For the best part of three minutes Emile Smith Rowe was contemplating his first red card as a senior Arsenal footballer and then, through the magic of Var, the 20-year-old was reprieved, to score a crucial FA Cup goal that strengthens the case for his club’s new generation of players.
The FA Cup holders required extra time to beat a Newcastle United side led for the most part by the indomitable veteran Andy Carroll, who came so close to capping a combative evening’s work by winning the third-round tie at the end of the regulation 90 minutes. But Carroll missed, and so it went to extra time when Smith Rowe, a south London boy who has done his loan days in the Championship and the Bundesliga, cradled a pass on his chest and fired in the game’s big goal.
Later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would add a second against a Newcastle team stretched out of shape for the first time in the tie although one could trace the turning point back to the introduction of Smith Rowe, teenager Bukayo Saka and the rather more seasoned Granit Xhaka. The substitutes had added an urgency that others had lacked, including the lamentable Willian who was replaced after the hour as Arsenal once more seemed to run short of ideas.
In the frantic moments after that late Carroll chance, Smith Rowe had been dismissed by referee Chris Kavanagh for what turned out to be a rather timid attempt to endanger the safety of Sean Longstaff. The Newcastle midfielder had collapsed with a screech in front of his side’s bench and the reaction seemed to prompt Kavanagh’s decision, downgraded to a booking after he had watched it again on the review screen.
Having looked so disconsolate, Smith Rowe would later win the ball at the start of the move for his goal, with substitute Alexandre Lacazette getting the touch on Saka’s pass to guide it into the path of the young Arsenal No 32. Smith Rowe’s finish was assured and there might yet be a promising career if Mikel Arteta can oversee the successful transition of this young team. Since his first appearance of the season at the end of November, Smith Rowe now has two goals and four assists.
This was Arsenal’s fourth win in a row after they were plunged into a crisis of sorts before Christmas with that heavy home defeat to Manchester City in the League Cup.
Arteta said later that Smith Rowe had repaid the faith in him. “He’s been more and more important. We have asked him to get in the box more and today he scored a wonderful goal.”
He said that he could not put too much responsibility on his young players and defended Willian again, who he said has missed almost two weeks training with illness. “I think we have a great mixture,” Arteta said. “We have the talent and the right characters.”
Reiss Nelson was a late promotion into the side when Gabriel Martinelli twisted an ankle in the warm-up and was withdrawn from the original starting XI which had seven changes from the side that beat West Bromwich Albion seven days earlier. Arteta said later that Martinelli was in tears in the aftermath and the extent of the injury is not yet known.
Not that they always looked so smooth, and after a rocky first half, Steve Bruce’s defensively calibrated Newcastle became a little more adventurous. There was a glorious chance for Carroll in the 56th minute when he somehow contrived to miss, a cross driven across goal by Jeff Hendrick. It seemed like Carroll’s opportunity had gone and then he got that last view of goal only for Bernd Leno to first save and then bat the rebound out the range of Carroll’s swinging boot.
It is the 52nd year that passes for Newcastle without a major honour and Bruce was asked to affirm afterwards that he is still committed to returning some kind of trophy to the club. “As long as I am in the seat I will treat the cup the way it should be,” he said.
It is a curiosity that says a lot about Newcastle that the last time they beat Arsenal in the FA Cup was the 1952 final. Bruce said he could see “signs of progress” and a “shift in what we are trying, getting higher up the pitch.”
This was the seventh straight game without victory. Newcastle had forced Arsenal wide for the most part and defended the ball crossed into the box with a well-organised back line that featured the midfielder Isaac Hayden, once of Arsenal. Hayden’s fine tackle on Nicolas Pepe in the first half when there was no margin for error in the penalty area was a crucial moment. Jamaal Lascelles had taken an early yellow card for a very crude lunge at Nelson. The Newcastle captain was substituted at half-time with what Bruce said was “fatigue from Covid”.
