Pierre Emerik-Aubameyang’s second half strike handed Arsenal a 1-0 win in their opening Premier League game of the season at Newcastle.
Steve Bruce, taking charge of the Magpies for the first time, starts his tenure on Tyneside with a loss.
In a match that was far from a classic, the visitors’ brand new away kit was perhaps the brightest part of a dull, rainy afternoon in the north east.
A throwback to their early 90s design, this performance and result also proved to be reminiscent of Arsenal teams from that era.
With a number of Newcastle fans staying away from St. James' Park in protest at owner Mike Ashley, the atmosphere inside the ground was also very flat.
The first half seemed to play out like a hangover from pre-season with neither side able to take control, passes going astray and few opportunities being created.
Newcastle debutant Joelinton’s header from Matt Richie’s cross quarter of an hour into the game was the first notable goalscoring opportunity but the Brazilian’s header glanced wide of Bernd Leno’s left hand post.
A few minutes later a speculative right-footed Jonjo Shelvey volley from the edge of the penalty area cannoned off the right hand post and away.
Arsenal’s first meaningful effort fell to Henrikh Mkhitaryan but his wild shot from inside the box went high over the bar.
Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang then beat the Newcastle offside trap and unleashed a volley that stung the palms of Martin Dubravka, who pushed the ball out for a corner.
Both teams knew they needed to step things up in the second half and it was Arsenal who struck first on 57 minutes.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles spotted Aubameyang unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and his pinpoint cross found the Gabonese striker who calmly lifted the ball over Dubravka to give the Gunners a precious lead.
With 22 goals he was the joint Premier League top scorer last season, alongside Liverpool duo Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, and got his season off and running with this strike.
Arsenal lost eight times on the road last season in the Premier League and didn’t keep a clean sheet on road until April, so Unai Emery’s side were happy to protect their lead rather than push for a second.
The North Londoners didn’t have to work particularly hard however, as Newcastle barely posed any threat after going behind.
Both sides were busy in the summer transfer market and both handed debuts to new arrivals in the second half.
Arsenal fans got a glimpse of record signing Nicolas Pepe but the £72m man had a relatively quiet cameo without doing too much wrong.
Newcastle new boy Allan Saint-Maximin came closest to an equaliser with a long range effort in the last ten minutes but Leno was equal to it.
Fabian Schar then fired one high over the bar from distance with five minutes to go which just about summed up Newcastle’s day.
While it was far from the most sparkling Arsenal performance, Unai Emery will be happy with the win to kick start his side’s campaign.
For Newcastle, incoming manager Steve Bruce has lots to ponder and faces a tough task to keep Newcastle competitive in the Premier League over the next nine months.
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