By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close-range goal got our Premier League season up and running as we saw off Norwich in front of a packed crowd at Emirates Stadium.
With the sun blazing in north London, we came flying out of the blocks, determined to make an instant impact.
Aubameyang had our first opportunity as he raced on to a long ball up the left from Kieran Tierney, noticed Tim Krul had hesitated and tried an ambitious long-range effort only to see it fly wide.
The Gabon international was soon found by Martin Odegaard with a sumptuous ball over the top, and while he managed to poke the ball past the Norwich keeper this time, Grant Hanley was able to scramble it clear.
This was more like it, but slowly the visitors grew into the game, closed the gaps in midfield and frustrated our attacking ambitions.
There was still time for Nicolas Pepe to curl a free kick wide and new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu to volley over before the half was out, but it remained deadlocked at the break.
We continued to up the ante in the second half, and had a big opportunity to make the breakthrough when Bukayo Saka’s dragged effort deflected into the path of Nicolas Pepe six yards out, but his shot was blocked by Brandon Williams.
Finally, just after the hour mark we had the breakthrough when Saka fed Pepe, whose shot was palmed on to the post by Krul. The Ivorian’s follow-up was blocked but fell to Aubameyang two yards out and he made no mistake.
The relief inside the ground was palpable. Now we were up and running.
Try as we might we just could not kill off the Canaries, with Krul denying Aubameyang his second and then Emile Smith Rowe, but we’d done enough for our first three points of the campaign.
Arteta sprang a surprise with the inclusion of Aaron Ramsdale in goal for his Emirates Stadium debut, while Ben White and Gabriel returned from illness and injury to start in the centre of defence together for the first time.
There was much interest in seeing new signing Tomiyasu brought straight in at right back, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles came into midfield alongside Sambi Lokonga. Rob Holding missed out on the squad with a bruised right knee.
With no midweek fixture, Arteta has valuable time with his squad to prepare for next Saturday’s clash against Burnley at Turf Moor.
After that is our Carabao Cup third-round fixture against AFC Wimbledon, before the small matter of the north London derby on Sunday, September 26.
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