Mikel Arteta shut out the noise to make a match-winning selection decision for Arsenal’s last fixture, standing him in good stead ahead of a trip to Manchester united
Rarely is a top-flight fixture plain sailing in England, but the Gunners always had the air of a team confident of three points even if it took until the second half for Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to find the back of the net.
It was a pleasant afternoon for fans basking in the Emirates sun and the victory thrust the north Londoners into the conversation for a top-four finish by closing the gap on West Ham.
Things were much more turbulent ahead of kick-off, however, as Mikel Arteta came under particular scrutiny for his team selection against the Magpies.
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Fans questioned the decision to start summer signing Nuno Tavares ahead of Kieran Tierney at left-back, with these concerns echoed by club legend Martin Keown in the BT Sport studio.
Tavares, a £7million arrival from Benfica, had endured a nightmare seven days earlier as Arsenal were torn apart at Anfield.
The Portuguese defender, 21, made a glaring mistake in his own final third to gift Liverpool a 2-0 lead shortly after half-time, setting the hosts on course for a resounding 4-0 victory to end the Gunners’ unbeaten run.
Given this blunder, many expected Tierney would return to the starting XI to face Newcastle. After all, the 24-year-old was one of Arsenal’s best players last season, both defensively and offensively.
But to mass surprise, Arteta decided to stick with Tavares as Tierney settled for a spot on the bench for the third successive game.
The Spaniard chose to focus on Tavares’ excellent performances in the three previous matches, during which he helped keep two clean sheets while Tierney recovered from an ankle injury, rather than his unfortunate outing on Merseyside.
Arteta admitted this decision was a “tricky one” as he spoke on Wednesday ahead of the midweek trip to Manchester United, but he explained it was a matter of principle.
“I encourage my players to play with courage, to take risks, to make decisions and to be on the front foot,” he said.
“When they do that and for any reason some things don’t go our way, somebody makes a mistake, that’s where you have to show the trust in the player because we want to build confidence and resilience.”
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Arteta’s decision to start Tavares was rewarded handsomely as the youngster laid on the assist for Saka’s decisive goal, while he was a constant threat up the left flank throughout the match.
It was undoubtedly a bold call to leave out Tierney, but Arteta proved the value of ignoring knee-jerk reactions after his developing side suffered a single setback on Merseyside.
This mature decision-making shows the former Manchester City assistant is continuing to make progress on a personal level at this early stage of his managerial career, and Arsenal fans should be encouraged.