Other than banging in a few more goals, Arsenal couldn’t have scripted today’s 1-0 win away to Newcastle much better. Youngsters Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson started and played well, and Dani Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe, and Gabriel Martinelli all made their Arsenal debuts without making any major blunders. All in all, despite taking 30 minutes to come into the match, the side played pretty well.
The story of the match, at least for me, was the performances of the young defenders. Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were great. Chambers didn’t do anything flashy but didn’t get beat or make a mistake. If he can be a solid, rotational option at CB, the Gunners will benefit immensely this season.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was my Man of the Match. He attempted and completed the most dribbles of any Arsenal player (4/6), consistently got forward into the attack without leaving himself exposed on the counter, made several attack-disrupting tackles, and created the Gunners’ only goal.
For the goal, he came out of seemingly nowhere and covered at least 20 yards to cut out an errant pass. He carried the ball up the pitch, looked up, and curled an inch-perfect ball to a he-shouldn’t-be-that-open Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In fact, inch-perfect doesn’t do the ball justice — it was world class. Aubameyang, for his part, collected the ball and chipped the keeper without breaking stride. It was a top-notch finish. Today was PEA’s 50th Premier League appearance, and his 33 goals tie him for fifth most all-time after 50 appearances.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a match to forget. While he drove play forward and was involved in the build-up, he misplaced countless easy passes that surrendered possession cheaply and killed attacking moves. He also sent Arsenal’s first good chance of the day 25 yards over the goal. It was a perfect example of why he is so frustrating - he had flashes of brilliance punctuated by shockingly simple mistakes.
Three points away with a limited roster available to Unai Emery is a solid result, especially considering Arsenal’s defensive woes last season. Three points home to Burnley next Saturday are a must. After the Clarets, the Gunners face Liverpool and Tottenham back-to-back. Talk about a tough start to the season.