Arsenal claimed all three points as they got their Premier League season up and running with some Aubameyang magic, as he netted the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — who marked his 50th Premier League appearance with a goal — takes his rich goal-scoring form into the new season.
After the excitement that the transfer window generated, with six new arrivals coming in — including club record signing Nicolas Pepe — optimism was high going into the new season.
Teenagers Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson started on Sunday, while the bench was packed full of quality – including three big new arrivals in Pepe, Dani Ceballos and David Luiz.
Some of the optimism faded away during the first half as Emery’s side struggled to stamp their authority, on a scrappy game which was played over horrible conditions on Tyneside.
Newcastle created a few chances and showed some sparks of life. Jonjo Shelvey’s fierce shot in the first half rattled the outside of the post, giving the ‘Toon Army’ something to cheer about.
The gunners also created some chances, with Aubameyang having one shot saved, and Nacho Monreal setting up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for an opportunity, which he blazed over. Mkhitaryan was especially wasteful during the game.
This did not feel like the ideal game for Aubameyang to lead the line in. Against a deep-lying back-line, the striker’s best chances to burst in behind came down the flanks. But all too often that left Arsenal’s attack without a focal point.
A moment of quality down the right soon after the interval, saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles superbly pick out Aubameyang in space, and there was only going to be one outcome.
The goal settled the Gunners down and they went on to see the game out relatively comfortably, meaning they have now already equalled the same number of clean sheets on the road as they achieved last season in the Premier League.
And we also saw the Premier League debuts of Ceballos, Pepe and Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli as second half substitutes.
There wasn’t a lot to love about Newcastle’s first match, but new signing Allan Saint-Maximin impressed on his debut. he looked promising coming on as a substitute in the second half.
Arsenal’s display had all the hallmarks of the majority of away games last season, scrappy in possession and poor in attack. However, the quality they possess in the final third was enough to get them through.
Lucas Torreira was amongst the substitutes, as was Alexandre Lacazette. Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac did not feature, because of their security-enforced absence.
And when you consider Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding all coming back from injury soon, Unai Emery is going to have plenty of talent to choose from.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Aubameyang looked sharp and alert from the outset, and had Newcastle not gifted him an opening in the way they did, you felt he would have carved a goal out for himself.
After nearly an hour with little to no service coming his way, Aubameyang did not hesitate when the best chance so far came his way. An elegant chip suggesting that the forward’s fine form from last season, promises to bring greater things this season.
His goal early in the second half at St James’ Park, took his tally in the Premier League to 33 goals in just 50 games.
Aubameyang won the golden boot in his first full season in English football, and it would be foolish to back against the Gabon international topping the scoring charts again.
It might not always be pretty over the coming weeks, but when you have Aubameyang in your side, you always have a chance.
The exciting thing about this Arsenal side is that there is clearly much more to come. Performances will improve and the forward line will get better and better as the new faces settle in. So the fans have a lot to be optimistic about this coming season.