Arsenal picked up just their seventh Premier League victory of the season with a confidence-boosting thrashing of Newcastle at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners have been the division’s draw specialists this campaign having been held 13 times and it looked to be going the same way after a goalless first half.
But the hosts sprung into action immediately after the restart with Eddie Nketiah’s no-look strike from Nicolas Pepe’s cutback clipping the top of the crossbar.
Mikel Arteta’s side broke the deadlock on 54 minutes through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s well-placed header and Pepe doubled the lead just three minutes later with a neat, first-time finish.
Mesut Ozil poked in a third late on from substitute Alexandre Lacazette’s pass and the Frenchman converted a fourth in injury-time.
Newcastle attempted to play further forward after conceding but were restricted to few opportunities – the dangerous Allan Saint-Maximin coming closest with a curling strike that rattled the post.
Arsenal’s win moves them up into the top half of the table in 10th place – six points behind north London rivals Tottenham, who claimed a last-gasp winner over Aston Villa to go fifth.
Arsenal show improvement in style
Arsenal have suffered a wretched season in the top-flight, 16 points and six places worse off than at this stage under Unai Emery last season.
A poor start this term led to the Spaniard’s dismissal and although they had lost just once under replacement Arteta, they had drawn seven games since his appointment in December.
Before the game, only the bottom two sides Watford (5) and Norwich (4) had won fewer games than Arsenal and even this victory was not plain sailing. There were plenty of groans from the home supporters when it looked like their side were still shaking off the comforts of their winter break in Dubai as they demonstrated a lack of cohesion in the final third.
Bukayo Saka curled narrowly wide, Pepe had a free-kick tipped over by Martin Dubravka and Shkodran Mustafi saw his hooked shot headed off the line by Joelinton.
But Arsenal came out with renewed focus in the second half and scored twice before the hour mark to put the game to bed – Aubameyang powering in a header for his 15th league goal of the campaign from Pepe’s hanging cross.
And it was Pepe, the club’s £72m record signing, who turned from provider to goalscorer following sublime work by Saka, who nutmegged Valentino Lazaro and provided the perfect cross for him to tuck home.
Aubameyang could have further extended his tally for the season but his cross-come-shot landed on top of the crossbar.
Just when it looked like the game was coming to a subdued close Arsenal scored twice more for a thumping win – Ozil’s effort squirming through Dubravka’s hands – following a move that involved 35 passes and all 11 players touching the ball – and Lacazette added gloss to the scoreline.
Sheffield United in sixth-place will now be in their sights, as they aim to avoid finishing outside the top-six for the first time in 25 years, while they also remain in both the FA Cup and Europa League competitions.
The appointment of Steve Bruce as Newcastle boss to replace the popular Rafael Benitez was not universally well-received by supporters but the ex-Manchester United defender has responded to critics with a decent debut campaign.
The Tynesiders lie 12th in the table, seven points clear of the drop zone having been just one point outside the relegation place at this stage last term, but this heavy loss was a big setback for the visitors.
Bruce’s defensive plan with five-at-the-back did not work on this occasion as they were picked off by Arsenal’s front-foot pressure and finishing in key moments.
But it is at the other end of the pitch where they really struggle, they have scored just 24 times, with only Crystal Palace less prolific.
In Joelinton – the club’s record £40m signing from Hoffenheim – they have a striker who has netted just once in the league and is on a run of 22 games and 1,856 minutes without a goal.
The Brazilian works hard for the team but he lacks goals and also touches inside the opposition penalty area – just three of his 47 came in the 18-yard box.
One chance did fall to him in the first-half when he was unmarked eight yards out, but his flicked effort at the near post drifted off target.
Full-back Lazaro, a recent loan signing from Inter Milan, impressed, winning the ball back three times and providing an outlet on the flank, while on the other side of the pitch Danny Rose made more passes (42) than any team-mate despite the constant jeers from the home fans for his Tottenham links.
The lively Saint-Maximin was unlucky with his effort that struck the woodwork, while Sean Longstaff’s deflected volley was pushed away by Bernd Leno.
Man of the match – Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal)
‘We have to turn draws into wins’ – what they said
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta to BBC Sport: “After the break we started saying we had to start closing the gap on the top teams and turn draws into wins. Today was the first opportunity and we’ve done it. All good.
“I’m so pleased for Laca [Alexandra Lacazette] – the reaction of the players and staff towards him. He fights hard for everyone. He’s been unlucky. He will gain confidence from this and knows how everyone appreciates him.”
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang speaking to Sky Sports: “We started not at our best but in the second half we put some more energy in and we scored the goals.
“We spoke at half-time and the coach told me to stay as a second striker and take my position off Eddie [Nketiah]. They were playing very deep and compact so it was good for us to have me in the middle to give more space out wide.”
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce speaking to Sky Sports: “The disappointing thing is the goals we gave away are not like us. They were too easy. For an hour we were where we have been all season. We switched off from that and gave away sloppy goals.
“I was delighted with the way we played in the first half. We made the wrong pass or selection when we [attacked]. Second half, we knew they would come with more intensity and we didn’t start well.
“We’ve played well enough in the first half – we have to try and keep to those levels but we didn’t get anyway near it in the second half. When you get a beating like you have, you have to lick your wounds and get on with it.”
Magpies struggles in the capital continue – the stats
- Only versus Leicester (12) and Stoke (10) are Arsenal on longer current home winning runs in the Premier League than they are against Newcastle, with the Gunners winning each of their last eight against the Magpies.
- Newcastle have now lost 78 Premier League games as an away side in London, the most defeats of all sides in the competition’s history in the capital.
- Arsenal have kept back-to-back Premier League clean sheets for the first time since April last year, the second of which also came in a victory over Newcastle at the Emirates.
- Gunners striker Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang has scored the opening goal of the game on six different occasions in the Premier League this season, the joint-most in the competition alongside Tammy Abraham, Danny Ings, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy.
- Only 156 seconds separated Arsenal’s first two goals against Newcastle, with Nicolas Pepe having a hand in both (one goal, one assist) – one more goal involvement than he managed in his previous seven top-flight appearances (one goal, zero assists).
- Bukayo Saka has assisted eight goals in all competitions this season for Arsenal – more than any team-mate in 2019-20. Indeed, he has more assists than any other Premier League teenager this season.
- Newcastle boss Steve Bruce has lost more matches in all competitions against Arsenal than he has versus any other side during his managerial career (21).
- 26 of Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette’s 33 Premier League goals have been scored in home games, including each of his last nine. Of all Arsenal players to have scored at least 15 goals in the competition, Lacazette has scored the highest ratio in home games (79%).
- There were 35 passes in the build up to Mesut Ozil’s goal, with every single player touching the ball for the Gunners – the most number of passes for any goal in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal’s attentions now turn to the Europa League and Olympiakos, who they face on Thursday (20:00 GMT), before they return to Premier League action next Sunday against Everton (16:30).
Meanwhile, Newcastle are next in action next Saturday, when they travel to Crystal Palace in the Premier League (15:00).