Martin Dubravka, playing his first game of the season for Newcastle, was impressive in goal and for the most part Carroll was there to help out with defensive headers. On 80 minutes Bruce had thrown on the 18-year-old debutant Elliot Anderson, another Wallsend Boys Club alumnus who certainly had more impact than Joelinton. But by the second half of injury time, Newcastle were tiring badly and Arteta’s young players decided the game.
FT: Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0
Arsenal made hard work of that and their fringe players did themselves little favours, but goals from Smith Rowe and Aubameyang in extra time did the job.
ET: 30 minutes - Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0
There will be two minutes of added time.
ET: 28 minutes - Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0
Gayle is down in the box saying he was fouled by Cedric at the back post. Var happy there was no foul.
GOOOAAAAAL! Arsenal double their lead
Coming short might not be Aubameyang's game but being in the right place in the box is. Quality pass from Xhaka and timing of the run from Tierney, and he slides it across for the striker to tap in.
ET: 26 minutes - Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0
Lacazette has made a difference to Arsenal since coming on, working from the front and giving his midfielders a target to hit. Coming short and showing for the ball is not Aubameyang's strength.
ET: 24 minutes - Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0
The fake crowd noise is finally producing a chant, not been much reason for them to turn the volume up tonight. Diligent defending from Elneny to see the ball behind for a goal kick.
ET: 22 minutes - Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0
That was great finish from Smith Rowe, shades of players like Aaron Ramsey or Frank Lampard with the third-man run and the finish across the goalkeeper in off the post.
GOOOOAAAAALLL! Smith Rowe breaks the deadlock
The man who was halfway down the tunnel has saved the day for Arsenal. Newcastle fail to clear their lines with Clarke getting his feet tangled, Saka chipped the ball towards Lacazette on the edge of the area, he won a 50:50 and Smith Rowe controlled the ball on his chest and finishes across the goalkeeper.
ET: 16 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Surging attack down the Arsenal left but Tierney's shot from a narrow angle goes into the side netting.
Change for Arsenal
Lacazette on for Aubameyang. Carroll off for Newcastle, replaced by Gayle.
Half time in extra time
Arsenal had the better of that period and started to get Saka into dangerous positions.
ET: 15 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Pepe wins a foul and Arsenal can swing a ball into the box. Saka over it, but the offside flag goes up and that is that for the first period.
ET: 12 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Mari splits open the Newcastle defence with a wonderful pass to Pepe, but Newcastle defend manfully to block his shot and the ball runs for a Newcastle goal kick.
ET: 11 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Elneny was caught dallying in midfield but Mari snapped back to win and it Arsenal broke before Saka's delivery let him down. Tried to curl one across goal but it went straight at the goalkeeper. Xhaka then slides Saka in again but his low ball across the box is blocked.
ET: 9 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Aubameyang with a jinking run into the box and wins a corner. Replays show he may have been caught in the box but Var says check complete swiftly.
ET: 7 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Two brave pieces of defending at the pack from David Luiz after a cute pass from Anderson got Murphy in behind down the right. Then Xhaka wins a free-kick for Arsenal.
ET: 4 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Cracking shot on the volley from Xhaka and Dubrakva's tips it over the bar. Arsenal have a corner which Saka will take...Luiz won the header at the back post but Elneny's follow up shot was wild.
ET: 3 minutes - Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Newcastle starting on the front foot again. Positive run from Murphy but Mari did well to get a foot in. Smith Rowe threatens down the other end but his shot deflected wide.
We're back under way
Arsenal need to lift the tempo and start pinning Newcastle in their defensive third third.
It comes to nothing and that will be extra time!
Newcastle probably had the best two chances at the end there.
94 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Aubameyang turns a free-kick behind and Newcastle have a corner in the last seconds! Ritchie to take...
92 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Oh my word, what drama here. Newcastle could have won it with the last kick of the game - brilliance from Leno to deny Carroll after a quick counter attack. Then the ball breaks free in midfield and Smith Rowe caught Anderson with a late tackle and is show a red card! However, the referee then goes to the monitor and overturns his original decision. Still goalless and Arsenal still have 11.
