Arsenal Start Season With One-Goal Victory Over Newcastle
Goalless First Half
Unai Emery had to work with a fairly small squad in the season’s first match. A few players were unavailable due to injury, a few due to a lack of match fitness and two due to a recent attempted robbery.
That meant that the Arsenal team was a bit cobbled together. Over the course of the first half, they looked cobbled together. For the most part when Arsenal had possession, they simply kept cycled the ball around the backline and defence.
A few long balls looked dangerous but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s pace could not get on the end of many. The club’s best chance of the first 45 came through the Gabon striker after a delicious chipped pass over the top of the Newcastle defence from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The striker got a shot away but it was roped directly at Martin Dubravka. It is worth mentioning that the Armenian midfielder’s positive contributions to the first half just about stopped here.
Mkhitaryan could be seen regularly out of position and making poor passes.
For Newcastle, the first half was mostly positive. They created a couple of decent chances, not the least of which came through Jonjo Shelvey.
The midfielder wrapped his boot around a loose ball just outside the Arsenal box. Bernd Leno must have been relieved to see it deflect on to the post as the German was caught somewhat flat-footed.
As was expected, Arsenal had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, however, were outshot three to five. Both sides managed just the one shot on target in what was a fairly disappointing 45 minutes of football.
Neither side made a change to start the second half. As was to be expected, the match continued on in very much the same vein as it had in the first 45.
Arsenal continued to hold possession and probe for weaknesses, but Newcastle’s defence continued to hold firm. That is until Ainsley Maitland-Niles intelligently intercepted a pass meant for Jetro Willems on the wing.
The makeshift right-back stormed forward from his own half all the way into the final third. Newcastle did well to get back but no one stepped up to pressure the ball carrier.
The result was plenty of time on the ball for Maitland-Niles, who picked out his pass beautifully. He found Aubameyang waiting in the box and a chipped pass found the striker. Aubameyang deadened the ball with his first touch and easily threaded the shot past Dubravka.
The goal gave Arsenal the confidence they lacked in the match up until that point. While they weren’t able to press the advantage right away, the Gunners defended well as Newcastle became more aggressive.
Arsenal looked to counter several times late in the match but were unable to do so. Meanwhile, Newcastle were generally kept at arm’s length by the Gunners’ defence and the home side could only try hopeful shots from a long way out.
The Last Word
Newcastle likely expected this opening-day defeat, while Arsenal will be delighted. The Gunners struggled mightily away from home last season and had difficulty keeping clean sheets.
In the first match of the new season, they managed both. With several players still not yet match fit, unavailable for selection or outright injured, the squad should only get better this season.
Next up is Burnley at home next weekend, where Unai Emery will expect another victory.
Embed from Getty Images