Glad to be proved wrong
When I saw Arsenal’s starting line-up away against Newcastle, I could not see how the visitors could fashion a win. Although Aubameyang can score given a half-chance or less, who was going to supply him?
I looked through the midfield and wondered. Mkhitaryan has gone from mostly bad to mostly awful (a bit like those adjectives used to describe him) while, as much as I rate Willock and Nelson, I didn’t believe they had the experience to deliver away at St James’ Park.
Meanwhile, Guendouzi and Xhaka are not exactly suppliers, are they? No wonder player-turned-pundit, Paul Scholes, was bemoaning the lack of forward passes in the first-half.
Nevertheless, it was quite a feat to keep a clean sheet over the first 45 minutes, which extended to the full 90. I was worried about Ainsley Sublime-Ridiculous at right back, but he was mostly sublime. He only made a couple of mistakes, one of which involved a cross-field throw straight to the opposition. Therefore, he still needs to work in his decision-making but, by the same token, he deserves lavish praise for his part in Arsenal’s only goal. Ainsley raced onto a loose ball around the halfway line and showed his electric pace, before delivering beautifully for Aubameyang, who prodded the ball past the keeper (making a difficult finish look easy).
After taking the lead, Emery introduced three substitutes: Ceballos, Pepe, and Martinelli. Of the three, only Pepe looked the real deal to me. Thus far, I have to agree with Arsenal’s ex-nemesis, Jose Mourinho, who questions what Ceballos adds to the team. Personally, I thought the Spaniard was extremely rusty, as his first few wayward touches demonstrated. However, he did improve.
I was very surprised to see Martinelli get a game, although he deserves it for his semi-impressive pre-season.
Pepe looked like a class act, albeit a relatively quiet one. No wonder the fans have already composed a new chant in his honour. I see Pepe ripping defence apart, once he gets up to speed, in terms of fitness.
All in all, 1-0 to the Arsenal has a good ring to it, especially when you consider all the players in the squad now. Quite how David Luis will oust Chambers or Sokratis on this showing remains to be seen, although the £8m acquisition from Chelsea is one of the best bits of business accomplished by the club in recent years, I believe.
Next up, it’s Burnley, who also got off to a winning start, so it’s going to be tough, but eminently do-able!
Leno: 8 – has been criticised for punching when he should catch, but there only one punch against Newcastle. He didn’t put a foot wrong.
Maitland-Niles: 8 – set up the goal and only made two errors. Defensively, more solid than usual.
Chambers: 8 – solid as a rock.
Sokratis: 8 – see above.
Monreal: 7 – not quite at the same level as the other defenders.
Xhaka: 7 – got booked, unnecessarily. Will he ever change his spots? Passed reasonably well.
Guendouzi: 8 – passed well and cleared up danger.
Willock: 7 – not his best game, but worked hard.
Nelson: 7 – not as impressive as he was in pre-season, but had plenty of energy.
Mkhitaryan: 5 – some of his passing was appalling, although he did show a couple of moments of class.
Aubameyang: 8 – Arsenal’s only real goal threat was a real handful for Newcastle.
Ceballos: 6 – took ages to get into the game and his touch was frequently found wanting.
Pepe: 7 – flashes of brilliance.
Martinelli: 6 – didn’t have long to contribute, but offered plenty of energy.
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