Arsenal swaggered around the Emirates like a team who have had a substantial weight lifted off their shoulders. Approximately around £350,000-per-week’s worth.
Of course, Mesut Ozil wouldn’t have featured in this win over Newcastle – his time as an Arsenal footballer ended way before the deal to terminate his contract last week allowing him to sign for Fenerbahce was struck.
But for the avoidance of any doubt, Arsenal proved emphatically here that there will be life without Ozil.
Newcastle were so vastly inferior that the Gunners didn’t really need to shift out of second gear as they extend their unbeaten run to five games.
Whether that says more about how far the Magpies have fallen under Steve Bruce or if Arsenal can mount a serious challenge for European football when just weeks ago they were being touted as relegation candidates will become clearer in the weeks ahead.
But what is clear is that Arsenal are finally upwardly mobile, Newcastle, in contrast, are plummeting with no sign of recovery.
Arsenal’s start were slick, bursting with intent and positivity – a far cry from their performance here against Crystal Palace last Thursday.
Mikel Arteta blamed fatigue for their lacklustre display, a direct result of the Premier League’s hectic schedule and their refusal to sanction the allowance of five substitutes.
There were no signs of tiredness from his team. Perhaps it was the three changes, most notably Thomas Partey returning to the starting XI for the first time since the north London derby loss on December 6 after recovering from injury, that provided the Gunners with the impetus.
Whatever it was, this was a marked improvement from the feeble draw against Palace.
How Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang managed to hit the post, albeit from a tight angle, with the goal gaping appeared to be beyond his manager as Arteta turned to his bench in disbelief in the 15th minute.
It would have been no more than Arsenal deserved. It would have been no more than Newcastle deserved, too.
Bruce is becoming a target for disgruntled natives who are growing restless with every passing match day.
He isn’t helping himself on this evidence. An opportune counter attack aside, there appeared little attacking intent from Newcastle throughout this encounter.
One goal in seven goals tells a sorry story. No wins in nine tells another. Neither will endear Bruce to turning supporters.
The fact the Magpies boss made eight changes – including a start for Andy Carroll – from the side that lost 1-0 to Sheffield United smacked of desperation.
Here at the Emirates his side were just as desperate.
Aubameyang missed another glorious opportunity in the 25th minute, firing wildly over the bar following excellent work from the improving Emile Smith Rowe.
In the build up to this clash Arteta backed Aubameyang, who has scored just three Premier League goals before this clash, to regain his best form sooner rather than later.
There appeared little evidence of that during the first half, though maybe Arteta knew what was about to follow.
He missed another opportunity in the 41st minute, firing wide when he should really have at least made Karl Darlow work, though the Newcastle keeper had to be on his toes to deny Aubameyang’s intended cross from creeping inside his near post on the stroke of half-time.
The chances kept coming, David Luiz, who has unmarked, heading Saka’s corner wide with virtually the final kick of the half.
Somehow Newcastle held on until half-time; perhaps providing some justification for Bruce’s approach.
Another 45 minutes like the last and surely Newcastle would fold. You’d imagine Arteta would have been pressing home that message during his team-talk.
And so it proved as Arsenal started the second half where they left the first, creating chances.
Alexandre Lacazette’s crisp strike that was arrowing inside the back post saved by Darlow inside two minutes of the restart.
It wasn’t long, however, before Arsenal were finally ahead. Inevitably, Partey – who was excellent on his return to the team -was at the centre of it, the Ghanian’s searching pass out to Aubameyang setting the striker away.
The Gunners captain still had plenty to do – but finally he displayed why he now holds the position as the club’s highest earner following Ozil’s departure.
Krafth looked petrified as Aubameyang had him isolated – and this time the Gunners skipper made no mistake, firing a fierce effort past Darlow in the 50th minute.
Perhaps, Arteta’s prediction of an Aubameyang goal glut was right after all.
Ten minutes later Arsenal doubled their lead; Bukayo Saka took the accolades firing ruthlessly past Darlow from eight yards – but Smith Rowe deserves his fair share of the plaudits, the youngster terrorising Krafth – who was having an evening to forget – before putting the ball on a plate for his team-mate.
Aubameyang added a third 13 minutes from time to put a much fairer complexion on the scoreline. Arsenal, excellent. The less said about Newcastle the better.