Arsenal kick-started their Premier League campaign with an away win at Newcastle United as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal proved to be the difference.
Arsenal were playing their opening game of the season away from the Emirates for the first time in eight years. Considering Arsenal’s performances on the road in the last two seasons, fans were naturally worried about the outcome of the game, irrespective of the opponent.
But, the Gunners showed great character in securing three points and added the cherry on top with an away clean sheet. Much of that credit must go to Arsenal’s defence and in particular Calum Chambers. Upon his return to the club, he showed the manager that he could be a reliable option in defence this season. Overall, Arsenal’s back-four were tremendous and kept things tight at the back.
On the other end, there were starts for teenage stars Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock as Inai Emery took the time to bring his A-team. The game started quietly with chances at both ends coming at a premium. Both teams had a few attempts, but none worthy of breaking the deadlock.
It took 13 minutes since the restart for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to control an Ainsley Maitland-Niles cross expertly to slot the opening goal. Arsenal held on to their slender lead to secure all three points and most importantly an away clean sheet to begin their season. Here’s how Arsenal’s players have been rated from their win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.
Bernd Leno: 7/10
Leno would be pleased with the game and how little he had to work to keep the clean sheet. However, he was on hand to make some stops and handled his area calmly. What caught the eye was his improvement in punching at crosses that were sent his way, and overall, he had a good evening and a deserved clean sheet.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 8/10
A mature display from Maitland-Niles as he handled so much pressure on his side. The full-back was the prime target of fouls from the Newcastle United players, but held his ground defensively and made a decisive contribution in the final third. Maitland-Niles intercepted a long pass with elan and sent a delightful cross for Aubameyang to score. Decisive.
Sokratis will be pleased with his contribution to the game. He did face some problems dealing with Newcastle’s high press, but came out unscathed. Sokratis was aggressive as usual and was instructing Chambers to do things right at the back, which Chambers did. A first clean sheet as well to add to the win.
Calum Chambers: 7/10
There were moments of sloppiness, but as a figure at the back, Chambers was calm and in control of the situation. His good performances and experience playing for Fulham last season came in handy and he might have given Unai Emery a selection headache for the next game.
Nacho Monreal: 7.5/10
A terrific performance from Monreal, who rolled back the years on Sunday. He may not have the athleticism of the past, but he was a rock defensively. Rarely beaten in wide areas, he controlled Newcastle’s press well. While there wasn’t much going forward from Monreal, he balanced that defensively with a good performance.
Granit Xhaka: 6.5/10
There was a feeling that Xhaka might fall down the pecking order in the Arsenal midfield, but the Swiss international’s display might have secured his place for now. Was slow to react to some of the press from the opposition, with his overall game not showing any improvements. He did gradually improve in the second half, and also had a field day defensively, especially against Miguel Almiron.
Matteo Guendouzi: 7.5/10
Unlike Xhaka, Guendouzi was always looking to take the ball forward, but showed some lapses in concentration in the first half, as he lost the ball many times. Like the entire team, he too improved massively in the second period.
Joe Willock: 6.5/10
Willock passed Emery’s experiment as he showcased his talent entirely on the field. Some lovely touches, the intensity in his game and the talent that cannot be denied, Willock has a great future at the club. Emery should afford him more chances during the season, although it is likely that he will have to bide his time.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 5/10
Going by the post-match reactions from fans on social media, Mkhitaryan was deemed a liability. Yes, to an extent he was losing the ball incessantly and was not able to force himself into proper attacking positions. He did create a few chances, notably for Aubameyang in the first half, but missing a glorious one himself, puts him under the radar once more.
Reiss Nelson: 7/10
Nelson showed Arsenal fans a glimpse of what the future might hold. Some excellent movements from the youngsters, awareness, and his overall play was functional. His experience playing in the Bundesliga is paying dividends. He is still an unpolished diamond like Willock, and more opportunities this season will help him mature in his overall game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 8.5/10
Alexandre Lacazette is a visible, hard-working force, but Aubameyang is the clinical striker and needs that one good chance to make his mark. He had a few chances before he scored the goal, but neither did he disappoint then nor when Maitland-Niles sent a ball for the Gabonese. Brilliant strike in the end that wrapped all three points for the Gunners.
Dani Ceballos: 6/10
Not the best of debuts for the Real Madrid loanee. He lost possession a few times, showed that rustiness, which is not uncommon for players playing in the Premier League for the first time. However, he did show his quality when receiving balls and helping the team by making forward plays. He is destined to have a good season.
Nicolas Pepe: 7/10
Arsenal’s record arrival brought with him a heap of expectations. He did start showing what he is capable of with a brilliant dummy move. His speed was there to see, but with only a short while on the pitch, he seemed rusty and not entirely match fit. One can only imagine what he might be able to bring to the team when he gets into his stride, like last season for Lille.
Gabriel Martinelli: 6/10
A surprise substitute as many were expecting Emery to send Lacazette or someone like Lucas Torreira. However, like Pepe, Martinelli showed glimpses of his game, with some brilliant runs down the left side. He could have created a few chances from those moves, but like other stars, looked rusty.