Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal’s dominant 2-0 win over Newcastle United was the perfect preparation for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.
The Gunners suffered a 2-1 defeat in the first leg in Spain on Thursday, but they returned to winning ways against Steve Bruce’s side at St James’ Park.
Mohamed Elneny’s first Premier League goal in his 66th appearance in the competition got them on their way after just five minutes, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a sixth consecutive win against the Magpies without conceding a goal.
Aubameyang’s second-half goal meant he became the first Arsenal player to score in five consecutive matches against an opponent since Olivier Giroud netted in six straight games against Aston Villa between 2013 and 2016.
The only blot on the Gunners’ copybook was a hamstring injury to David Luiz, which could keep the Brazilian out for the remainder of the season.
Arteta made nine changes to the side that lost in Spain and was pleased with his side’s dominance, the Gunners taking 19 shots and restricting the hosts to just a single shot on target.
“Apart from David’s injury, that was all we wanted,” Arteta told a media conference.
“We wanted to keep the team fresh and pick players with the right attitude to play this game. The focus was on today. It was a strong performance from the beginning.
“We dominated the game and won the three points, which we needed. It helps for Thursday as well.”
Aubameyang has now scored in all three of his appearances against Newcastle this season, becoming the first Arsenal player to score in three separate matches against an opponent in a single season since Alexis Sanchez against Hull City in 2014-15.
The Gabon international, who was recently struck down with malaria, came off the bench for the final five minutes against Villarreal in Spain and proved his fitness with an impressive display on Sunday.
“We thought he wasn’t going to manage it on Thursday. Two days before, he was struggling,” Arteta explained. “He could only manage to play 10 or 15 minutes.
“The day after, he started to feel better. It’s good to see he was fine today. He scored a goal, he played well, so it’s a real boost.”
Gabriel Martinelli enjoyed an eventful game, laying on Aubameyang’s goal with a fine cross and drawing a foul from Fabian Schar in the 90th minute which resulted in a red card for the Newcastle defender.
“Gabi’s improving every week,” Arteta said. “He’s taking his minutes in the right way.
“He’s developing in the way we all believe he can. Today he had an assist, some good moments on the left and we’re trying to play him as a number nine as well.”