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Mesut Ozil, Ainsley Maitland-Niles catch the eye in win over Newcastle

Arsenal narrowly edged out Newcastle to end a run of three Premier League games without a win. A stunning Mesut Ozil volley was enough for the Gunners to claim the three points, although a late rally from Rafa Benitez's men certainly had the home fans worried.

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Ozil once again produced a performance of quality and commitment. It's curious: As his contract is winding down, he looks to be playing with more determination than ever before. Perhaps he's looking to attract potential suitors in the January transfer window.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles was another positive. The academy product played in an unfamiliar role at left-back, and for the second time in a week looked more than up to the task.


Arsenal would have hoped to record a more emphatic scoreline against a team who've been struggling for form. Instead, they failed to put sufficient distance between them and their opponent, resulting in a period of late pressure in which Arsenal looked very nervy indeed.

Manager rating out of 10

6 -- Arsene Wenger stuck with the back four he'd employed against West Ham and will be pleased by a second clean sheet in the space of a few days. However, his team still looked to be struggling for fluency going forward, and almost all of his substitutions were vociferously questioned by the home fans.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Petr Cech, 7 -- The veteran keeper has quietly been one of Arsenal's better players this season. He wasn't called upon to make any particularly difficult saves here, but he was a steady and calming influence at the back.


DF Hector Bellerin, 6 -- Sead Kolasinac's form has seen him dropped from the team, but Bellerin appears untouchable at the moment, despite a palpable dip in his performance level. His speed and movement mean he is frequently involved on the right flank, but his touch and passing have been off for some time.

DF Laurent Koscielny, 7 -- The Frenchman looked leggy against West Ham but was much more comfortable against Newcastle. However, his ailing Achilles must be struggling under the strain of this much football.

DF Nacho Monreal, 7 -- It will be interesting to see how Monreal copes now that Arsenal appear to have adopted a back four. He is perfect as the left-sided centre-half in a three, but he does not have much experience at the heart of a four. However, he looked solid enough in this game.

DF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 7 -- After impressing in the week against West Ham, the youngster retained his place in the back four. Left-back is a new position to Maitland-Niles, but he seems to have the athleticism and defensive awareness to cope with the role. He almost grabbed his first Arsenal goal after one storming run and shot.

MF Granit Xhaka, 6 -- In the final period of the game where Arsenal invited unnecessary pressure, Xhaka was particularly guilty of needlessly giving the ball away. He must improve his concentration if he is to retain his place in this team.

Mesut Ozil's wonder goal was the difference for Arsenal against Newcastle.
Mesut Ozil's wonder goal was the difference for Arsenal against Newcastle.

MF Mesut Ozil, 8 -- Wenger deployed Ozil in a deeper role than usual, and he was tasked with playing penetrative passes through the lines from deep. However, his greatest impact was a moment of brilliance in the final third: When a loose ball dropped to him, he dispatched an outstanding volley to give the Gunners the lead.

MF Jack Wilshere, 7 -- It seems Wenger doesn't feel that Wilshere has the durability to play a deep-lying role in midfield. He was pushed higher up the pitch to play as the team's No. 10 and linked well with the likes of Ozil and Alex Iwobi.

FW Alex Iwobi, 7 -- Although he does not get enough goals or assists, Iwobi's ability to retain the ball in tight spaces usually does help make Arsenal a more fluid team.

FW Alexis Sanchez, 6 -- Right now, it feels like many of Arsenal's better moves meet their end when Sanchez needlessly concedes possession. If he doesn't find his groove before January, Wenger faces a big decision on his future.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 6 -- When he was substituted for Olivier Giroud, boos rang around the Emirates Stadium. However, Wenger's decision appeared fair enough -- this was one of Lacazette's least effective performances at the Emirates Stadium.


FW Olivier Giroud, NR -- Came on for Lacazette (73) and made some good contributions at defensive set pieces.

FW Danny Welbeck, NR -- Replaced Iwobi (72) but did not make much impact. 

MF Francis Coquelin, NR -- Introduced for Sanchez (89) as Arsenal looked to protect their clean sheet.

James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.


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