Newcastle United 2, Arsenal 1
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits his team are in a “negative spiral” after they lost a fifth consecutive Premier League away game at resurgent Newcastle.
The Gunners took an early lead through Alexandre Lacazette but Ayoze Perez equalised before half-time and Matt Ritchie completed the hosts comeback midway through the second half.
Defeat left Wengers men facing a battle to stay in the top six, just two points ahead of Burnley, while a fourth successive victory effectively secured Newcastles top-flight status.
“Of course its a concern because traditionally we have a very strong record away from home,” said Wenger, who made six changes from Thursdays Europa League trip to CSKA Moscow.
“It has a subconscious weight in our minds. Once youre in a negative spiral like that, its very difficult to get out. I feel the team gave everything. We have to keep playing like that [and] well win games.
Benitez congratulated his players after conceding that – sitting 10th and 13 points above the relegation zone with five games left – Newcastle had avoided dropping into the second tier.
“Its a massive achievement for the players, the city and the fans,” he said. “Today we didnt play amazing football because we played an amazing team, but you have to manage how you play and compete for the win.”
The Magpies came into the game off the back of wins against Leicester, Huddersfield and Southampton but fell behind to an Arsenal side that was much changed but still boasted two £50m strikers.
They combined for the opening goal on 14 minutes when Shkodran Mustafis diagonal pass found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang peeling away and he crossed for a stretching Lacazette to steer a volley past Martin Dubravka.
Newcastle levelled when Mustafi was beaten to a near-post cross for the second league game in a row – this time by Perez, who deftly guided DeAndre Yedlins pacy cross past Petr Cech.
Arsenals defending also looked suspect for the decisive strike. Substitute Islam Slimani beat four Gunners players to head a loose ball towards Ritchie, who fired a rising shot past Cech.