91 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Aubameyang looked like getting behind there but Clarke pulled him back and Arsenal will have a free-kick. Clarke and Hayden were booked, the latter for giving the ball away.
90 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal have a long spell in possession but cannot carve out that chance. Saka concedes a foul deep in Newcastle territory. There will be three added minutes or else we are heading for extra time.
88 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Foul from Carroll at the back post lets Arsenal off the hook.
86 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Murphy does well to win a free-kick on halfway for Newcastle. Time running out for Arsenal, who just got crowded out on the edge of the penalty area. Newcastle launch it down field and Carroll wins a corner. Big chance for an upset here!
84 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Ritchie took the corner and tried one to the near post but Hendrick flicks wide. A few heavy touches from Smith Rowe but Tierney shows great desire to win the ball back and took a whack in the face.
82 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Wicked cross from Tierney who picks out Aubameyang who was free for the header in the box but it struck Clarke in the face. Loose from Mari at the other end to gift the ball back to Newcastle, and Carroll's deflected shot wins them a corner.
80 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Newcastle double change: Yedlin on for Almiron, Anderson on for Joelinton.
78 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
The next goal will surely be the winner and Arsenal are slowly starting to dominate possession again. Xhaka competes well with Carroll in the air allowing his centre-backs to sweep up. Pepe with a nice turn and pass but Smith Rowe's cross deflects into the arms of the goalkeepers.
74 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
A bit better from Arsenal as Smith Rowe tries to inject some pace into the attack and Aubameyang shoots over with a spectacular volley. The Tierney finds the run of Saka and he fizzes a shot over the bar.
72 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Positive from Pepe but his side foot shot from 25 yards is well wide and he hand runs from Saka and Aubameyang ahead of him.
70 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal have not managed to change the pattern of the game so far, it has been quite even despite the changes. They need to get Saka and Smith Rowe on the ball. Pepe's attempted through ball is far too heavy.
68 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Newcastle press Leno and Arsenal into a mistake and have a throw deep in the Arsenal half. Murphy is on for Krafth in Bruce's second change.
66 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Double change for Arsenal: Xhaka and Saka on for Willock and Willian.
64 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Willock has not bee great today but that was a well-timed dart into the box and his header was tipped around the post by Dubravka. Good ratting by Smith Rowe in the build up.
62 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arteta getting very antsy on the sidelines after Mari is penalised for a high foot. The delivery forward was poor, however. Arsenal need to get a grip of the ball and territory again though. Ceballos or Xhaka might be the change.
59 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
It's been a horrible few minutes for Arsenal, such poor quality on the ball from Willock and Willian in particular. Aubameyang then does have half a chance in the left channel, but the angle was narrowing and he could not get his dink on target.
57 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
A big let off for Arsenal. Tierney with a poor clearance and a cross-shot found Carroll at the back post who missed practically an open goal from six yards. Side foot with his left that went inches wide. Smith Rowe is on for Nelson.
56 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Carroll gets a speculative shot off on his weaker right foot. and it deflects into the arms of Leno. Smith Rowe is ready to enter the fray for Arsenal. Then Willock is caught on the ball and Newcastle have another chance to launch the ball into the box with a wide free-kick.
53 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Pepe with a tame shot from distance that goes well wide. How long before Arteta looks to his bench and in particular Smith Rowe and Saka?
51 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Stodgy from Arsenal in midfield and then Carroll leaps to win another free-kick on halfway. Decent move from the away team to get Almiron free down the left, but Mari heads his cross away. Pepe and then Willock both give the ball away cheaply. Arsenal have not got going yet.
49 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Willock a little too eager defensively on a couple of occasions and Hendrick wins a free-kick in a good area. They work a short one and look for Carroll at the back post but his header rolls tamely wide.
47 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Luiz sends Pepe away over the top and the supporting Cedric wins a free-kick in a good position. Good inswinging delivery from Pepe but another strong defensive header from Newcastle.
46 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal get us going at the start of the second period.
The players are on their way back out
Looks like Newcastle are making a change. Matt Ritchie has replaced Lascelles, who was booked in the first half.
