Arsenal have ‘desire’ to be champions: Mikel Arteta

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NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United ended a remarkable 2022 in frustrating fashion as Jesse Marsch’s Leeds halted the Magpies’ Premier League charge.

Despite dominating possession and chances, Newcastle could not find the breakthrough, as the Whites held on to claim a point at St. James’ Park and put a dent in what had seemed an almost unstoppable rise on Tyneside.

The result does not do too much for the standings, with United still in the top three and Manchester City dropping points, however, it’s advantage top of the table for Arsenal, who have the chance to extend their six-point lead when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion later this evening.

Despite being able to name fit-again Callum Wilson in his matchday squad, Eddie Howe went with the same side that served United so well at Leicester City.

And while United were the better side in the first half, they seemed to lack a little bit of the spark that has seen them climb from 19th at the start of the calendar year to a high of second as recently as last week.

That final ball, the final pass and delivery just seemed to elude Newcastle as a string of half-chances went begging on either side of half-time.

Fabian Schar, one of United’s top performers this season, got a glancing blow on a Kieran Trippier corner but could not divert goalwards as set pieces became Newcastle’s main weapon as their high-pressing, slick football seemed a distant memory.

Another corner soon after, this time Joelinton headed back, and Dan Burn swung and missed a clear-cut chance from six yards.

After the break, Nick Pope had to be sharp to palm away a long-range effort from nine-goal Rodrigo as Leeds had a rare foray forward.

Chris Wood, preferred to Wilson, for the first hour anyway, was smothered by Illan Meslier before the Frenchman produced the save of the match to deny another Schar effort from a Trippier corner.

Sean Longstaff, so often United’s engine in the middle, began to find spaces in the second 45, but at vital times his quality left him. Joelinton set him free just after the hour, but he rifled over the top with the goal and Meslier at his mercy.

The second of his chances to score also saw him hammer into the Gallowgate End as this time Miguel Almiron set him free on the edge of the 18-yard box.

Longstaff’s finishing in many ways epitomized a performance that just didn’t quite reach the levels of recent weeks and months as United signed off on home turf with two points less than they’d expected.

While in the short term this will be a big disappointment to Howe and United, the long-term view should not be lost.

The Howe revolution started with a January win against Leeds and in many ways, it feels like it has been dented somewhat by the same side in December.

A lot can happen in a year, as United have proved, and progress was all that was required after a campaign of pain in 2021/22. This United side have far surpassed that, and the frustration shown in dropping two home points in December is in direct contrast to what would have been viewed as a solid result 12 months previous.

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