Three wins from three for in-form Gunners
Newcastle United 1 Arsenal 2
Arsenal made it three wins out of three in the Premier League on Saturday with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at St James’ Park.
The Gunners rode their luck in the first half, and would have been delighted that the score remained 0-0 at the break after a woeful first 45 minutes.
Newcastle without a doubt looked the better side in that first period, but ultimately a lack of quality – they have just one point from their opening five games – meant the Gunners survived.
Arsenal couldn’t possibly be as woeful in the second half - and were not - and when Granit Xhaka fired the visitors into the lead with a typical Xhaka free kick from outside the box – a beautiful strike – the pressure turned from Unai Emery onto Rafa Bentitez.
It is the Magpies’ worst start to a Premier League season since Ruud Gullit’s reign in 1999-2000 – a run of results then which led to the great Dutchman throwing in the towel. It’s doubtful Benitez will do the same, but Newcastle need to start picking up points quickly or risk being marooned with West Ham at the bottom.
As for Arsenal, after their disappointing first two games they have now put three wins together – now level on nine points with Spurs after their loss to Liverpool.
Mesut Ozil’s strike put the Gunners two up, and Newcastle’s injury time consolation was simply that.
Arsenal, just like they did at Cardiff a fortnight ago, looked far more assured when Lucas Torreira came off the bench. The Uruguayan looks fit and ready for 90 minutes and surely now is the time for Emery to play him from the off, such is the impact he is clearly having on the side.
Emery admitted as much himself, saying: “In the first half, we couldn’t control the match. We couldn’t impose our ideas and we conceded a lot of counterattacking chances.
“The key was the first goal, but maybe Lucas gave us the better balance.”
Arsenal now turn their attention to Europe for the first time this year and, for the second successive season, the Europa League.
It will be interesting to see how Emery approaches Europe’s second competition. With Arsenal unlikely to be looking any further than a top-four place this season, again the Europa League probably remains, along with the FA Cup, the Gunners’ best chance of respectable silverware.
Arsene Wenger took the competition seriously last year, although used the early stages of the competition to give some of the second string a run out, and one would have thought Emery will do the same when FC Vorskla Poltava – who finished third in the Ukrainian league last season - come to London on Thursday.
Thursday’s game will be the first of four home games in little over a week for the Gunners. Everton come to the Emirates next Sunday, followed by Brentford in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday week, then Watford in the Premier League on September 29.
Four home wins will well and truly get the feel-good factor back again.