HT: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Not great fare so far. Arsenal have not had any reason for alarm, and their general shape and control of the game has been fine, but too many of their attackers have lacked sharpness and assurance in the final moment. Newcastle have defender stoutly but have offered nothing going forward.
45+1 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Almiron wins a free-kick for Newcastle in the dying embers and Cedric is booked for the foul. Newcastle can aim one into the box with seconds remaining....but it is easily claimed by Leno.
44 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
A mammoth spell of possession from Arsenal in the Newcastle half but they fail to find a telling opening. Cedric ends up hammering a cross out of play. Just not had that telepathy in their combination play, Arsenal.
41 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Yet another Arsenal corner after Cedric's cross is deflected behind. They work one short and Willian whips in a cross that Carroll, not for the first time in the half, heads behind. Arsenal continue the attack, but Aubameyang smacks a heavy ball at Pepe that he fails to control.
38 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
More positive play from Tierney, who has turned into an out-and-out left-winger in the last period of the game. Willock tries to clip a cross towards Aubameyang but Dubravka claims the cross.
36 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal getting into good positions, but a lack of quality letting them down when it counts. They have not really been threatened defensively though, so a matter of staying patient.
33 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Nice play between Pepe and Aubameyang, but Hayden got back to get a foot in against Pepe. The Arsenal man should probably have decided between a pass or a a shot quicker. Arsenal sustain the pressure.
30 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Cedric with a loose pass but again Newcastle fail to capitalise. It was calm defending from Mari, who has had a good game so far tonight. Willian then drives out with the ball and wins a foul.
28 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Wondeful play from Tierney down the left for Arsenal, leaves his man in the dust and picks out Nelson in the area with the pull-back but he neglected to shoot first time and Newcastle crowded him out. Better from the home team.
25 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal's best chance of the game. Luiz takes a quick free kick and releases Aubameyang into the right channel with a ball over the top and he drives towards goal. Good strike with the outside of his boot but Dubravka was equal to it before Willian made a mess of the rebound. Aubameyang would probably have preferred coming in from the left.
23 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Pepe tries to find Nelson with a curling cross to the pack post, but too heavy. Arsenal are yet to get Aubameyang into the game, they are not getting into those pockets of space to slide passes through to him. Carroll hustles and bustles to win a throw for Newcastle.
21 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
A chance goes for Newcastle, or at least a chance to have a good chance. Loose from Arsenal in midfielder as Nelson's square pass was too heavy for Willock and Joelinton broke clear. Newcastle's lack of speed on the counter allowed Arsenal to get back though, and Carroll's shot from a tight angle was charged down easily.
18 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Neither team really threatening just now but Luiz finds the run of Pepe with a good long pass over the top. The Arsenal forward brought it down, but the attack broke down with a heavy touch from Willock.
15 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arteta might want Arsenal to squeeze a little higher. Newcastle have managed to keep the ball quite easily in a few spells. Elneny feeds Willock with a more progressive pass but then Pepe's control lets him down and the ball runs out of play.
12 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal settle into a long spell of possession, but they struggle to find any penetration through into attacking midfield positions. Tierney is eventually flagged offside on the overlap.
9 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
A good spell of pressure from Newcastle with Arsenal struggling to get out, but the home team did well to deal with a pair of crosses stood up for Carroll. They then counter-attacked through Nelson, and Lascelles took him out on halfway with a desperate sliding tackle on halfway. Yellow card for the defender. Arsenal then produce a nice move but Nelson cannot gather Pepe's pass.
6 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Luiz with a strong interception, and Pepe wins a free-kick after a lay-off from Aubameyang. About 30 yards from goal, right of centre. Pepe, Willian and Luiz over it. It was the right foot of Willian, but a poor effort goes straight into the wall.
4 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Arsenal register another shot on target, though it was comfortable for Dubravka. This time it was down the other flank, positive dribbling from Pepe but his strike on goal was too central and easy for the goalkeeper. Almiron threatened with a dart in behind at the other end but Willock got back to cut out the danger.
2 minutes: Arsenal 0 Newcastle 0
Newcastle lining up in a 5-4-1 without the ball, and they survive an early scare. Good switch of play from Arsenal and Nelson controlled it beautifully, neglected the run of Tierney on the overlap and instead cut inside and let fly with a low shot that Dubravka saved.
Newcastle get us going and try to keep the ball patiently from kick off.
The teams are out on the pitch
There's something particularly jarring about cup ties behind closed doors. There would be 9,000 well refreshed Geordies in the Clock End during 'normal times'. Hopefully they can return as soon as possible.
Confirmed by Arsenal...Nelson in for Martinelli
Nelson performed well in the Europa League group stage but has not started since December 3. Probably more of a natural winger than Martinelli who wants to drift central.
This man has been the scourge of Arsenal in the past
Bad news for Arsenal
Gabriel Martinelli has sustained an ankle injury in the warm up. He was able to walk down the tunnel, but Reiss Nelson will replace him on the left of their attack.
💬 "We were the winners of the competition. We had to earn that right and now we have to earn the right to defend it. We're excited to start again."@m8arteta | #EmiratesFACup pic.twitter.com/BqB5KgY0aV
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 9, 2021
What a view
Arteta goes quite strong
Arsenal fans will be nervous about Kieran Tierney starting again given his importance, but Arteta has deemed it a small gamble worth taking. Arsenal shed reserve left-back Sead Kolasinac earlier this week as he moved back to German club Schalke. Aubameyang, Willian, Pepe and Martinelli have all missed league games lately and so there is no risk of burn-out there. The absence of Balogun from the squad speaks to the state of contract negotiations.
Newcastle look like adopting a direct approach with Joelinton and Carroll starting up top. Former Arsenal man Isaac Hayden is in a defensive midfield role. Dubravka is back in goal - Darlow has been in brilliant form in the Premier League.
The teams the old fashioned way
Arsenal: Leno; Cedric, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Elneny, Willock; Pepe, Willian, Martinelli; Aubameyang
Newcastle: Dubravka; Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Hayden, Longstaff, Hendrick, Almiron; Joelinton, Carroll
Newcastle team and subs: Andy Carroll starts!
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) January 9, 2021
Arsenal team and subs: Pepe, Aubameyang and Martinelli start up front
🚨 Seven changes from West Brom...
⛔️ Cedric and David Luiz start
🤝 Elneny partners Willock
⚡️ Nico, Willian, Gabi, Auba in attack#EmiratesFACup
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 9, 2021
Arsenal arriving - no sign of Partey or Balogun
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 9, 2021
A repeat of the 1998 final
The FA Cup proved a salve for Arsenal in both the final years of the Arsene Wenger-era and the unstable period that followed his departure, with victory against Chelsea in August taking their historic tally to 14.
The north London club have an exceptional record in the world's oldest club competition, lifting the cup in four of the last six seasons and losing just two of their previous 32 ties. Last season's triumph was Mikel Arteta's first major trophy as a manager, though he will ultimately be judged on Arsenal's Premier League and Europa League performances in the remainder of the season.
A home tie against a distracted Newcastle looks a cushy draw. Steve Bruce's team have been in poor form in the league, were badly affected by a Covid outbreak in December and have a postponed match at Aston Villa to reschedule. This could prove to be a case of famous last words, but they do no look like a team shaping up for a long cup run. Newcastle also have a poor FA Cup record, losing 10 of their previous 11 ties against Premier League opposition and failing to progress beyond the last eight since 2005.
Arsenal manager Arteta has plenty of options when it comes to team selection. Summer signing and best midfielder Thomas Partey is available again after he was rushed back from a muscular injury for the north London derby in early December. Another summer arrival, centre-back Gabriel, is back from self-isolation and both players need minutes to get back up to speed. Arteta may choose to rest the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney who have been key players in their festive uptick, as well as senior forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. That would still leave Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun to choose from in the attacking positions. Nketiah and Balogun's future is uncertain and selection today might reveal something about their fate as Arsenal players.
Full team news on the way shortly.