Last night, Arsenal fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders Manchester City. It was a game that few Arsenal fans expected much out of, however, will ultimately be a little disappointed. We kept the game at 1-0 for a long time and always gave ourselves the chance of grabbing a point. