Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Arsenal enjoy fast start to Premier League season but Unai Emery sees room for improvement

Lacazette and Aubameyang with the goals at the Emirates Stadium either side of Barnes' equaliser

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette with their trademark celebration during Arsenal's win over Burnley. Press Association
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette with their trademark celebration during Arsenal's win over Burnley. Press Association

Twelve months ago, the Unai Emery era began in less than spectacular fashion as Arsenal sat on zero points from their opening two Premier League games.

However, those defeats were against champions Manchester City and Chelsea, but it was still not the start Emery needed after taking over from Arsene Wenger.

So the look of relief on his face at the final whistle on Saturday as his team defeated Burnley 2-1 to make it maximum points so far this season was understandable.

Two wins out of two, albeit against opponents in Newcastle United and Burnley that Arsenal would expect to beat, have given them the ideal start if they are to fulfill their ambitions of returning to the top four.

But this was an Arsenal who finished 2018/19 by winning just two of their final seven games, so they should be taking nothing for granted.

It looked initially as if it would be a comfortable day at the Emirates when Alexandre Lacazette showed impressive strength in the box to force a shot home.

But the familiar doubts in Arsenal’s backline reared their head again as Ashley Barnes made it three goals in two games when he netted from close range two minutes before half time.

Arsenal bounced back after the restart and it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the match-winner at Newcastle six days earlier, who scored the decider once again.

"We are happy. We started with a win at home, which is important,” Emery told BT Sport. “I think we can do better. We lost some easy balls at times, but in general we can be proud of our first match here. We didn’t control the game as much as we wanted.”

A bigger test of Arsenal’s credentials will come next weekend at Liverpool, the European champions, but Aubameyang believes he and his teammates are well set up for the challenge to Anfield.

"We started well today and it is good to start with two wins before we go to Liverpool, we feel confident and feel good,” said the Gabonese striker.

"I think we feel stronger with players like David Luiz, Dani Ceballos and Pepe. We are sure we can fight for the top four."

Liverpool also maintained their perfect start to the season after superb individual goals by Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino earned a 2-1 win at Southampton.

Looking weary in the opening 30 minutes after their penalty shootout win over Chelsea in the Uefa Super Cup on Wednesday, Liverpool weathered waves of Southampton attacks before Mane fired them ahead on the stroke of half time.

The European champions dominated after the break and missed several chances before Firmino picked up a loose ball, side-stepped a defender and drove a low shot home in the 71st minute.

But the visitors barely hung on in the closing stages after a howler by goalkeeper Adrian, whose poor clearance rebounding rebounded off former Liverpool striker Danny Ings into the back of the net.

Teemu Pukki continued his fast start to life in the Premier League after the Finnish striker scored a hat-trick to lead Norwich City to a 3-1 win over Newcastle United at Carrow Road.

Jonjo Shelvey scored an injury time consolation goal for the visitors as the promoted Norwich earned their first points of the season.

However, fellow promoted side Aston Villa are still waiting to get on the board after losing 2-1 to Bournemouth at Villa Park. Joshua King opened the scoring for the visitors in the second minute from the peanlty spot, before Harry Wilson doubled the lead 10 minutes later. Douglas Luiz pulled one back for Villa with 19 minutes remaining, but the hosts could not find an equaliser.

Everton earned their first win of the season, claiming a 1-0 win over manager Marco Silva’s former club Watford thanks to a 10th-minute goal by Bernard.

Updated: August 17, 2019 09:16 PM

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