A deft second-half finish from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal a 1-0 victory over Newcastle at St James Park
A little bit of a boycott and an awful lot of rain ensured that Steve Bruces Newcastle United reign began in downbeat mode as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang emphasised his enduring importance to Arsenal by cutting through the gloom and registering an exquisitely incisive winner.
If it hardly bodes well for Bruce that Unai Emerys supposedly vulnerable backline managed that real north Londoners collectors item, a clean sheet on the road, at least the sight of the watching Andy Carroll keeping his ponytail dry by wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the word Icon hinted at the prospect of potentially better days ahead.
Unfortunately for Newcastle, their newly returned local hero is injured yet again and, despite tantalisingly brief cameos redolent with glittering promise, their overall lack of attacking ruthlessness appeared suggestive of a long, hard, slog ahead.
The inclement weather made Sunday a bit grim for both sides, contributing hugely to some mutually incoherent passages of early play.
Then Bruces team began finding a foothold in the game and started pressing Arsenal high up the pitch whenever possible.
Joelinton, Bruces marquee 40m attacking signing from Hoffenheim, headed wide from a Matt Ritchie cross, Miguel Almirn was booked for diving as the crowd screamed for a penalty and Bernd Leno diverted Jonjo Shelveys swerving shot away for a corner.
Unai Emerys side did little of note but, despite a decided sluggishness, not to mention nervousness in possession, still contributed the more dangerous moments, little flashes of passing, movement and sharp acceleration hinting at much greater menace to come. Yet if Arsenal had been unsettled by the security scare that kept Mesut zil and Sead Kolasinac at home in north London, their hosts seemed to derive a measure of reassurance from the fairly secure looking 3-5-2 framework within which Bruce had configured them.
That structure proved sufficiently robust to keep the score goalless at half time on a day when Mike Ashley, Newcastles owner, will have been fairly satisfied to note that a proposed boycott of the game by supporters variously dismayed by Rafael Bentezs departure, Ashleys stewardship of the club and Bruces appointment. Despite the noticeable empty seats more than 47,000 had still filed through the turnstiles while a pre kick-off protest march from Ashleys Sports Direct in the nearby city centre to the ground attracted only around 300 dissenting fans.
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