Martin Dubravka left 'surprised' after Newcastle United abandon plan

Martin Dubravka had a message for his team-mates after the break at the Emirates Stadium.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 5:05 pm

“Stick with the plan”, bellowed Dubravka from between the posts after Arsenal scored two goals in three second-half minutes on Sunday.

But it was lost in the storm at the stadium, which was sodden when the teams took to the field following a weekend deluge from Storm Dennis.

Newcastle United had stuck to Steve Bruce’s plan before the break – and played very well. They had been organised and disciplined out of possession for most of the half, and had attacked down the flanks with the pace of Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Valentino Lazaro when they took the ball from Mikel Arteta’s side.

Martin Dubravka.

Arsenal had struggled for spells, and the outcome, seemingly, was in the balance at the break.

Everything, however, changed after the interval. Newcastle played badly in the second half, individually and collectively, and lost 4-0.

Dubravka, one of only two players to stop to speak to journalists after the game, was at a loss to explain what had happened in the mixed zone, which a number of players had avoided as they left the stadium.

“In the first 45 minutes, we were very solid and defended very well,” said the goalkeeper. “They didn’t create many chances.

Allan Saint-Maximin reacts to the third goal.

“I don’t know what happened after the half time. After two goals, we absolutely changed the style, and I don’t why. I was trying to say to the guys ‘stick with the plan’, because I think it suits us. Unfortunately, they scored two more goals.

“After the two goals, we were trying to change something and we opened the spaces. We were trying to attack more, and we opened the spaces for their players. Unfortunately, they took their chances and killed us.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game, and we have to give some credit to Arsenal as well, They have some quality. But in the first half, we did so, so well. After the half time I don’t know we didn’t stick with the same style.

“Obviously, we wanted to create chances and score some goals, but the space was probably too much for them. They were clinical after that.”

Dubravka was at fault for Arsenal’s third goal, scored by Mesut Ozil. The Slovakia international, the club’s only ever-present this season, misjudged Ozil’s shot, and it bounced over the line.

Bruce, United’s head coach, labelled it a “poor mistake” after acknowledging Dubravka’s consistency between the posts over the past six months.

“When we open up, we lose it at the other end and become too open,” said Bruce, who is again under pressure on Tyneside. “I have to say Martin has been fantastic all season, but it’s a poor mistake.”

The roles of other players, notably Lazaro on his full debut for the club, were highlighted on TV during the live game.

However, Dubravka – who has made more saves (106) than any other Premier League goalkeeper this season – believes that it was a collective failure, not individual errors, which condemned Newcastle to an eighth successive defeat at the Emirates Stadium, where the club has only scored one goal in six visits.

All the goals, Dubravka felt, had been stoppable.

“I’m disappointed with all of the goals, not only with the third one, which was unlucky,” said Dubravka. “We should do it better, all of us, especially in the second half. Everyone.

“We have to be critical of all the team, not just one or two guys. We gave them so much space in the second half. That was the thing, especially in the box.”

The team reacted to early-season defeats to Norwich City and Leicester City by beating Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United respectively.

And the reaction of the team to this latest setback is all-important, according to Dubravka, who joined the club two years ago, initially on loan, from Sparta Prague.

What the players must do is stick to the plan, something that he believes they didn’t do against Arsenal after going behind.

“It was always our strength, that we were solid,” said the 31-year-old. “If the team creates some chances, we still, somehow, defended. Stick with the plan, do what you know you have to do. I was surprised. Especially first half, we took the ball, we were trying to pass the ball to the side, open the space and create some chances. It works against the top teams.”

Newcastle, 13th in the Premier League and seven points above the relegation zone, take on 14th-placed Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. The game is followed by a home fixture against Burnley and an away match against Southampton.

There is also an FA Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion on the horizon for Bruce’s players, who reached the fifth round of the competition this month for the first time in 14 years.

The proximity of United’s league opposition to them in the league has given this run of games an added significance.

“These four or five games are going to be crucial for us, because we’re playing against the teams close to us,” said Dubravka. “Also, the reaction to defeats was good, so I hope it will be the same.”

Meanwhile, the remaining tickets for Newcastle’s game against Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium on March 7 will go on general sale tomorrow.