It is a goal they will talk about for a long time, not because of its beauty or even its magnitude, but because Newcastle United’s winner somehow survived three separate Var checks and condemned Arsenal to a costly defeat. It may well even make its way to becoming an obscure football quiz question, as Anthony Gordon’s close-range strike was checked for the hat-trick – ball out of play, foul and offside – but survived all three to send the home fans delirious and Arsenal into a strop.
Each check was announced on the big screen and by the stadium announcer, each check was booed and jeered by the home crowd. It took the video referees almost five minutes to decide they could not rule it out and had to let it stand. Arsenal will feel hard done by, but as good as they looked, as pleasing on the eye as they were, they lacked a cutting edge. This was a huge test of the title-winning credentials, to travel to Tyneside and come away with points, and they failed. It will once again raise question marks over Arteta’s side, especially their ability to maintain Champions pace whenever they are without Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard.
Arsenal looked sick but without a sting. They passed around or through the Newcastle press. They looked after the ball, they looked in control. Arsenal dominated possession and spent a lot of time in Newcastle’s half, exerting pressure, pushing and probing. But as the game approached half time, you realised that had not actually forced a single save from Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope until stoppage time when Gabriel Martinelli cut inside and shot straight at him. Arsenal’s efforts on goal were from long range and most of them were blocked by someone in a black-and-white shirt flinging themselves in the way. Arsenal slowed the game down at every opportunity, trying to frustrate and annoy their hosts but perhaps they needed more urgency in their own play.