Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang punished slack Newcastle defending to give Arsenal victory at a rain-drenched St James’ Park. Starting with many of their £125m-worth of signings on the bench and without midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac, Gunners boss Unai Emery watched his side struggle to cut through their opponents in the first half. That all changed just before the hour mark when Aubameyang was left unmarked on the edge of the area, collected Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ cross from the right and fired past Martin Dubravka. Emery gave £72m club-record signing Nicolas Pepe and midfielder Dani Ceballos debuts from the bench, but they failed to make much of an impression.
As for Steve Bruce, his Newcastle managerial debut was about what could have been. The Magpies’ record signing Joelinton went close with a shot blocked by Bernd Leno, before Jonjo Shelvey saw his drive crash off the woodwork. The home side were flat for much of the second half, although another new recruit, the exciting wing prospect Allan Saint-Maximin, tested German Leno with a near-post drive. Unai Emery went through a range of emotions in his dugout area during the first period, ranging from anguish to anger. His somewhat makeshift Arsenal starting XI, without the experienced Ozil and Kolasinac, struggled with both the conditions and the five-man Newcastle midfield. They only opened up the Magpies’ defence twice in that opening period, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan firing wildly over before Aubameyang struck a firm drive at Dubravka.
Both sides had pacy frontmen, but only one was proven at this level. And when Aubameyang, who scored 22 Premier League goals last season, was given a second chance at goal he took it brilliantly. The Gabon international was inexplicably given a free run into the area as Jamaal Lascelles went AWOL, and slotted in Maitland-Niles’ delivery from the right. Ivorian winger Pepe and Ceballos were given a run-out but made little impact, although had Maitland-Niles’ cross reached the record signing in the area late on, then we might have seen a goal on his debut. No doubt we will see why Arsenal paid £72m to Lille for him in the coming weeks.