Highlights - Arsenal 0-0 Villarreal (Agg 2-1)May 6
Ritchie encouraged by performance of Newcastle’s big money buys
The Magpies were made to pay for one error by the Gunners.
Matt Ritchie has seen enough from big money signings Joelinton and Miguel Almiron to hope Newcastle can prosper this season – if they can cut out the costly mistakes.
The Magpies slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at St James’ Park on Sunday as new head coach Steve Bruce got off to a losing start on a day when thousands of fans registered their displeasure with owner Mike Ashley by staying away.
There were encouraging signs in the first half, during which Jonjo Shelvey hit the post and Brazilian newcomer Joelinton came close to opening his account, but they wilted in the wake of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 58th-minute goal, sparking ominous predictions from the more pessimistic element of their support.
However, Ritchie told NUFC TV: “I thought we performed really well in spells, we got into some really good areas.
“The quality wasn’t quite there in the final third – speaking for myself, really, I feel I should have had a shot on one and there was one cross that I felt I should have done better with personally.
“We got into some good areas, created some in the final third – I thought Miguel and Joe were a real handful. Miggy was fantastic throughout the whole game and I’m sure that will excite everyone involved with the club, so there are certainly positives to take.
“Defensively we were very solid, very sound, and it’s just disappointing that the goal came from a little bit of sloppy play from us rather than outstanding play from Arsenal.”
There was little to choose between the sides until substitute Jetro Willems, whose introduction moments earlier had come amid initial confusion over his role, allowed full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles to intercept Paul Dummett’s pass and cross for Aubameyang to control and beat keeper Martin Dubravka.
Ritchie said: “Playing top teams with top players, you have to limit them to very little. We did that and they probably only had one or two shots on our goal.
“But at the top level, they take them and Aubameyang, a top striker, did that, so it’s frustrating. But we need to dust ourselves down and move on.”
The Magpies will attempt to open their account at the second time of asking at promoted Norwich next Saturday while Arsenal entertain Burnley having banked a first Premier League clean sheet on the road some eight months before they managed the same feat during the last campaign.
They did so with teenagers Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock handed starting roles on Tyneside with manager Unai Emery keen to blood his young players when the time is right.
He said: “They are young, they need to get confidence, to get experience. But we need to be winning.
“We are helping them but pushing them and our demand is a very big demand. They need to do one process and sometimes it’s playing like [on Sunday], and sometimes it’s maybe starting in the bench.
“But above all, they are going to be with us.”