NEWCASTLE UNITED supporters have seen all this before. A club in crisis, without a Premier League away win since December, limping towards the end of the season with its manager under huge pressure thanks to mounting discontent in the stands.

Still, enough about Arsenal and their ongoing implosion. For once, it is Newcastle United who are cruising through the final month of the campaign without a care in the world. From fretting about relegation at the turn of the year to passing Rafael Benitez’s magical 40-point mark with five games to spare, this has been quite some 2018 for the Magpies.

Benitez will say all the right things about not wanting to ease up in the final month of the season, but after he led his players in a post-match celebration in front of the Gallowgate End, even the ever-reserved Newcastle boss would have to concede that it is mission accomplished for the Magpies this season.

Thanks to a sensational run of form that has seen Newcastle claim 22 points from a possible 36 since New Year’s Day, Benitez’s side have secured their Premier League status in style. It remains to be seen whether the club’s off-field situation is resolved sufficiently to give Benitez a realistic chance of strengthening significantly this summer, but on the evidence of today’s win over an Arsenal side that reached the last four of the Europa League on Thursday, it will not take much to turn this Newcastle team into a side that can spend next season targeting Europe themselves rather than fretting against the drop.

In the likes of Jamaal Lascelles, Mo Diame, Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie, Benitez has nurtured a group of players that are unrecognisable from the squad that won promotion from the Championship 12 months ago. No longer a team of ‘Championship players playing in the Premier League’, this is now a team that has proved it belongs amongst the elite.

Trailing to Alexandre Lacazette’s early opener after Arsenal dominated the opening 20 minutes, it would have been easy for the Magpies to have slipped to what would have been an 11th successive reverse against the Gunners.

Instead, Perez equalised as he converted DeAndre Yedlin’s cross towards the end of the first half, and Ritchie clipped home a 68th-minute winner after Perez flicked Islam Slimani’s header into his path.

Kenedy struck the crossbar as Newcastle threatened to pull even further clear, but in the end, two goals were sufficient to secure a fourth win in a row. If they can make it five when they travel to Everton on Monday, they will rise to ninth in the table.

They were too streetwise for Arsenal this afternoon, even if their opponents’ early attacking play threatened to make a mockery of the Gunners’ ongoing troubles.

Wenger has shied away from pairing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Lacazette, but the pair started together in the league for the first time, albeit with Aubameyang playing down the left.

Both players featured heavily on Graham Carr’s wanted list during his time in charge of Newcastle’s scouting system, and both were involved as the Gunners claimed an early lead.

Shkodran Mustafi’s floated long ball sent Aubameyang scampering on the outside of Yedlin, and the Gabon international, who once played at Heaton Stannington as his national side warmed up for the 2012 Olympics, delivered a crisp low ball into the area.

Lacazette had raced into the box to join him, and the Frenchman clipped a first-time volley past a helpless Martin Dubravka.

With Aubameyang regularly breaking down the left-hand side, and former Middlesbrough loanee, Callum Chambers, playing as an auxiliary winger on the opposite flank, Arsenal were at their free-flowing best for spells of the first half.

Aubameyang cut in from the flank to fire in a shot that deflected over off Ritchie, before Alex Iwobi spun into space to drill in a low effort that Dubravka claimed.

Newcastle’s attacking in the opening half-hour was largely restricted to Shelvey trying to float long passes over the Arsenal back four. The majority failed to cause too many problems to Mustafi and Rob Holding, but Shelvey’s pinpoint precision means there is always the potential for one of his passes to release a team-mate.

That is why he will continue to be linked with a possible call-up to England’s World Cup squad despite Gareth Southgate’s obvious reluctance to turn to him, and it was the main reason why Newcastle were able to claim a 29th-minute equaliser yesterday despite having been on the back foot up to that point.

Shelvey’s vision released Gayle beyond the Arsenal defence, and while the Newcastle striker was too wide to make a bee-line for the goal, he intelligently rolled the ball to Yedlin on the right.

Yedlin whipped an inviting ball into the area, and Perez stole ahead of Holding to hook home an excellent first-time finish from the corner of the six-yard box. Perez has been criticised for a lack of goal threat throughout his Magpies career, but yesterday’s strike made it three goals in his last three games. It also made him Newcastle’s joint-highest scorer in the league.

In truth, the goal came against the run of play, and Arsenal ended the first half back in control of both possession and territory.

Chambers shot wide and headed over from Granit Xhaka’s corner, but it was Premier League debutant Joe Willock who wasted Arsenal’s best chance of reclaiming their lead.

Diame displayed some uncharacteristic sloppiness as he lost the ball in his own half, but while Lacazette teed up Willock inside the area, the England Under-19 international, who was not even born when Wenger took charge of his first game as Arsenal boss, made a complete mess of trying to get a shot away.

Newcastle were somewhat fortunate to be level at the break, but there was much more intensity and purpose to their second-half play and they spent most of the second period forcing their opponents onto the back foot.

Benitez had clearly instructed his back four to play higher up the field in the second half, and as a result, Ritchie, Perez and Kenedy found it easier to support first Gayle, and then Slimani, who came off the bench shortly after the hour mark.

Ritchie fired a dipping half-volley over the crossbar after the Arsenal defence failed to deal with a free-kick, but when another opportunity fell the Scotsman’s way five minutes later, he did not need a second invitation to convert.

As had been the case with Perez’s opener, Ritchie’s goal was the result of some excellent interplay, with Perez flicking Slimani’s downward header into his fellow midfielder’s path. Ritchie has been in fine goalscoring form since the turn of the year, and he held his nerve superbly to chip an excellent finish over Petr Cech.

Newcastle’s dominance of the second half was a mirror image of the way in which Arsenal had held sway before the break, and the hosts came within inches of adding a third goal with 15 minutes left.

Kenedy broke into the left-hand side of the area, but while his shot looped over Cech via a hefty deflection off Mustafi, the ball rebounded to safety off the crossbar.