This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
It may only be one week into the new Premier League campaign but Arsenal look like a different outfit.
They’re buoyed by new signings, among them, the £72m Nicolas Pepe whilst the days of Arsene Wenger are now seemingly long gone.
That isn’t to say issues that arose under the Frenchman aren’t still there but after their opening match of the season, there are reasons to be encouraged.
Why? Because Arsenal not only won on the road, but they also kept a clean sheet.
The Gunners’ shoddy away record is no secret and last season they were particularly poor when it came to their travels in the Premier League.
Unai Emery’s men had to wait an awful long time for a game in which they didn’t concede away from the Emirates last term, defeating Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road in April.
Until that point, they hadn’t kept a single clean sheet in 2018/19 when playing away.
It was a statistic that Arsenal simply couldn’t be proud of. However, they’ve already matched that record in what was a dogged performance at St James’ Park.
At moments in the first half they rode their luck as Joelinton and Miguel Almiron looked threatening against the relatively untried partnership of Sokratis and Calum Chambers.
The pair played together in pre-season but whether they remain first choice with David Luiz waiting in the wings remains to be seen.
But they did look far more composed than can be said of last season.
Arsenal’s home form last term was fantastic and was only bettered by Manchester City and Liverpool. What really cost them a place in the top four, therefore, was their performances on their travels.
It was a real Achilles heel for the Gunners and it has been for the last two years.
Obviously, there is still a whole season to play but on Sunday we saw promising signs that Arsenal are ready to fight and also ready to keep their cool when it matters.
There will undoubtedly be tougher tests to come but the signs so far are good.