Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s dominant 2-0 win over Newcastle United was the perfect preparation for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg second leg against Villarreal.
The Gunners suffered a 2-1 first leg loss in Spain on Thursday, but came back to victory over Steve Bruce’s side at St James’ Park.
Mohamed Elneny’s debut Premier League goal in his 66th appearance in the competition got them going after just five minutes, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang posted a sixth straight win over the Magpies without conceding a goal.
Aubameyang’s second-half goal means he became the first Arsenal player to score in five straight games against an opponent since Olivier Giroud scored in six straight against Aston Villa between 2013 and 2016.
The only stain on the Gunners’ notebook was a hamstring injury to David Luiz, which could prevent the Brazilian from staying on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
Arteta made nine changes to the losing side in Spain and was happy with his side’s dominance, with the Gunners taking 19 shots and limiting the hosts to just one shot on target.
“Other than David’s injury, that was all we wanted,” Arteta said at a press conference.
“We wanted to keep the team fresh and pick players with the right attitude to play this game. The focus was on today. It was a good performance from the start.
“We dominated the game and won the three points we needed. It also helps for Thursday.
Aubameyang has now scored in his three appearances against Newcastle this season, becoming the first Arsenal player to score in three separate appearances against an opponent in a single season since Alexis Sanchez against Hull City in 2014-15.
The Gabonese international, recently stricken with malaria, came off the bench for the final five minutes against Villarreal in Spain and proved his fitness with an impressive performance on Sunday.
“We thought he wasn’t going to get there on Thursday. Two days earlier he was struggling, ”Arteta explained. “He could only play 10 or 15 minutes.
“The next day he started to feel better. It’s good to see that he was doing well today. He scored a goal, he played well, so it’s a real boost.
– UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) April 29, 2021
Gabriel Martinelli had an eventful game, dealing with Aubameyang’s goal from a handsome cross and a Fabian Schar foul in the 90th minute, which resulted in a red card for the Newcastle defender.
“Gabi is improving every week,” Arteta said. “He’s taking his minutes the right way.
“He is evolving as we all think he is. Today he got an assist, some good times on the left and we’re trying to play him as number nine as well.