If someone thought the 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Arsenal was entertaining at the Emirates last year, they need to look at this match. Arsenal may have lost 3-2 on the day but there were some good signs for Unai Emery and his men.
A lot has changed since last season for both these London giants. Both opted for a change in manager and an opposite change in philosophy. After Conte left, Chelsea signed up Maurizio Sarri, the Italian famous for the slick, attractive style of football that fans have been begging for at the bridge. On the other hand, Arsenal opted for the opposite. After longest serving manager Arsene Wenger called it a day on his career, Arsenal went for Unai Emery. Based on the signings he made in the summer, it seems like his focus is more on defensive stability than going forward.
While the opening game vs Man City could be considered a free hit, Arsenal needed to make a strong showing on Saturday. Here we analyse their performance.
Arsenal went into the match with two changes from the Man City game. Nacho Monreal and Alex Iwobi came in for the injured Maitland-Niles and Aaron Ramsey respectively. The Iwobi change didn’t go down too well with the Arsenal fan base but based on Emery’s counter-attacking gameplan, it was the right choice. Iwobi’s pace and Ozil being placed in the centre helped Arsenal while going forward but their failure to take chances and defensive frailties saw them succumb to a 3-2 defeat.
Chelsea struck twice in the first 20 minutes. Some fans might already have been thinking ‘oh, this again’. Not too many people expected Arsenal to fight back the way they did. They showed character and roared back into the game, levelling the scores before halftime. The game was well and truly on.
In the second half though, Arsenal had a few chances but once Kovacic and Hazard came on, Chelsea showed their class and nicked it in the 81st minute. Interestingly, all the goals scored in this match were from inside the box.
There could easily have been more.
Arsenal only have themselves to blame for this loss. One would not be exaggerating if they said Arsenal could’ve gone into the half at least 4-2 up. They missed some real sitters. Most notably, Arsenal’s main man up-top, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang missed a chance which seemed easier to score than miss. If that was not bad enough, Chelsea scored their second through Morata from the subsequent attack which hugely dented Arsenal’s hopes. Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Iwobi also missed chances from inside the box in a half which saw Chelsea’s defence cut through time and time again on the counter.
Arsenal’s defence too though was not as solid as they would have liked. There were many occasions where a better pass from Willian or Pedro could have caused even more problems for Arsenal. Sokratis did not have the best of matches as his lack of pace was exposed by Chelsea. Mustafi was the only defender with an impressive showing in defence, making important blocks at crucial times.
Guendozi was another shining light. For a 19-year-old, he has shown some composure and defensive sense of positioning, something Arsenal have been crying for since they lost Gilberto Silva. The fact that he kept Torreira out thus far is a representation of the faith Emery has in him.
Arsenal are clearly a work in Progress. Playing the Champions at home and your next door London rivals away in the first two games of the season is no easy task. This match was a definite improvement from the first game. A smoother run of 8 games awaits where Emery can rack up some wins and really start settling into the circus that is the Premier League.
These fixtures would give the team a better opportunity to implement Emery’s philosophy and get comfortable playing his way. The real test will be when they play Liverpool who are expected to challenge for the title this year. The biggest problem that needs addressing though is the defence. Arsenal need to incorporate Torreira into that midfield and improve the cohesion among the back 4. One of the most prominent issues though is Cech’s inability to play out from the back.
Petr Cech has been one of the greatest goalkeepers in the game. Although, he is an old-fashioned keeper. He is a shot stopper. This season too, he has kept out some really good shots. It seems though that Emery is adamant on playing out from the back. This poses a problem for the 37-year-old shot-stopper who isn’t known for his skill with the ball on his feet. There have been numerous nervy moments in the first 2 games which is a huge cause for concern. However, Bernd Leno is fit and awaiting to grasp his opportunity. He could be incorporated because the last thing any club wants is indecision over its Number 1 Goalkeeper.
Going forward, it seems apparent that in Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Ramsey, Arsenal have 3 Central Attacking Midfielders who are first team quality. None of them are natural wingers and all three of them were played behind Aubameyang vs Man City with Ozil and Mkhitaryan on the wings. Arsenal need a first team natural winger and they need it quickly. Alex Iwobi looked threatening vs Chelsea, which is a positive sign/
The final issue to be discussed is Alexandre Lacazette. He is a born goalscorer and has looked sharp when coming off the bench on both occasions this season. Surely, he cannot come off the bench throughout the season. He is a first-team striker who deserves a chance. This creates a selection headache for Unai Emery. Would Aubameyang make way? Or would Arsenal play two up-top? does he play off the left wing or does Aubameyang? it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Emery has floated the idea to play both Aubameyang and Lacazette but how will it be incorporated?
Interesting times up ahead for the Gunners. They wanted a change and they got it, 0 out of 6 points does look bad but it is unfair to judge Emery based on two games(that too vs Man City and Chelsea). But he does need to show some real tangible signs of improvement to really get the fans on his side. Fans need to be patient and let Emery settle in. Where will Arsenal finish? Anyone’s guess.
Featured Image via Worldsportsnews.
Sarri/Emery Image via Ghanasoccernet.
Alonso Image via footballghana.
Aubameyang Image via Planetfootball.
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