Steve Bruce was left to rue a single mistake as Arsenal condemned him to defeat in his first game as Newcastle head coach.
The 58-year-old could only look on as full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles intercepted Paul Dummett’s attempted pass to substitute Jetro Willems before feeding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score the game’s only goal 58 minutes into a tight affair on Tyneside.
Bruce said: “That’s the big disappointment for us all, to lose it in the way we did, a mistake. We defended fantastically well throughout the game – I can’t remember my goalkeeper making a save, and that against Arsenal is a big, big positive.
“But we’re disappointed that we made a mistake and unfortunately left ourselves open and got punished.”
Newcastle, who handed a competitive debut to £40million record signing Joelinton, started promisingly and were unlucky not to score when Jonjo Shelvey hit a post and the Brazilian striker forced a first-half save from Gunners keeper Bernd Leno.
However, Willems’ failure to collect Dummett’s pass minutes after his introduction amid initial confusion over his role handed Maitland-Niles the chance to set up Aubameyang to control expertly before beating the advancing Martin Dubravka.
Bruce said: “Listen, we have made a genuine mistake. When the pass was too short or whether he hasn’t reacted quickly enough, at the end of the day, I can’t criticise anybody for making a mistake.
“I thought he was too high up the pitch, I thought his position to start with was too high and made the ball longer than it should have been. If that’s a criticism, it’s something we can work on.”