Yesterday, I took in my first English game this season as I watched Arsenal beat Newcastle United 1-0.
The only goal of the goal came just before the hour-mark, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took advantage of a mistake in the Newcastle defence by cheekily chipping the ball over Martin Dubravka.
Unai Emery made a brave decision by leaving his 125M worth of signings on the bench, as well as leaving Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac out of the squad following the reports of the duo being caught up in the middle of a gang dispute, with both currently under 24 hour watch by Police.
The Spaniard may have been regretting his decision as he saw his side cut open and dominated by Newcastle in the first-half in what was a rain-sodden day in the North West.
A better second-half by The Gunners saw them take the lead on the 57th minute, when Maitland-Niles beat Willems to the ball before his pin-point cross was touched and coolly finished by Aubameyang.
There was reports on twitter of an apparent boycott on Sunday for the game against Arsenal, however there was still a decent attendance at St James Park, where there was only 4,000 less than last seasons average attendance.
It was a terribly slow start to the game with hardly any chances, possibly the poor conditions playing its part.
The first chance didn’t come until the 16th minute, when a cross by Matt Ritchie was glanced just wide of the post by Joelinton, who cost the Magpies nearly 40M in the summer from TSG Hoffenheim.
The Toon came close again as a quick throw-in caught Arsenal out, with the ball falling for Jonjo Shelvey on the on edge of the box and his fierce strike was fantastically saved by Bernd Leno.
The Gunners should have taken the lead through Henrikh Mkhitaryan just before the half-hour mark ,when a cut-back from Nacho Monreal was blazed over the bar from the Armenian.
Arsenal’s star striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been kept fairly quiet so far but out of no where he nearly broke the deadlock when a cleverly dinked ball over the top by Mkhitaryan sent Aubameyang through on goal, but his shot was well saved by Dubravka at his near-post.
Half Time- Newcastle United 0-0 Arsenal
The Gunners came out a much better side in the second-half as Newcastle to look rather flat.
On the 51st minute, Aubameyang was away down the line before driving into the box and having a shot at goal, which deflected off Fabian Schar and landed on the roof of the net. From the resulting corner, Granit Xhaka beat his man to the edge of the six-yard box, before his glancing header across the face of goal was inches away from connecting with Joe Willock.
The break through came just before the hour-mark when Ainsley Maitland-Niles beat Jetro Willems to the ball, before running down the line and crossing for Aubameyang, who took a touch and coolly lofted it over Dubravka to put the North London side ahead.
Emery gave 72M record signing Nicolas Pepe and midfielder Dani Ceballos debuts from the bench, but not enough time for either to make an impact.
Steve Bruce brought on 16.5M signing, Allan Saint-Maximin on also, and what an exciting player he could be. He was the guy who brought some energy back to The Magpies as they went in search of an equaliser.
The closest they came to scoring was through Saint-Maximin, when on the 80th minute the Frenchman skipped by his marker before testing Leno with a near-post drive.
There were plenty positives for Steve Bruce to take from the defeat however, as Joelinton looked lively on his debut, while his defence coped well with the likes of Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Willock before the goal. One thing he will be disappointed about is about the manner of the goal they conceded, which came from a mistake.
Full Time- Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal
Newcastle United XI
Dubravka, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Manquillo, Hayden, Shelvey(54), Longstaff(67), Ritchie, Almiron, Joelinton
Subs- Darlow, Clarke, Fernandez, Krafth, Muto, Saint-Maximin(67), Willems(54)
Leno, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Nelson(71), Willock(64), Mkhitaryan(84), Aubameyang
Subs- Martinez, Luiz, Torreira, Ceballos(64), Martinelli(84), Pepe(71), Lacazette,
Referee- Martin Atkinson
Assistants- Lee Betts & Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official- Darren England
Yellow Cards- Almiron(18), Nelson(25), Mkhitaryan(37), Xhaka(81)
Red Cards- 0