Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hang in the balance as they run out at Newcastle

The race isn’t over yet, but for Arsenal, it certainly feels as if they’ve hit a brick wall just as they were bowing their heads at the finish line. It’s not just that they need to get out of their own downward spiral, it’s that they need the worst team in the Premier League to bail them out.

A week ago, all of Arsenal’s most reasonable dreams seemed within reach. Not just qualification for the Champions League, but the opportunity to end Tottenham’s hegemony in north London. They could even have done it in the patch of their great rivals. Two games later, those aspirations look as realistic now as they did when they sat bottom of the Premier League, with no points or goals to their name after three games.

All the undeniable progress that was made between then and this 2-0 loss to Newcastle will feel like it’s worthless if it doesn’t come with the prize of Champions League football. Unless Norwich can beat Tottenham on the final day with the Gunners also beating Everton it’s fifth place this is a step up from where they were in their first two seasons under Mikel Arteta but a cause for huge disappointment given that They were four points away. clear at the start of Thursday.

The devils of derby day were on Arsenal’s shoulders. Arteta had tried to put that 3-0 humiliation behind him as soon as the final whistle blew, but these players looked like newcomers from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. What might well have cost Arsenal in the top four is their inability to accept defeat, seal it up, throw it into the deepest well in north London and move on.

Aaron Ramsdale brought a bouncing buzz ball to St. James’ Park, giving the impression that he was not afraid of this task. In his actions, however, it was clear that something was up. Perhaps the answer was rather prosaic, a player who slipped on each of his first three long shots might have needed new boots or adapted to the turf.

However, it seemed like Ramsdale and those ahead of him had more going on than just the conditions. The nerves of the players, the passes sent to the feet, the options fading under the pressure of the Newcastle press. Miguel Almiron charged at Nuno Tavares and kept chasing when the ball returned to Ramsdale. A strong touch from the goalkeeper and that sinking feeling hit the visiting fans high up in the Leazes grandstand. The ball flew off Almiron’s shin but went wide of the goal.

Arsenal lived dangerously, their goalkeeper wrapped in the sands of doubt. When Sean Longstaff finished off a cross from the right, a weak pair of gloves might have put him in more danger. Ben White, who like Gabriel was clearly hampered by the muscle injury he was playing through, nearly unraveled. Arteta had three-quarters of his four defenders on the field, but none seemed to be happy. After a brutal examination by Allan Saint-Maximin, Takehiro Tomiyasu was sent off before the break. Cedric Soares, the replacement, was a crushing reminder of why he fell short.

When the goal came, he was barely back in the middle of Arsenal. With no one to stop him, Joelinton charged down the left, shooting low to the nearest post. As Callum Wilson prepared to volley home, White put out a desperate leg and deflected it past Ramsdale. A team that had lost all six Premier League games it had fallen behind in before Monday night fell short against those who still believed. Can’t fault their effort, all the players seemed to be using every ounce of the tank, but it felt like a team that doesn’t know they can cross the line.

Seasoned warriors at Liverpool, Manchester City and even Tottenham (think Harry Kane and Heung-min Son) know what it takes in big games. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, who were watched by much older players as the chase for goal became more desperate, will be better off next time for their struggles of the night.

Newcastle’s second always seemed more likely than a draw. With Arsenal throwing too many tired bodies onto the pitch, Wilson charged from behind and although Ramsdale was on hand to stop him, the ball only went as far as Bruno Guimaraes.

At one point, a season of burgeoning unity, one in which Arsenal supporters fell in love with their team all over again may have been swept away, certainly if the more vocal elements of the club’s online fanbase are to be believed (though that is generally unwise). Things to Do). For a young team, this could be a defining moment for all the right reasons, one where they decide they never want to go through such a crushing moment again. And yet, as the bleak specter of Thursdays and Sundays in the Europa League looms, as another year passes without St. Totteringham, it must be hard for anyone in red to see that. This just felt like a punch to the stomach.

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