Arsenal kept their first clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 win against Newcastle on Sunday.
Arsenal already have as many league clean sheets away from home in 2019/2020 as they did in the entirety of 2018/2019 (1).
Mustafi was absent today… 😉 pic.twitter.com/AfqoX6gXmM
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 11, 2019
As simple as it may look, it gave birth to a rather strange fact.
The only away win Arsenal managed last season was against Watford and that tally has been equalled; in the first game of the season. Promising right?
While the Gunners performance was not the best or convincing enough, a shining light was the options Emery had to call upon.
In the course of the game, some fans still criticized the team for looking “toothless” on many occasions; but a second look at the Arsenal lineup yesterday will leave many hopeful for a positive season.
Looking at the lineup from yesterday, It’s safe to say 5-6 players that featured are not Arsenal’s best options; on paper at least.
In recent years, the issue of squad depth has been one to kill off a number of the Gunners’ seasons.
Arsenal fans are way too familiar with the sight of seeing a key player getting injured mid-way through the season which ultimately ends up ruining the dynamics of the squad.
Just last season, the same could be said when right-back Hector Bellerin suffered a season crushing injury as well as Rob Holding later on.
The pair are still on their way to full recovery but how well has the Gunners backline improved without them?
Arsenal managed to keep a clean sheet without summer reinforcements David Luiz and Kieran Tierney.
Former Chelsea centre-back Luiz stayed on the bench, while left-back Tierney is still dealing with a hip injury suffered during his time with Celtic.
The additions of both are a key part of the Gunners’ plan to overhaul a suspect backline threadbare and vulnerable in recent seasons.
Arsenal conceded 51 league goals during Emery’s first campaign in charge, the same number the north London club shipped in domestic action during 2017/18, the final season with Arsene Wenger at the helm.
Also, Calum Chambers seems somewhat like a new signing with his return from Fulham.
Lapses in concentration and a worrying habit of getting bullied in the air have undermined Chambers’ attempts to secure a spot at the back for the Gunners.
At his best, though, he is quick across the deck, precise as a tackler and comfortable on the ball. All of those traits were on display in the north-east, offering hope Chambers can finally become the invaluable utility player an improving defensive unit needs.
It’s taken a while, but Maitland-Niles has become adept in defensive areas and the demands of his not-so-natural position:
Ainsley Maitland-Niles' game by numbers vs. Newcastle:
89% pass accuracy
4 tackles won
2 fouls won
1 chance created
Crucial at both ends of the pitch. 🔴 pic.twitter.com/IRqNzfc4Cy
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 11, 2019
Moving upfront, the duo of Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson impressed and you could barely tell they were teenagers.
They played with much confidence that will leave Emery pleased with his options should either of them be needed to be called upon.
Mkhitaryan had a game to forget but won’t be given room to do that anymore as he’s set to be replaced by new signing Nicolas Pepe.
Slot in a Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira in the Arsenal lineup and you see a scary frontline.
Not to forget that Mesut Ozil and Kolasinac also missed out due to security reasons.
To put that into perspective, here’s an Arsenal XI of players who didn’t start against Newcastle.
Still seems a decent lineup. Right? Even more pleasing Emery can now have two teams (without calling Mustafi) if he wants.
While the Spaniard might not have all his best options to call upon until 4-6 weeks at best, let’s take a look at how the Arsenal lineup could be when all personnel are fit and okay.
The Gunners’ embarrassment of riches in the final third, combined with recent frailty in defence, might have some believing Arsenal are destined for a plethora of 5-4, 4-3 and 3-2 defeats this season.
Yet the clean sheet at Newcastle is the early rebuttal to those concerns Emery would have wanted.
Arsenal now seem to have “reliable” replacements for every position and that could be very crucial as the season goes by.