For various reasons, Arsenal fielded a rather weak starting XI on Sunday at Newcastle.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang came to their rescue, scoring off a heads-up play by Ainsley Maitland-Niles and giving Arsenal a hard-fought 1-0 win at St. James’ Park to start the second season of Unai Emery’s tenure in successful fashion.
Maitland-Niles alertly stepped in front of a Newcastle pass, and his interception provided the perfect first touch to start a flying run forward. He picked his head up and found Aubameyang, unmarked and streaking into the box.
Aubameyang’s calm first touch set up a dink past Newcastle keeper Martin Dúbravka for the goal:
Star summer additions Nicolas Pépé and Dani Ceballos made their Arsenal debuts in the second half, while marquee Deadline Day signing David Luiz was available for selection but left on the bench, perhaps because he’s not yet up to speed with his new teammates.
Alexandre Lacazette didn’t get in the game after picking up an injury in preseason, while Mesut Özil and Sead Kolasinac missed the match entirely due to security concerns.
All told, Arsenal’s lineup was fairly unexceptional.
Newcastle’s situation might have been even worse.
The Magpies didn’t do much business in the summer transfer window, despite their sleeping giant status in terms of value and fan support. It bred a toxic atmosphere at the team’s opener, which is usually a daunting venue for away sides, not home sides.
A crowd reportedly several thousand short of capacity watched a Newcastle side bereft of threats bigger than preying upon Arsenal’s own shortcomings. Former Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron supplied some creativity going forward, but not enough to salvage any points.
Emery and the Gunners now host Burnley in the opener at the Emirates before a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool in two weeks.
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