Arsenal 0-0 Newcastle: Gunners move eight points clear but can't break down defensive Magpies

Mikel Arteta's frustrated Gunners can't find a way through the Newcastle backline

Arsenal 0-0 Newcastle: Gunners move eight points clear but can't break down defensive Magpies

Arsenal 0-0 Newcastle

Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points, but they failed to make it ten by being unable to break down a resolute Newcastle United side.

A fractious, ill-tempered first half saw five players booked including Eddie Nketiah, Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard for the Gunners, with chances at a bare minimum.

Just past the hour mark, Gabriel nodded over from a Martin Odegaard free-kick, while Newcastle's Joelinton headed wide when well-placed following Fabian Schar's flick on in a crowded box from Kieran Trippier's corner, moments before the interval

The home side came out after the interval determined to break down an obdurate Magpies side, which, at times, strung six players across the backline, in a bid to thwart the Gunners attacking flair. While a strong defence is an essential component of any successful team, so too is attacking intent, something which Eddie Howe's side singularly lacked in abundance.

While never taking a backward step is also a condition of a determined side, Almiron took the notion to the height of pedantry, when refusing to budge an inch, ahead of a Gunners free-kick. Like many in the crowd, referee Andrew Madley had had enough of such frustratingly annoying behaviour and promptly booked the No24, who joined colleagues Callum Wilson, Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes to become the seventh player to receive a caution - and the match had barely reached the hour mark.

In truth, it wasn't a dirty game, just one that the visitors attached great importance to not losing, rather than attempting to win - as evidenced by the inordinate amount of delays the Newcastle team attempted to impose on proceedings. It wasn't so much dark arts, more utterly dull ones.

Martinelli nearly broke the deadlock with 11 minutes remaining but his near post header flew narrowly wide of Nick Pope's far post.

As the clock ticked down Pope blocked Nketiah's shot as Arsenal pressed for a late winner, urged on by the crowd, but the home side couldn't start 2023 with a win as they notched only their second draw of a stellar season so far.

After a hectic festive spell, following the six week Qatar-induced hiatus, the FA Cup third round looms, with a difficult trip to League One side Oxford next Monday.

On this evidence Mikel Arteta's side could do with a breather.

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