Arsenal managed to grind out a 1-0 win over Newcastle United in their opening Premier League fixture, despite a number of their potential starters sitting on the bench.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on August 11, 2019, in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – AUGUST 11: Unai Emery, Manager of Arsenal reacts during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on August 11, 2019, in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The game wasn’t exactly a classic, with chances for either side few and far between. As a result, it came down to which side was the more clinical with the opportunities they did have, and thankfully Aubameyang made sure that was Arsenal.

With potential first XI players like Lucas Torreira, Dani Ceballos, David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette on the bench, Mesut Özil and Sead Kolasinac missing out for personal reasons, as well as the continued absences of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney, it was all about the result on this occasion.

Nonetheless, there were some good individual performances amongst the fairly average showing overall. Let’s take a look at our player ratings for the match.

Goalkeeper

  • Bernd Leno 8 – Leno made a couple of good saves but it was his composure and confidence collecting some particularly difficult passes that was most impressive. A notable improvement from the panic when Cech was in the same situations last season.

Defence

  • Ainsley Maitland-Niles 8 – Maitland-Niles had to bounce back from the embarrassment of a poor own goal in his final pre-season match, and he did so excellently. A fantastic assist and a lot of very competent defensive work were key in the 1-0 victory.
  • Calum Chambers 7.5 – With Mavropanos and Holding injured, Koscielny gone and Mustafi going, it’s been a lifesaver to have Chambers coming back from loan. The Englishman did very well in difficult circumstances to help Arsenal keep a clean sheet.
  • Sokratis Papastathopoulos 6.5 – Sokratis did well physically, as always, but his positioning wasn’t always so good. Nonetheless, a mostly solid performance.
  • Nacho Monreal – Monreal cut out a few passes by being on the front foot, like Maitland-Niles on the other side. That did leave him a bit exposed whenever a ball went over the top and in behind though.

Midfield

  • Granit Xhaka – Xhaka played the pass of the match to get Aubameyang in behind at one stage, but he and Guendouzi took a while to really get into the game. Once they did, they controlled the midfield nicely to stifle hope of a Newcastle comeback.
  • Matteo Guendouzi 6 – As with Xhaka, Guendouzi got better as the game went on, and there were some real positives once he did. It’s just a bit lucky Newcastle weren’t more clinical in the first half.
  • Joe Willock 6.5 – Willock had some nice driving runs forwards and won a lot of free-kicks, despite being outnumbered pretty much whenever he got on the ball.

Forwards

  • Reiss Nelson – Nelson driving at Newcastle was a positive feature of the match, though he did concede possession a bit too easily on a couple of occasions.
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 8.5 – Aubameyang’s touch and finish for the goal were typical of him, and he carried his excellent pre-season form into this match. Not just with his finishing, but also with his runs into the channels all afternoon.
  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan 4 – Mkhitaryan played a nice ball over the top to Aubameyang at one point, but the rest of the match was his usual attempted nutmegs that never come off and wasteful decision making on the counter.

Substitutes

  • Dani Ceballos 7 – At first Ceballos didn’t seem quite up to the pace of the game, but he quickly adjusted and helped Arsenal finish Newcastle off confidently. His timewasting antics near the end will endear himself to Arsenal fans as much as they’ll make all other fans hate him.
  • Nicolas Pepe – Pepe didn’t get too much time on the ball, but there were glimpses of his ability in a couple of moments.
  • Gabriel Martinelli 6 – Martinelli was Ceballos’ partner in crime, killing the game with his hold-up play in the corner and pressing the Newcastle players in possession. The three substitutes will be pleased to crown their Premier League debuts with a win.
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