How Nuno Tavares and Sambi Lokonga embodied Arsenal’s new attitude against Newcastle United
Arsenal record a comfortable win
Arsenal ensured that they will remain in fifth place come the end of the weekend thanks to a 2-0 win over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium on a bitterly cold Saturday lunchtime.
✅ Three points in the bag
💪 A strong team performance
Catch all the highlights here 👇#ARSNEW pic.twitter.com/tnJnmYiJQ2
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) November 27, 2021
After a drab first half, Bukayo Saka gave the Gunners the lead 10 minutes into the second with a low finish past Martin Dubravka, before Gabriel Martinelli secured all three points, netting with just his second touch after coming on as a substitute for Saka, who went off injured.
Happiness in one picture 💫 pic.twitter.com/VbgZc3A8og
— Gabriel Martinelli (@gabimartinelli) November 27, 2021
You can read about what 101 picked out from the game here.
Arsenal pair show club’s new mentality
For the second game in a row, it was a pair of summer signings that dominated the post-match conversation, in the forms of Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares.
Both players had games to forget at Anfield, especially in the second half, with Tavares producing a performance littered with mistakes and gifting Liverpool their second goal with a clumsy pass across goal that only found Diogo Jota.
Diogo Jota accepts the gift from Tavares and finishes oh so coolly in front of the Kop to double #LFC‘s lead… #LIVARS
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) November 20, 2021
After the game, Arteta pulled no punches either, saying:
“Mistakes are part of football for kids and grownups! You don’t want to make mistakes, you play a different sport”
“Unfortunately he cost us a goal and he could have cost us more. But we move on.”
Lokonga too struggled. Unable to keep his cool amid Liverpool’s relentless press, his constant turnover of possession meant that Arsenal found themselves forever on the back foot, and could never get a foothold back in a half that they only began 1-0 down.
With Kieran Tierney having returned to full fitness, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles having impressed in his last stint in central midfield against Watford, there were options for both to be taken out of the firing line against the Magpies, and perhaps in previous regimes that may have been what happened.
Under Arteta, however, it didn’t.
And against Newcastle, the pair dominated the headlines for all of the right reasons.
Lokonga was impressive in the centre of the pitch, outshining Arsenal’s big-money signing from last season, Thomas Partey. He topped the stats for most passes, most passes in Newcastle’s half and the most key passes in the game, while he also won possession back a whopping 8 times.
Sambi Lokonga today:
Most passes: 88
Most successful passes: 82
Most passes in opp half: 60
Most key passes: 6
Pass percentage: 91.7%
Gained possession: 8
Excellent response from him after his struggles at Anfield. pic.twitter.com/deXJm9LU7X
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) November 27, 2021
Tavares, meanwhile, almost seemed to keen for redemption in the first half, shooting several times on either foot from ridiculous distance and angles. As he lined up one particular effort towards the end of the first half, you could almost hear the premeditated groan sweeping the Emirates stadium, expecting the ball to nestle in the upper tier once more.
Nuno Tavares has run the furthest, has the highest average speed and the highest top speed of any player in the game. Exhausting just watching him.
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) November 27, 2021
He was, however, crucial for the first goal, with his energy, deftness of touch and quick thinking the sole reason Bukayo Saka was able to fire home.
The pair embody the new identity resonating from Arsenal football club. No longer will they play the victim. They don’t hide and ask others to do the hard work for them. In picking the pair, Arteta was effectively saying “You messed up last game, now go out and make it right”. And boy they did just that.
This mentality has been seen already this season, with Lokonga saying similar after Alexandre Lacazette rescued a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace last month:
“I want to play the next game as quick as possible. When you play a game like this, you are hungry inside because I made a mistake. I want to play the next game as quick as possible to change everything.”
Losing in the manner that Arsenal did at Anfield was not pretty, but it is the games against the sides around and below them that will ultimately define their season, and only a loss to Brentford outside of (albeit worryingly heavy) defeats to the top 3 has blotted their copybook thus far.
With a younger, more powerful Arsenal side that are not ready to hide, something could be being built in north London.