Jamal Lewis proved Steve Bruce got one thing right in Newcastle United’s 3-0 loss to Arsenal on Monday night by producing a strong display at left-back.
The Toon were void of confidence in most and comfortably beaten in the end, with a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a second-half strike from Bukayo Saka proving the difference between an Arsenal side now unbeaten in six and a Magpies side winless in nine across all competitions.
Newcastle looked a team sapped of ideas and passion in north London, despite Bruce stating just days earlier that the “gloves are off” in a scathing attack on his players, who will likely be in the firing line once more as the relegation fight crept ever closer to Tyneside.
As part of his mission to get Newcastle’s season back on track, Bruce opted to recall Lewis to his starting XI at the Emirates, having been without the £15m summer signing from Norwich City in recent weeks due to a knee injury sustained in training.
Lewis showed his fighting spirit early in the first half to deny Saka a chance to break by taking down the Arsenal forward, but used a hand to the 19-year-old’s face to concede one of the two fouls referee David Coote would call against him.
Gunners full-back Cedric Soares was also forced to foul Lewis in the opening stages of the second period to prevent a Newcastle break, though the Toon failed to use the free-kick to their benefit with Jonjo Shelvey’s delivery flicked into Bern Leno’s arms.
That chance proved to be a rare bright spark for the Magpies, as a sole shot from centre-back Jamaal Lascelles ultimately went down as Newcastle’s only on-target effort against a Mikel Arteta side that struck 20 attempts on Karl Darlow’s net, per WhoScored.
Aubameyang only accounted for two of the Gunners’ efforts, despite netting twice, as the Gabon forward actually saw less of the ball than Lewis, who registered 45 touches even though Newcastle enjoyed just 33.6 per cent of the possession at the Emirates.
Lewis further stood strong to show Bruce made the right decision by favouring his services over those of Matt Ritchie or Paul Dummett to offer a game-high four successful tackles – twice the tally of any other Toon player on a night only five men returned to the north-east having recorded a successful challenge.
The £38,000-per-week defender was additionally never dribbled past, thanks partly to his first-half foul on Saka, made one clearance and came out triumphant in five of his seven ground duels, per SofaScore.
Lewis’ success in the duel was far above his seasonal average of 2.7 contests won with a 52% win rate, while also offering more than twice his average tackles (1.6) and successful long passes (1.3) with three from eight attempts finding a teammate on Monday night.
Pressure may still be on Bruce for his position at the helm, with no Premier League side claiming fewer points over the last seven games, but Lewis came out of the Arsenal defeat with his honour intact.
AND in other news, Newcastle United are being targeted to solve another PL side’s transfer crisis.