Auba’s importance, clean sheets and squad depth – Six things from Arsenal’s win over Newcastle
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As Arsenal start the new Premier League season with three points, the Islington Gazette’s Dan Mountney assesses their 1-0 win over Newcastle at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Aubameyang makes the difference
With Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe named on the bench, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was tasked with being Arsenal's main goal threat.
In a game of few chances, he took the one that matter to wrap up three points for Unai Emery's men on Tyneside, lobbing Martin Dubravka on 58 minutes.
Aubameyang's importance to Arsenal has been clear since he joined from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018, but he proved exactly why the club spent in excess of £50m to sign him.
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In the ruthless landscape of the Premier League, every team needs a striker who can feed off scraps and win games with very little service, taking the big chances.
The Gunners have that in Aubameyang, and they'll need him to do it throughout this season if they want to finish in the top four.
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Arsenal have equalled a record from last season already, but it's not exactly one they'll be proud of.
The Gunners matched their total number of away clean sheets from Emery's first campaign in charge, with the Spaniard describing the performance as 'serious' on a number of occasions during his post-match presser.
While Newcastle rarely tested Arsenal, the makeshift back four of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal will rarely have faced conditions like they did on Sunday.
They say when it rains it pours, and it really did in the north east, with heavy rainfall throughout the day making for a difficult playing surface.
The Gunners dealt with it though, in a professional and composed manner rarely seen on the road last season.
Guendouzi steps up
With Lucas Torreira on the bench as he returns to match fitness, Matteo Guendouzi was tasked with providing the defensive shield by Emery.
The young Frenchman impressed in his first season at the club after joining from Lorient, but one criticism would have been his lack of maturity and experience.
Sunday's Premier League opener seemed like a coming of age moment for the midfielder though.
Guendouzi ran the game on Tyneside, battling hard, getting stuck in, keeping Arsenal moving and using the ball well.
He will have a lot of competition for a starting place this season, but he certainly staked his claim against Newcastle with a top performance.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a condrum that Arsenal must solve.
Before moving to the Premier League, the Armenian was one of Europe's top playmakers for Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk before that, but his performances in England have frustrated both Arsenal and Manchester United supporters.
Mkhitaryan was named in the starting XI on Sunday and show flashes of what he is capable of, most notably a wonderful clipped through ball that led to an Aubameyang chance.
But, the 30-year-olds end product was often found wanting on Tyneside, and that has been the story of his Gunners career.
With Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil, Reiss Nelson, Gabriel Martinelli and Joe Willock all providing tough competition for a place in the team, Mkhitaryan needs to find form or it could be the beginning of the end for his time in north London.
Strength in numbers
Emiliano Martinez; Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney; Lucas Torreira, Dani Ceballos; Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
The above list of names form a starting XI that either didn't play or came off the bench against Newcastle, and shows the strength in depth Arsenal have this season.
The transfer window was a brilliant one for the club, bringing in players that both added quality and addressed the concerning areas within in the squad.
Emery also has the likes of Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi, Mohamed Elneny, Dino Mavropanos, Emile Smith Rowe, Tyreece John-Jules and Bukayo Saka to call upon if need too.
The depth will key if Arsenal want to compete in not just the Premier League and English cup competitions, but also in the Europa League as well.
Dani Ceballos came on to make his Arsenal debut against Newcastle, and while he didn't get much of a chance to show what he could do on the ball, a moment that went largely unnoticed towards the end of the game shows what he can bring.
In the 93rd minute, the Spaniard closed down a Newcastle defender who was shielding the ball out for a goal kick, but as he tried to return it to 'keeper Martin Dubravka for the kick, Ceballos cheekily block the ball, putting it into the crowd.
The crafty move ate into the precious remain seconds of the game, showing the 23-year-old can add a bit of much needed devil to the Gunners' midfield.