Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half strike was enough to earn Arsenal all three points on a wet and windy afternoon on Tyneside, against the backdrop of fan protests against Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.
Unai Emery’s side had to grind out a win, but it will be a welcome one that banishes thoughts of the Gunners’ poor away record last season and showed a gritty side to Arsenal.
Newcastle would have been the happier of the two sides at half time after a goalless first half. They pressed well and limited Arsenal to just two real chances, and went closest to breaking the deadlock themselves.
The first Arsenal chance saw Henrik Mkhitaryan blaze over from inside the box after Martin Dubravka was beaten to the ball by Nacho Monreal. It was on his weak foot but the Armenian will feel he should have done better.
Mkhitaryan then created Arsenal’s best chance of the half as a swift move caught Newcastle’s back three on the back foot- his lofted ball was brought down beautifully by Aubameyang, whose effort was well struck but straight at Dubravka.
Before those chances, it was Newcastle who had threatened, with new signing Joelinton - impressing on his debut - flashing a header wide from Matt Ritchie’s cross and Miguel Almiron’s pace giving the Arsenal back four something to think about.
The home side’s best chance though came from Jonjo Shelvey, whose half volley from a throw-in on the left took a deflection off Calum Chambers and thumped the post. Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal looked to have it covered but it was a warning shot at the Gunners.
It was a warning shot for a Newcastle siege that never really materialised. Arsenal started the second-half brighter and just seven minutes in, a Reiss Nelson corner was flicked on by Granit Xhaka - the ball flashed across the face of goal without a yellow shirt to turn it in.
And little more than five minutes later Arsenal made the breakthrough. A loose pass was intercepted by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and the right-back surged forward into space before chipping a delightful cross in the path of Aubameyang.
The striker’s first touch brought the ball under control, the second was a delicate poke over the onrushing Dubravka.
It was ruthless and clinical in the mould of a top-level team that Arsenal must aim to be this season, and there was also steel and composure in defence that the Gunners missed last campaign.
The Magpies rarely threatened for an equaliser - not for the want of trying - and in truth, Leno had very little to do as Arsenal remained in control of the game.
The German stopper was called into action six minutes from time, as Newcastle new boy Allain Saint-Maxime drove forward and drilled a low shot at goal, but it was a comfortable stop for Leno at his near post.
There was one last chance for Newcastle, and a slight heart in mouth moment for the Gunners, as a free kick in the third minute of four added on bounced and deflected its way into the six-yard box. Fortunately for the visitors, it fell to Leno to claim, and with that Newcastle’s hopes of salvaging a point faded.
Two takeaways from the match
Arsenal strong at the back
Whilst Aubameyang was the matchwinner the combination of Sokratis and Calum Chambers at the back enjoyed a promising first outing. They will face sterner tests but often last season Arsenal struggled against physicality and pace, and the pair dealt with Miguel Almiron’s speed and Joelinton’s presence comfortably.
It will no doubt be a relief to Unai Emery, who last year saw his side only keep one clean sheet away from home, that Arsenal never really looked like giving their lead away. With David Luiz waiting in the wings for his first appearance, Arsenal's defensive options suddenly seem a lot stronger.
Newcastle spirited but lacking quality
Steve Bruce’s side gave a decent account of themselves and went close on a couple of occasions, but there was a distinct lack of quality in transition.
Joelinton looks like he could prove to be a good purchase and Almiron has already shown his quality since signing in January, but they will need better service and to see more of the ball if Newcastle hope to replace the goals of Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez.
There is promise in that pairing though, and one match against a top-four contender will not define Newcastle’s season.