Newcastle United (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
St. James’ Park, Barrack Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4ST
Sunday, 11th August 2019. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Nacho Monreal; Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka; Reiss Nelson, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Joe Willock; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Emiliano Martínez, Dani Ceballos, Alexandre Lacazette, Lucas Torreira, Nicolas Pépé, David Luiz, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (58 mins)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka; Reiss Nelson, Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: circa 47,600
You’ve really got to wonder haven’t you? This always happens on the first day of a new season; high (and sometimes unreasonable) media predictions along with the exuberance of supporters means that we all get carried along on a wave of hope, and God forbid, horror. Having said all that, this victory today in a rainy St. James’ Park was a fantastic way to start this, an extremely important season for us all.
I would much rather be us than them; demonstrations against the owners outside the ground, a much publicised toothless boycott along with their new/old signing wearing an “icon” baseball cap; can this really be life in the 21st Century for the Magpies?
Arsenal however, absolutely ooze determination, class and a desire for success. We saw this in the first half, when Newcastle United pinned us back in our own half for long periods, with Jonjo Shelvey prodding and poking our defence with sweeping passing and snap shooting. Indeed, it was just before half-time when a shot from Shelvey clattered against the post, with Bernd Leno beaten. Trudging off the field, our players looked a wee bit downhearted, but there was nothing that happened in the first half for them to question themselves; if anything, theirs was the glory, despite the driving rain.
As we observed in the last campaign, our reserves of strength appear in the second half of matches, and this looks as if it will be the same this season. Although Unai Emery left most of the new signings on the bench for this match, the players that took the field simply assumed control, with the remarkable Ainsley Maitland-Niles winning balls and getting first to tackles in the midfield areas, and it has to be said that his influence and spirit inspired the others to go ahead and win this match. It was starting to look as if three points were there for the taking, and slowly and surely, we were directing traffic as only we could.
The goal, when it came, amazed everyone, snd in some ways, surprised no-one. Ainsley Maitland-Niles seized the ball from the hapless Paul Dummet’s wayward pass, and suddently everyone in the stadium sensed that something special was on. Simply ignoring the poor efforts of Jamaal Lascelles, he slotted an inch perfect ball into the space between the defence and the goalkeeper where the predatory Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lay in wait like a hungry shark eyeing its prey. Just two touches from the Gabon international and the ball was in the back of the net in the blink of an eye, and from this moment onwards, the Magpies were finished.
Unai Emery brought on three newbies, namely Dani Ceballos, Gabriel Martinelli and our record signing, young Nicolas Pépé to lively up ourselves, which certainly worked. With our substitutes on the pitch, we became imaginative, brave and in a funny way, risk averse. Newcastle never looked as if they were able to equalise at any time, let along provide the spark to go and grab one; Arsenal just simply did what they always do best, namely shut up shop, keep the ball and run the clock down, which they successfully did.
Lots of good things came from today’s performance in Newcastle, the “Young Guns” who were utterly superb, as well as the older players who worked tirelessly to keep the much-coveted clean sheet, which at this level is an increasingly hard thing to achieve. Much too early for us to get excited, but a win on the first day of the season is one that sends us all back to work tomorrow with a smile on our faces, and hope in our hearts for a successful campaign.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Next match: Burnley at The Emirates on Saturday,17th August at 12.30pm. Be there. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.