Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said he was “gutted” after Gabriel Martinelli’s pre-match injury forced a last-minute reshuffle, and delivered his verdict on misfiring forward Willian.
Arsenal were pushed into extra time by Newcastle but ultimately secured passage to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Goals from Emile Smith Rowe and a late tap-in from Pierre Emerick Aubameyang sealed the contest.
Regarding the impressive Smith Rowe – who survived a red card scare via VAR, Arteta said (via Football London): “We believe in him.
“He’s becoming more and more important in the team and today he showed that again the way he came on.
“The personality that he played with. And we asked him to be more in the box to be more a threat in front of goal, and today he scored a really important goal for us.
“I was going mad because when I saw the [red card] action on TV I didn’t think that he can get sent off.
“But thank God the regulators decided to get VAR. And today it worked the way it should work so I’m so happy to have that.”
FULL MATCH REPORT: Smith Rowe has day to remember as Arsenal sink Newcastle in extra-time
Regarding the injured Martinelli, he added: “I am gutted. I was in my office before the game and one of the medical staff came in and said he twisted his ankle.
“He was in tears and in a lot of pain. We’re going to see how he is but he didn’t look good. He was in pain. He’s a character that he wants to play the next game, hopefully it’s not too serious.”
Out of form winger Willian has drawn stinging criticism since his cross-London move, but Arteta was in no mood to give up on his free agent acquisition.
“I think he was improving and improving,” said Arteta. “He’s been out as well because he was ill. He missed two weeks of training and football.
“He had some good moments and other moments where he needed more help.
“Some decisions weren’t the best but we’re going to keep trying with him. He’s showing in training how much he wants it.”
Regarding the omission of Thomas Partey, he concluded: “We assessed the situation and how much training he’s done and he was a little bit short. He’s feeling really good at the moment.”
Smith Rowe talks red card incident
Arsenal’s man of the match – Smith Rowe – also spoke to the press, stating: “I was really happy, a bit of a relief for me with the incident before (the overturned red card) – it definitely wasn’t intentional – happy to get the goal and get through to the next round.
“We knew how tough it was going to be, they’re a tough opponent. It was about breaking them down. From a young kid I have always wanted to play for this club, I am really happy.
“It shows how together we are, we have been working off the pitch to get closer as a group and it shows.”