We arrive at St James' Park ready to write an obituary on Arsenal's fading chances of winning the Premier League.
This was the weekend when it could have ended. It was the weekend when, to be honest, we expected it to end.
This was the weekend when Manchester City extended their lead to four pointsThere were four games left, and turned their attention to that all-important Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
it was the weekend Newcastle United were expected to prove that Mikel Arteta's side are indeed young and callow and just not ready.
It was the weekend when their golden opportunity lost its luster for good. After all, how could they hope to win in this cathedral? There was no prayer at Arsenal.
instead 2-0 winnery proved not only that they can pull off a title run but also how far they've come. It was this beach that Arsenal had to cross.
They are not bottlers or chokers. Arsenal showed they are fighters in what was arguably their best and most mature performance of the season.
It was excellent and was marked by the subtlety of Martin Odegaard and the cynicism of Granit Xhaka. Two contradictions that again highlight their progress.
Stay in the game. That was the message. Not just for the match against Newcastle but for the battle with Manchester City. Stay in the game until the City encounter becomes real. Then see how much of that tie's epic two legs get out of them. physically but also emotionally. Stay in the game and see how the city copes.
Arsenal completed the first half in sweeping aside an admittedly awful Chelsea last Tuesday and a far more taxing leg in taking the three points against a vibrant, resurgent, hopeful Newcastle.
It is the reaction Arsenal have found to the shock defeat they suffered at City a few weeks ago. Going into that game they had suffered three disappointing draws. Right here, if they lose it, the title is lost.
That and, interestingly, the last time before he played City. Arsenal drew and lost in the league and were knocked out of the FA Cup by City, before a defeat at the Emirates in February.
That means two of his setbacks, his two fumbles, came before the champions played.
This is where the mental block is, if any. Maybe, like the rest of the league, he doesn't see a way out of the juggernaut of Pep Guardiola. Just ask Liverpool how difficult it is to face them.
Arsenal have 81 points after 35 games. Only in their undefeated unbeaten season have they scored more than 80 points in an earlier stage (after 33 matches). And yet it's a trajectory that probably won't be enough to be champion again.
But Arsenal haven't thrown it away. They have done brilliantly to give us a title run and the way they have negotiated this tie shows not only that they are here to stay but that they have learned quickly during the campaign.
In essence, Arsenal did to Newcastle what Newcastle had done in early January by securing a draw at the Emirates. In that goalless game it appeared Arsenal's emotions ran away from them, with Arteta guilty of almost out of control on the touchline.
They looked childish as Newcastle did to many of them. The Dark Arts, their game-management, their alleged time-wasting. After this defeat, Arsenal were left complaining of the way Newcastle complained.
With that in mind the chants of “cheat, cheat” from the angry home fans who greeted Arsenal at the half-time whistle will be music to Arteta's ears.
The manager would have liked it as much as the resilience shown in weathering the inevitable storm; In response to the blows he received after being awarded a penalty and correctly over-turned, and Odegaard's deft strike, which came just 207 seconds after referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot.
Xhaka instigated the abuse as Xhaka often does. He was ‘injured' four times in the first half. Not once did Arteta ask any of his substitutes to warm up.
When Xhaka fell for the third time he continued to watch how the play unfolded – and sprung to his feet as Arsenal countered. He also rallied to make an excellent goal-saving block on Joe Willock. And then stayed down.
in the second half and Xhaka clashed with Wilson; He was accusing Joelington of elbowing him and then he was accusing his Swiss international teammate Fabian Schar of doing the same to Gabriel Jesus.
When Odegaard walked off, tired after leading his team, creating chances and nearly scoring a second goal, Xhaka took the captain's armband. And there he was, pointing to his teammates looking for throw-ins to play the ball deep into the corners of Newcastle's half as they ran down the clock.
What to do with all that? Yes, it was cynical. But it was also successful. It showed that Arsenal have come a long way. This shows that his race is not over yet.
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