It wasn’t the most stellar of performances from Arsenal as they kicked off their Premier League campaign against Newcastle at St. James’ Park, but the Gunners still got the job done as they prevailed 1-0.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s solitary goal separated the two sides, with Unai Emery’s team getting the win despite missing a number of their star players. Sead Kolasinac, Mesut Ozil, Kieran Tierney, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin were all unable to start or could not feature at all for a number of reasons.
With the latter unavailable, Ainsley Maitland-Niles slotted in at right-back. He has often been a utility player for Arsenal, having played in several positions, but it is fair to say he took his chance on the right flank as he was the Emirates outfit’s best performer throughout the match.
Offensively, he provided a constant threat on his side of the field, regularly bombing forward to question the Toon’s backline. He set up Aubameyang for the Gabon international’s second-half strike, and beat his man on several occasions during the match as he proved to be one of his side’s best attacking outlets.
It wasn’t just in the opponents’ half that he impressed, though. Defensively, he also proved reliable, recording four tackles and three interceptions as he completed the whole of the 90 minutes. It is rare that an Arsenal team is so solid, but the 21-year-old contributed to a back four that seldom looked troubled.
Aubameyang may have been the difference between the two sides in the most important moment, but Maitland-Niles was the best player on the pitch as per WhoScored, registering a rating of 8.40. Bellerin is expected to return at the end of September but if the England U21 international continues to perform like this up until that point, the 24-year-old Spaniard will be faced with the difficult task of trying to dislodge him.