Arsenal secured a hard fought 1-0 victory over Newcastle at the Emirates stadium to begin their 2016 campaign on a positive note.
Arsenal went into the break level against Newcastle United, thanks to Petr Cech’s fine performance in goal before Laurent Koscielny close range effort after the break Arsene Wenger’s men their second successive victory following Southampton’s humiliation.
The Czech Republic international has been in top form in difficult conditions, denying Georginio Wijnaldum, Jack Colback and Aleksandar Mitrovic during an action-packed first half in torrential rain at Emirates Stadium.
With this in mind, the manager made three changes to the team that beat Bournemouth in Arsenal’s final game of 2015 as Nacho Monreal and Laurent Kosielny replaced Kieran Gibbs and Gabriel. Mathieu Flamini’s return meant Calum Chambers was made to wait for his 50th appearance for the club.
Elsewhere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott continued their role on the wings, with Olivier Giroud searching for his ninth goal in his last eight league games against Newcastle.
The France defender reacted first to turn in from close range and extend the Gunners’ lead at the top of the Premier League as they got off to a winning start in 2016.
It was a hard-fought victory for the hosts, who were made to wait for their breakthrough by Steve McClaren’s side, and they also were indebted to Petr Cech’s first-half heroics.
The Czech Republic goalkeeper was in fine form and, having broken the Premier League clean-sheet record against Bournemouth, he seemed determined to keep another, denying Georginio Wijnaldum, Jack Colback and Aleksandar Mitrovic in quick succession.
But Arsenal hit back after the restart and, once Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey had both tested Rob Elliot from close range, Arsène Wenger’s side found the breakthrough.
Newcastle had defended diligently throughout the match but, when they failed to clear Mesut Ozil’s corner, Koscielny capitalised, slotting home to secure a first win of the year for the Gunners – and Arsenal’s 100th Premier League clean sheet under Wenger.
It was not always pretty but it was a game champions are expected to win and, should Arsenal continue to grind out results like these, they could be looking at more silverware in 2016.