Unai Emery concedes Arsenal “struggled” in their 1-0 win over Newcastle United but felt a collective team effort led to an ultimately deserved three points.
Arsenal came away from St James’ Park with a slender victory on Sunday thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s strike just before the hour mark.
Aubameyang made the most of some slack defending from Newcastle to score what proved to be the winning goal in a game of few clear-cut chances.
After equalling last season’s away clean sheets tally in their first match of the 2019-20 campaign, Emery targeted more shutouts if Arsenal are to improve on their fifth-place finish from last time out.
“I want to win. I want to score and I want to keep a clean sheet,” he said at his post-match news conference. “Today we won and we did that.
“I think we created chances and we need also to create chances for our strikers and today with Auba we won.
“We want to start defending with Aubameyang and we want to start attacking with Bernd Leno. I think every player worked very well today. Aubameyang scored, but I think it was because every player worked together.
“Our idea is to continue being one team, mostly offensive. But we need to also take the balance defensively. To win away we know is difficult in each match. Today we struggled but we deserved it.”
Arsenal started without any of their new signings, with deadline-day arrival David Luiz remaining on the bench for the full 90 minutes.
Nicolas Pepe, Dani Ceballos and Gabriel Martinelli made their debuts as second-half subs, though, and Emery said he intends to integrate them all into the first team.
“David Luiz did pre-season with another team and he is okay to play physically but he only trained completely with us yesterday,” he said.
25.6% – Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has the best shot conversion rate (25.6%) of the 68 players to have scored 6+ goals in the competition.
“Pepe came one week ago and physically he needs to get his best fitness to be ready to play 100 per cent for 90 minutes. I think that today 20 minutes is good for him.
“And Ceballos is in the middle because he came before Pepe but he got an injury and he stopped training. But he needs to know the Premier League, so today was important for him and for us.”
Arsenal’s winning goal came after a mistake from loanee Jetro Willems, who hesitated on the ball and allowed Ainsley Maitland-Niles to charge forward and play in Aubameyang.
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce was disappointed that the lapse resulted proved decisive in his first competitive match in charge of his boyhood club.
“It’s the manner of it,” he told reporters. “We gave a sloppy goal away. If Arsenal open you up, you can applaud the opposition but to give away a bad goal is frustrating.
“We defended fantastically well through the game – I don’t remember my goalkeeper making a mistake. We left ourselves open and got punished.”