 2-0 when he contributed to a goal for the fourth time in five matches.

Jack Marriott had a quick answer for Nicky Adams’ early second-half goal. Wayne Rooney rounded out the scoring as his Derby earned a visit from old pals Manchester United in the fifth round.

Oxford United 2-3 Newcastle United

Sean Longstaff finally found his form for the Magpies, scoring a beautiful goal and setting up Joelinton for another as the Magpies took a 2-0 lead into the break.

The U’s pulled one back through a terrific Liam Kelly free kick in the 84th minute, and Nathan Holland scored a beauty in stoppage time to send the match into extra time.

The second half and start of extra time was almost exclusively under Oxford United’s control, but Allan Saint-Maximin‘s incredible late goal lifted Newcastle to victory.

One thing to watch: Joelinton limped off the pitch after scoring from a rib injury suffered earlier in the match. Newcastle will visit West Bromwich Albion in the fifth round.

Cardiff City 3-3 (1-4 penalties) Reading

Josh Murphy and Robert Glatzel scored for the Welsh side, but Omar Richards and Andy Rinomhota answered in the second half to put the fifth-round berth back on the table.

Murphy completed his brace in the third minute of extra time, but Reading again had an answer through Yakou Meite in the 116th minute.

Cardiff’s first penalty was saved and second attempt wayward, while Reading made its first four to move into the next round and will host Sheffield United in the final 16.

Birmingham City 2-2 (4-1 penalties) Coventry City

Amadou Bakayoko broke a second-half deadlock, but Birmingham City’s Harlee Dean scored in stoppage time to push the replay deeper.

Maxime Biamou scored in the 114th minute to restore Coventry’s lead, but Jeremie Bela answered in the 120th to force kicks.

Coventry City a date at Leicester City in the fifth round.

Wood goal helps Burnley beat Newcastle, end mini-skid

Chris Wood Burnley
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Burnley got a little bit of luck and a finish from its big striker in a 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday at Turf Moorr, ending a three-match losing streak in the process.

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Chris Wood scored after a controversially-awarded corner, as the Clarets moved 12th on 21 points. That’s a point behind their Saturday visitors.


Three things we learned

1. Lucky Clarets cash in: Those who hate VAR and like a good old fashioned ref error that can’t be fixed by review will be loving this one. Burnley had little-to-nothing going for nearly an hour, but were given a corner when Federico Fernandez was shoved on the touch line and no whistle arrived to aid the center back. Ashley Westwood swept a corner over a sea of players and Kiwi star Wood rose to plant the ball in the goal at the back post.

2. Newcastle’s luck runs out: The Magpies entered this match on a 4-1-1 run and were beginning to entertain Top Seven ideas, but advanced stats said they had been quite lucky all season long. The misfortune of a call against Fernandez won’t sit well with Geordies, but perhaps there’s some comfort in knowing most calls had been going for Steve Bruce‘s men.

3. Gayle miss shows lack of depth: An injury to Allan Saint-Maximin was always going to be a problem for Steve Bruce, but minor injuries kept red-hot Jonjo Shelvey and lively-but-unconfident Miguel Almiron out of the team as well. Christian Atsu and Joelinton were far from clinical out wide, and Bruce turned to Dwight Gayle and Yoshinori Muto off the bench. Gayle had one on a plate from Joelinton but fired wide on a chance which really should’ve provided a deserved point.

Man of the Match: James Tarkowski — The center back had his hands full and feet sore with the physical duo of Andy Carroll and Joelinton, but held firm in helping Burnley keep another zero on the board.


Andy Carroll captained the team and had the game’s first chance when he headed an inviting corner just wide of the frame.

Burnley’s Dwight McNeil forced Martin Dubravka into a save and a lively Isaac Hayden tore into a shot from 30 yards that sailed over the Clarets’ bar.

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Burnley went ahead on a corner that should’ve been a goal kick, but that doesn’t excuse an error from usually strong Martin Dubravka that allowed Wood to prod home at the back post.

