THE survival party will have to wait a few days yet. Newcastle United need one more win to reach the 38-point mark that is generally regarded as the target for Premier League safety, but they never looked like securing it as they turned in a lethargic display at the Emirates.

Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette enabled Arsenal to climb above Manchester United and Tottenham into third position in the table, with the two-goal margin not really providing an adequate summation of the gulf between the two teams.

Arsenal didn’t really get out of first gear, yet were comfortably superior to their opponents in all departments. Newcastle played like a team cruising towards their summer break, and while the forthcoming home matches against Crystal Palace and Southampton should ensure Rafael Benitez’s side avoid a nervous end to the season, they will have to improve on last night’s listless showing. Had Cardiff City held on to beat Chelsea on Sunday, things might have been rather more jittery.

As it is, last night’s defeat should not prove too damaging, although the meekness of Newcastle’s surrender was still alarming. The Magpies mustered one effort on goal – a tame first-half effort from Salomon Rondon that was turned around the post – and were outplayed throughout, with Miguel Almiron and Ayoze Perez both proving especially ineffective.

Better sides than Newcastle have lost to Arsenal this term, but if Rafael Benitez is to remain on Tyneside beyond the summer, this was a reminder of the work that is still required. Aside from the Boxing Day hammering at Liverpool, Newcastle have not suffered a more comprehensive defeat all season.

Arsenal went into the game having won their previous nine league matches at the Emirates, a run that had taken Unai Emery’s side to the brink of a top-four position that had looked out of reach for most of the campaign. Completing a perfect ten never looked in doubt.

Emery’s decision to leave leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench was a somewhat surprising one, but Arsenal boast plenty of alternative attacking options, and it did not take the hosts long to hit their smooth-passing stride.

With Mezut Ozil drifting around in a free role behind Lacazette, and Aaron Ramsey pulling the strings from a deep-lying midfield position, the hosts dominated possession for much of the first half.

They didn’t always use it effectively, although their failure to test Martin Dubravka for much of the opening half-an-hour was merely a case of delaying the inevitable.

Rafael Benitez has settled on a three-man central-defensive formation as the best way of solidifying his backline, and with Jamaal Lascelles returning from injury to reclaim his place alongside Florian Lejeune and Paul Dummett, the visitors were reasonably well-organised early on.

That said, however, they were indebted to some helpful refereeing from Anthony Taylor when they erred badly inside their own penalty area in the 13th minute.

Sead Kolasinac rose unchallenged to flick on a corner, and an unmarked Ramsey drilled home a low finish at the back post. The midfielder peeled away immediately, but his celebrations were cut short by Taylor’s whistle, with the official having spotted Sokratis’ pull on Lejeune on the edge of the six-yard box. There was definite contact from the Arsenal centre-half, although it is debatable whether Lejeune would have been able to prevent Ramsey from scoring anyway.

Either way, it was a let off, but there would not be a second escape when Ramsey found himself in space in the 18-yard box once again on the half-hour mark.

The Welshman found Lacazette in the area, and with both DeAndre Yedlin and Lascelles hesitating to make a challenge, the ball bounced fortuitously back into Ramsey’s path. He took full advantage, sweeping a precise low finish past Martin Dubravka’s left hand.

Ramsey is set to leave Arsenal as a free agent this summer, with Juventus seemingly poised to sign him. That the Gunners are willing to relinquish him at the end of his contract suggests they are either supremely confident of being able to make world-class signings of their own or exceptionally naïve when it comes to transfer dealings. What Newcastle would give for a player like the 28-year-old.

The Magpies’ only first-half effort came within a minute of them falling behind, and saw Salomon Rondon outmuscle Sokratis to fire in a fiercely-struck effort that Bernd Leno turned around the post.

Beyond that, the visitors were barely able to string together more than a couple of passes in the Arsenal half, with both Perez and Almiron proving frustratingly ineffective. Admittedly, they spent most of their time feeding on scraps, but on the rare occasions they found themselves in possession, they charged down a series of blind alleys. Benitez, bawling out instructions from the touchline, cut a frustrated figure as a result.

The Newcastle boss would have been even unhappier at the interval had Matt Ritchie not produced a sensational goalline clearance to prevent Lacazette doubling Arsenal’s lead in first-half stoppage time.

Having received Ozil’s pull-back, the French striker did everything right as he turned and shot goalwards, but a back-pedalling Ritchie somehow kept the ball out with a stooped diving header.

Ritchie was called into defensive action again at the start of the second half, clearing Ozil’s ball into the box after the German created space via some intricate interplay with Lacazette, and while Dubravka was still relatively untroubled, Arsenal’s dominance became even more pronounced after the break.

The introduction of Aubameyang shortly after the hour mark only increased the difficulty of Newcastle’s task, and there was never really any suggestion of the visitors getting themselves back into the game, such was their complete lack of attacking impetus.

Instead, it was Arsenal who continued to threaten, and Aubameyang almost added a second with 17 minutes left. Having been released into the right-hand side of the area by Ozil, the substitute hammered in a vicious low shot that was parried by Dubravka.

The hosts deserved a second goal, and it arrived with seven minutes left. Lascelles was poor all night, and the centre-half got himself into a dreadful position as Aubameyang looped a header over him. Lacazette was able to race into the area, and with Dubravka forced to leave his line, the Frenchman lobbed home a deft finish.