The Warm Down : Smith-Rowe & Aubameyang drag the Gunners out of the mud and into the 4th round of the FA Cup. 
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Joe Willock of Arsenal reacts after his shot is saved by Martin Dubravka of Newcastle United during the FA Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on January 09, 2021 in London, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta rotated his Arsenal team this evening for the Gunners FA Cup clash against Newcastle United. Willian and Joe Willock came into the side along with Reiss Nelson - a last minute replacement in the starting 11 for Gabriel Martinelli, who was injured in the warm up.

Newcastle looked lacking in quality, but striker Andy Carroll was denied the chance to win the game by Bernd Leno in the 89th minute. 

After it looked like the stalemate of a match was going to penalties, substitute Emile Smith-Rowe broke the deadlock in the 108th minute. This was following the youngster avoiding a red card a few minutes before the full time whistle when referee Chris Kavanagh overturned his decision to send Smith-Rowe off.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang sealed the victory with a tap in, finishing off an accurate cross from Kieran Tierney in the closing minutes of extra-time.

  • Certain Arsenal players fell below par

With loan spells for Willock and Nelson rumoured in recent weeks, tonight's opportunities in the first team for both English youngsters didn't go particularly to plan.

Nelson was substituted for scorer Smith-Rowe in the 56th minute and Granit Xhaka replaced Willock 10 minutes later. Although it could be argued that fatigue was to blame for a stale 90 minutes from Arteta's side, Willian and Nicolas Pepe also started the game having been not regularly played by the boss.

Both wingers also seemed to have frustrating games - Willian gave the ball away on multiple occasions and Pepe just couldn't find the finishing touch to any of his creations on the ball, a familiar showing from the Ivorian who cost the North-London club £72Million back in August 2019. 

  • Same Arsenal heroes, different week 

Justice was served when Smith-Rowe's red card was overturned by the referee, allowing him to go on and open the scoring with a sweet half volley after controlling the ball with his chest.

The 20 year old's enthusiasm and intensity was ultimately what got Arsenal over the line. Bukayo Saka, who came on for Willian, was also involved in the first goal, showing his vision to help set up his team-mate to score. 

Lastly mentioned but by no means least, Tierney looked dangerous with some pacy overlaps on the left flank, whilst also putting up a solid defensive showing and helping to keep a clean sheet he also assisted Aubameyang for the winning goal.

The main positive to take from this cup clash is that it must now be clear to Arteta who his main string-pullers are in his starting eleven, and who needs to be shown the door or the sidelines in the coming weeks. 

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