Home Sports Mikel Arteta misses rare opportunity after being granted extra Arsenal substitute

Mikel Arteta misses rare opportunity after being granted extra Arsenal substitute

Mikel Arteta misses rare opportunity after being granted extra Arsenal substitute

Arsenal’s hopes of securing Champions League football were dealt a hammer blow, with Monday night’s 2-0 defeat to Newcastle effectively ending their tilt at a top-four finish

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In pictures: Newcastle v Arsenal

Arsene Wenger was once derided for claiming that a top-four finish was like winning a trophy for Arsenal.

Well after five seasons without Champions League football, anyone associated with the Gunners would be desperate to fictionally lift that piece of silverware. But after Monday night’s crushing defeat to Newcastle United, the chances of them achieving it are slim to none.

Less than a week ago, Mikel Arteta’s side were long odds-on to finish above Tottenham, knowing a win over their north London rivals would have sealed a top-four finish. Fast forward just five days and two dismal losses, their hopes are in tatters.

Spurs need a point against already relegated Norwich City to book their place in Europe’s top competition, with Arsenal left to contend in the Europa League. Arsenal not only require snookers, they now need a miracle and like Jamie Carragher diplomatically stated, there isn’t a person in world football who believes they will now do it.

In a season which promised so much, Mikel Arteta could be left conducting a summer-long autopsy over just what went wrong, first in north London and then in the north East. Arteta had excuses against Spurs, Ben White’s absence was cruel, a questionable penalty and Rob Holding’s needless red card. Against Newcastle however, they were beaten by the better side, plain and simple.

Mikel Arteta was left dejected as Arsenal fell to defeat vs Newcastle



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And that was despite Arteta being offered the type of unique opportunity rarely afforded to Premier League managers this season. Following a concussion suffered by Toon defender Fabian Schar, both sides were able to make a fourth substitute.

Arteta had already used his traditional three, bringing on Cedric Soares for the injured Takehiro Tomiyasu and forwards Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette. Those three subs failed to have any impact, but the Spaniard still had one ace up his sleeve – an extra change he wouldn’t have usually been afforded.

The Gunners boss gambled – taking off Gabriel, replacing him with the frustratingly inconsistent Nicolas Pepe. At the time, the visitors needed two goals in 17 minutes to keep their Champions League destiny in their own hands.

Nicolas Pepe was ineffectual when coming off the bench in the late stages of the defeat at Newcastle

Arsenal may have been struggling, but they still had a puncher’s chance. But with Arsenal reverting to a back three, an experiment which came with risks, quickly backfired.

Newcastle had already fired a warning shot when Jacob Murphy spurned a chance when one-on-one with the ‘keeper. That opportunity came about when Pepe surrendered possession, one of his only noticeable impacts in a forgettable cameo.

And how fitting that it was Bruno Guimares that effectively ended Arsenal’s Champions League tilt, having opted against joining the Gunners in January. In crunch time, Newcastle were able to turn to their wonderfully talented Ligue 1 export – and he delivered, Arsenal did the same, and he didn’t. For all the months of self-reflection surely now on the way, that simple fact will sting more than any other.

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