Arsenal traveled to Newcastle with a casualty list that would test the nerves of many a manager. So many automatic first choices were crocked for one reason or another, that the treatment room could have made a second string.
Unai Emery also had to contemplate those that may not be in his squad for very much longer including Mishap Mustafi and work shy Ozil, who may soon be looking at pastures new.
At least Emery has had a season in which he got his message across unlike professional failure, Steve Bruce. In fact, probably the worst thing for Newcastle is trying to get past the Mike Ashley ownership issues and the departure of the Geordies hero, Rafa Benitez which has left a heavy cloud hanging low over St James’s Park.
Bruce has had about as much time as his counterpart had to establish himself in the role and this may well play a part in Newcastle’s opening spell of the premiership.
By contrast, Arsenal fans headed off to Newcastle in a fairly buoyant mood, having seen a host of luxurious arrivals which managed to get fans chins up and saw them unusually optimistic.
The biggest surprise from Arsenal was the offloading of Alex Iwobi to Everton, who had become the odd man out in Emery’s future plans because of the dearth of wingers at his disposal.
For Arsenal it was imperative to get points on the board after Manchester City’s emphatic and stylish win over West Ham and dropping points early wasn’t an option.
Matteo Guendouzi vs. Newcastle
87% Pass accuracy
1 Key pass
1/2 Dribbles complete
3/7 Aerial duels
1/3 Tackles won
The 20 year old is becoming increasingly important defensively for Arsenal. So much more to give, but he is justifying his selection. pic.twitter.com/0pq4LhAvgK
— The Tactical Times (@Tactical_Times) August 11, 2019
So Arsenal rocked up to a wet Newcastle knowing that the home support was worth a two goal advantage and that despite a rollercoaster of a few months, a result would be hard to get.
It turned out to be a decidedly average and uninspiring first half for Arsenal, where both sides cancelled each other out and squandered limited opportunities. One lost count on the amount of sloppy passes and Newcastle surrendered the midfield area, allowing Arsenal to exert a degree of authority, even it it wasn’t reflected in a handsome scoreline.
People go on about possession like it’s an essential ingredient for winning a game, it isn’t. We’ve all seen games where dominant teams have come off second best in the final minutes of a game. I prefer goals to possession, try telling me 80% possession is better than a 3 goal advantage, because we all know it’s not.
Arsenal enjoyed 60+% in the first half and 70+% in the second but couldn’t find a way through. As for Newcastle, they couldn’t provide support for their attacking players which they will have to resolve soon unless they want more stop away fans than the 4,000 or so that protested for this game.
The contest was won by a single goal (58) with a excellent piece of theft from Maitland Nile’s on Willems. He knows only too well to look up for one of Arsenal’s advancing guns and found Aubameyang with a beautiful chip. The striker just applied his usual predatory finish over Dubravka.
For Arsenal, there were a few highlights and lowlights. Ceballos looked useful with some artistic flourishes, Pepe came on to give a small glimpse of what is to come and Joe Willock looked like the heir apparent to a permanent midfield role.
Ainsley Maitland Nile’s worked tirelessly, although there were a few touches he’d like to forget and Reiss Nelson is making progress to hold down a first team slot.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 11, 2019
However, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks like Manchester United’s revenge for a misfiring Alexis Sanchez. He did his claim for a starting position at Arsenal no good with his dubious touch, lack of control and general ponderous performance.
Nacho Monreal still looks far too slow for the premiership and once his replacement is fit and well, the Spaniard may have to look at a more central role. He just doesn’t have the legs and struggles to get back like he used to.
As a first game of the season for Arsenal, this game gives no indication of how the campaign will go. Arsenal need to find the right balance between defence, midfield and attack and Newcastle need a plan that prevents them losing these types of games.
Bruce would have been happy with a point to relieve the pressure but even survival in the Benitez style must seem some distance away.
There was some promise but not enough to suggest that the Geordies are not looking at another season with their heads in a noose on a three legged chair.
3 vital points for Emery but the training ground environment will need to rid the gunners of their rough edges. Arsenal can’t afford any early hiccups if they are to be included in the mix next year.
Arsenal were the only team in the Premier League to feature three teenagers (Willock, Nelson & Martinelli) in the opening round of fixtures of the 2019/20 season. [@ScoutedFtbl] #afc pic.twitter.com/HiDLHD6Y3e
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) August 13, 2019
Draws have to become wins and loses need to be fashioned into wins or draws but the fact remains that Arsenal can’t afford more than 5 draws in a season, if they are to be in with a shout of a champions league slot. City and Liverpool are going toe to toe again, Arsenal need to bring their A game to the second tier at the top.