Arsenal: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Lokonga, Maitland-Niles; Pepe, Odegaard, Saka; Aubameyang
Subs: Leno, Tavares, Cedric, Mari, Chambers, Partey, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette
Arsenal finally got on the scoresheet, and off the mark in terms of Premier League points, with a 1-0 win over Norwich at the Emirates this afternoon.
Mikel Arteta handed a debut to new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu, dropped Bernd Leno for summer arrival Aaron Ramsdale, and although Thomas Partey was back in the squad, deployed Ainsley Maitland-Niles in midfield alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga.
The Gunners started brightly, winning a couple of early corners, and the new right back had a shot blocked after an excellent Ben White pass.
Norwich saw a McLean header flash wide, before a glorious Odegaard pass found Aubameyang in behind, but his left footed effort was blocked by professional time-waster Tim Krul and then cleared. Neither keeper was particularly tested in the opening half hour, and the visitors began to have a little more joy in possession than in the opening stages.
The wall deflected a Norwich free kick over the bar as the momentum of the first half changed completely towards the Canaries. Nevertheless, there was a late chance for Tomiyasu who showed brilliant desire to get on the end of a headed clearance, volleying just over the bar, so the teams went in level at the break.
There were no half-time changes from either manager, and again it was Arsenal who started brightly. Gabriel headed wide, and there was some early pressure on the Norwich final third. Maitland-Niles created a 54th minute chance for Saka which was blocked, and another Saka shot rebounded for Pepe at the back post but his effort was brilliantly blocked by Williams.
Mikel Arteta made his first changes in the 62nd minute, bringing on Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe for Sambi and Tomiyasu – Maitland-Niles moved across to right back.
And five minutes later, Arsenal were ahead. Pepe had a shot which deflected off the post, it took a ricochet off the keeper, Aubameyang looked offside initially, it came to Aubameyang who tapped it home. There was an anxious VAR check, but the goal was given. 1-0.
Aarons shot wide with his left foot, a reminder that Norwich were still in this, and a Smith Rowe interception in the final third should have come to more but Odegaard couldn’t get a shot or a pass away with Aubameyang lurking at the back post.
Pepe fired a shot over, Cedric replaced an exhausted Maitland-Niles on 82 minutes, and Aubameyang had a chance to double the lead but his shot was saved by Krul’s legs. Cedric smashed a shot way over the bar from an Arsenal corner, Smith Rowe forced an excellent save from Krul before Saka curled the rebound just wide of the far post.
At the other end, a superb Gabriel block denied Pukki, and from the resulting corner an Arsenal break saw Pepe shoot wide. Cedric produced another stunning block to keep the Gunners ahead, and there were moments of danger late on that we could have done more.
Still, while it wasn’t our best performance of all time, Krul kept the scoreline respectable, and hopefully the win will release some of the pressure we’ve had to deal with going into this one.
Enjoy it, it’s overdue!