Dubravka made amends when Sean Longstaff gave the ball to Cork in the middle of the park and dribbled himself into a 1v1 with the keeper.

Substitute Gayle butchered a chance to make it 1-1 when Joelinton bodied up Erik Pieters off a through ball from Carroll and sent the Englishman to the top of the six.

Saint-Maximin absence to ask more of struggling Almiron, Joelinton

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Newcastle United lightning bolt Allan Saint-Maximin is going to miss a month with a hamstring injury suffered late in the Magpies’ 2-1 defeat of Southampton at St. James’ Park.

The ebullient Saint-Maximin played deep into the match despite a minor injury, and was on of the main reasons Newcastle won. He helped set up the winning goal, but left the stadium on crutches.

That left Steve Bruce questioning his decision to keep “ASM” in the match.

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Now the electric Frenchman is set to miss fixtures against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City, and an FA Cup third round match versus either Boston United or Rochdale.

Saint-Maximin’s absence will hurt Newcastle all-around, but especially when its counter-attack tries to take down bigger sides. His 4.5 dribbles per match makes him one of just three players in the Premier League with more than 3.1 (Adama Traore and Wilfried Zaha).

Ultimately, though, this could provide struggling Joelinton more looks at performing on the wing opposite of Miguel Almiron. The Brazilian will have to work center forward at times as Andy Carroll certainly can’t go every game, and Dwight Gayle, Christian Atsu, and Yoshinori Muto could also be asked to play prominent roles.

And, of course, this will demand much more from industrious but sloppy Miguel Almiron, whose expected goal total is 2.5 (he has zero).

Newcastle splits spoils with Watford

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Newcastle United overcame a second minute concession to draw wasteful Watford 1-1 at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Will Hughes had Watford ahead, but Fabian Schar leveled the score line and both squads had to be bailed out by goalkeepers.

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Watford remains dead last with just one point through four matches, while Newcastle climbs out of the drop zone.


Four things

  1. Bruce’s men wobble early (again) — For as many redemption songs were sung about Steve Bruce following the sturdy defeat of Spurs, his team again came out of the gates as if they thought the darn things were locked. Terribly sloppy, they conceded after 90 seconds and were lucky not to be down 2 or 3 by the time they equalized. Credit Bruce for the tactical changes that swung the tide, but a poor start.
  2. Hughes rewarded again — The former Derby County prodigy has been the bright spot of Watford’s poor start to the season, and got his first goal of the season. Also of note: His wayward blonde beard. You do you, Will.
  3. Joelinton a menace — You can see why Newcastle was tempted to break the bank for big Brazilian striker Joelinton, who scored in the win over Spurs and works harder than your typical center forward. Magpies supporters would probably trade a little bit of industry for classier control and finish, but hopefully that will come to the hopeful star. Given Newcastle’s formation, Joelinton may end up being the most fouled player in the Premier League (if they are whistled).
  4. Almiron still struggling — There was more flair from Miguel Almiron, deployed in a more natural wide position, but he was again offside multiple times from a wide position, wasteful in dangerous attacking positions, and probably should’ve seen at least one yellow card for diving. Shades of his promising second half of 2018-19.

Man of the Match: Joelinton


Newcastle was down within 90 seconds of kickoff, Hughes played through with acres of space defy Martin Dubravka. 1-0.

Atsu found Miguel Almiron for a potential equalizer in the fourth minute, but the ex-Atlanta United man butchered his stomach settle and bounded it right to the keeper.

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The Magpies very much grew into the game from that point, with Isaac Hayden particularly influential and dangerous. His 59th minute rip was parried out for a corner by Ben Foster.

Watford was content to counter in the final half hour, and Dubravka made a terrific intervention to deny Isaac Success but conceded a corner.

Yoshinori Muto was played through by Joelinton after a fine tackle by the forward, but the Japanese striker could not find his angle.