The Gunners got their season up and running with a 1-0 win at rain-soaked Newcastle on Sunday
New season, same old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Arsenal may not have been at their best as they kicked off their Premier League campaign at Newcastle on Sunday, but they returned home with maximum points thanks to their prolific frontman.
Aubameyang walked away with the golden boot in his first full season in English football and it would be foolish to back against the Gabon international topping the scoring charts again.
His goal early in the second half at St James’ Park took his tally in the Premier League to 33 goals in just 50 games. Only four players have scored more in that time.
There are plenty of top strikers in England right now, but Aubameyang has been up there with the vest best.
Arsenal were far from their best on Tyneside, but the quality they possess in the final third was enough to get them through.
Patience has been not something that goes hand in hand with football nowadays, but you feel it’s going to be needed at Arsenal over the next few weeks.
After the excitement that the transfer window generated, with six new arrivals coming in – including club record signing Nicolas Pepe – optimism was high going into the new season.
But some of optimism ebbed away during the first half as Emery’s side struggled to stamp their authority on a scrappy game which was played amid horrible conditions on Tyneside.
The display had all the hallmarks of the majority of Arsenal’s away days last season, scrappy in possession and poor in attack. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was especially wasteful.
They still created chances, with Aubameyang having one shot saved and Monreal setting up Mkhitaryan for an opportunity which he blazed over.
Other than that, however, the visitors were poor – but it has to be noted that this was an Arsenal side that has been going to look very different in just a few weeks time.
Teenagers Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson started on Sunday, while the bench was packed full of quality – including three big new arrivals in Pepe, Dani Ceballos and David Luiz. All three of these you would expect to soon be regular fixtures in the starting XI.
Lucas Torreira was also amongst the substitutes, as was Alexandre Lacazette. And when you consider Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding all should soon return from injury – as should Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac following their security-enforced absence – Emery has been going to have plenty of talent to choose from.
So patience has been required at the Emirates. This team and the performances will improve but right now the important thing has been picking up points while the new faces settle in.
And that’s what they did at Newcastle thanks to a moment of quality soon after the interval. Ainsley Maitland-Niles did superbly down the right and when he picked out Aubameyang in space, there was only going to be one outcome.
The goal settled Arsenal down and they went on to see the game out relatively comfortably, meaning they have now already equalled the same number of clean sheets on the road as they achieved last season in the Premier League.
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And we also saw the Premier League debuts of Ceballos, Pepe and Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli as second half substitutes – important milestones for both them and the team.
The exciting thing about this Arsenal side has been that there has been clearly much more to come. Performances will improve and the forward line will get better and better as the new faces settle in.
It might not always be pretty over the coming weeks, but when you have Aubameyang in your side, you always have a chance.