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Nervy, scrappy but vital: Aubameyang winner lifts Arsenal off the bottom of the league to ease pressure on Arteta

18:03 BST 11/09/2021
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal Norwich Premier League 2021-22
The Gabon forward made the crucial breakthrough midway through the second half as the Gunners claimed their first points of the Premier League season

Arsenal 1-0 Norwich City: Match Statistics

It’s been a long time coming, but Arsenal’s season is now up and running.

It wasn’t pretty at times, but Mikel Arteta’s side edged to a nervy 1-0 win against Norwich City and moved themselves off the bottom of the Premier League.

The fact they were rooted to the foot of the table throughout the international break was a clear indication of how bad things have been over the opening weeks of the new season.

But Arteta will now be hoping that this victory can prove the spark his team have desperately needed to kickstart their campaign.

It moves them off the bottom with games against Burnley, Tottenham and Brighton to come before the next international break, and eases some of the pressure that has been increasing on their under-fire manager.

And while the narrow success against a side that has now lost its last 14 games in the Premier League will certainly not bring an end to the question marks over Arteta’s future, it will at least give the Spaniard and his players some much needed breathing space ahead of a crucial run of games over the coming weeks.

Having failed to even score in their opening three league defeats against Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City, Arsenal knew they needed something different against a Norwich team who went into the game sitting one place above them in the league thanks to the solitary goal they had netted in their opening three losses.

New signing Takehiro Tomiyasu was handed his debut at right-back, while Gabriel and Ben White started together at centre-back for the first time ever and Martin Odegaard started a home game for the first time since his permanent move from Real Madrid.

So, Arsenal’s side had a new look to it and they flew out of the blocks early on, playing with an intensity that had been massively lacking in their three opening league defeats.

Tomiyasu and Nicolas Pepe linked up well down the right and Odegaard was causing Norwich all sorts of problems during the opening stages with his movement and pressing ability.

However, despite dominating the opening 25 minutes, the hosts couldn’t find a way through, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang going closest when his shot from Odegaard’s pass was kept out by Krul.

You could sense the tension rising around the stadium as the half wore on and Norwich started to grow into the game in the final 10 minutes before the break, although they never really threatened.

The second half saw Arsenal dominate, but as the clock ticked past the hour mark they still hadn’t found a way through.

You began to sense it was going to be another frustrating afternoon, but then the crucial moment arrived on 66 minutes.

It was a scrappy goal but when you have gone 336 minutes without scoring, you will take anything.

Aubameyang was the man who got it, but Nicolas Pepe was at the heart of the action. The Ivory Coast star saw one shot pushed superbly onto the post by Krul before he hit the other post with the rebound.

The ball then deflected off Krul’s leg and fell for Aubameyang, who looked to have been in an offside position before he tapped it into the empty net.

Norwich were furious that the goal was allowed to stand, but because the ball had deflected to Aubameyang off Krul, the Arsenal skipper was deemed to be onside when it was checked by VAR.

It was the stroke of luck that Arsenal needed, although their failure to add a second in the closing stages meant they had to endure a nervy final few minutes as the visitors pressed for an equaliser.

The full-time whistle was greeted by huge cheers from the Arsenal fans, which were more out of relief than anything else.

This has been a tortuous start to the season for the Gunners and they will be desperately hoping that they can now build on these three points and get some sort of momentum behind them.

To do that though, they have to find a ruthless edge in front of goal.

They had 30 shots against Norwich, 20 of which came in the second half, but they only had Aubameyang’s slightly fortunate goal to show for it.

Time and time again, they passed up opportunities to kill the game off and Arteta will know that is something that his side must improve on as the season progresses.

But there were also plenty of positives to take. Tomiyasu looked impressive on his debut and White, playing his first game since the defeat at Brentford, was excellent alongside Gabriel at centre-back.

Thomas Partey also returned from injury midway through the second half and demonstrated exactly why he has been so badly missed in midfield during the opening weeks of the campaign.

For Arteta, this was a game that was always just about getting that first win. It was nervy, it was ugly at times, but his side got there in the end.

Arsenal's season is belatedly under way.