MIKEL ARTETA suffered another night of Toon torture as Arsenal’s hopes of opening a ten-point lead at the top of the League were thwarted by Newcastle’s spoilers.

It was the 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park in the penultimate game of last season which effectively killed the Gunners’ top four hopes and condemned them to another year in the Europa League.

Arsenal were left frustrated after being held by Newcastle

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Arsenal were left frustrated after being held by NewcastleCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Mikel Arteta's side failed to capitalise and move ten points clear at the top

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Mikel Arteta’s side failed to capitalise and move ten points clear at the topCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Arsenal were unable to find a way past Nick Pope and the Newcastle defence

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Arsenal were unable to find a way past Nick Pope and the Newcastle defenceCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Joelinton headed a great chance wide for Newcastle at the end of the first half

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Joelinton headed a great chance wide for Newcastle at the end of the first halfCredit: Getty

Furious Arteta was caught by the Amazon documentary cameras telling his players to “Shut up and eat it,” in the immediate aftermath of that gutless display.

And though the consequences of this setback are nowhere near as serious for the runaway leaders, it certainly didn’t feel that way at the final whistle.

Arteta could certainly have no complaints about the commitment or physicality of his players this time.

But failure to score for the first time in the league all season has opened up the door for Manchester City to cut the gap at the top to five points with a win at Chelsea on Thursday evening.

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The good news is that they are unlikely to run into more stubborn opponents than Newcastle any time soon.

Eddie Howe’s team are now unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions and can take huge confidence from the way they coped with the form team of the moment.

For in a match featuring more yellow cards than shots on target, Arteta was left tearing his hair out as wave after wave of attack foundered against a black and white brick wall.

It was not until the 86th minute that keeper Nick Pope was required to make a meaningful save when he stuck out a leg to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s goalbound effort.

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And they might even have left North London with all three points had they taken advantage of Kieran Trippier’s dead ball brilliance.

But you suspect the thousands of travelling supporters who defied the train strike will settle for the draw which keeps their team in the top four and with real hopes of Champions League qualification.

And they certainly won’t care a jot for the boos which greeted the final whistle and confirmed that they are now regarded as serious challengers by the Premier League elite.

Arsenal were convinced they should have had a stoppage time penalty when Granit Xhaka’s last gasp cross struck Jacob Murphy on the elbow.

But referee Andy Madley wasn’t interested and VAR Stuart Attwell wasn’t going to hand them a lifeline that late in the day.

Yet it hadn’t looked like it was going to be a stalemate when Arsenal came flying out of the traps looking to establish their dominance right from the off as usual.

This one was no exception as Martin Odegaard volleyed over, Bukayo Saka skinned Dan Burn down the wing before Newcastle scrambled clear and Gabriel Martinelli passed up a decent shooting opportunity all in the first five minutes.

But Newcastle don’t have the best defensive record in the country for nothing and were not going to be intimidated by the intense pressure.

And having ridden out that early onslaught they were more than happy to keep things tight and frustrate the Arsenal fans who were expecting to see another comfortable victory.

No-one was getting more wound up than Arteta, who was a ball of nervous energy as he marshalled his team’s every move from the edge of his technical area.

Back to back bookings for Bruno Guimaraes and Callum Wilson did little to improve his mood as he harangued fourth official Jarred Gillet over Newcastle’s industrial approach.

Eddie Howe's Newcastle have now gone 15 matches without defeat

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Eddie Howe’s Newcastle have now gone 15 matches without defeatCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Eddie Nketiah and Newcastle defender Fabian Schar tussle for the ball

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Eddie Nketiah and Newcastle defender Fabian Schar tussle for the ballCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Arsenal's players furiously appeal for a late penalty for a handball

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Arsenal’s players furiously appeal for a late penalty for a handballCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun

Having been completely overpowered by Howe’s muscular Magpies the last time these sides met, it was clear that Arteta was determined not to lose the physical battle again.

But the manager’s histrionics were doing little to calm his players and a spate of yellow cards for Eddie Nketiah, Odegaard and Granit Xhaka only added to the febrile atmosphere.

Referee Madley was the busiest man in the Emirates as battles broke out all over the pitch and possession of the ball almost became of secondary importance.

And the fact that neither keeper was forced into a meaningful first-half save only confirmed the suspicion that this one was not going to be a feast of football.

Joelinton almost broke the deadlock right on the stroke of half-time but was just unable to squeeze his diving header inside the back post after Kieran Trippier’s corner had been flicked on by Fabian Schar.

Having lost their last 11 visits to the Emirates and failing to even score in the last seven, Newcastle were clearly starting to fancy their chances of upsetting the Arsenal applecart.

Schar’s header from another Trippier delivery looped just over before Wilson failed to apply a finishing touch to Miguel Almiron’s inviting low cross.

And with even the immaculate Odegaard unable to exert his control on proceedings, there was a danger of Arsenal getting drawn into a scrap which they were never going to win.

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Two more bookings for Joelinton and Almiron gave Saka the opportunity to sling one into the mixer, where Burn’s blatant shirt pull on Gabriel went unnoticed by the officials.

But Newcastle were not going to be broken by fair means or foul and now Arsenal will be desperate to recapture their finishing touch in next week’s North London derby.



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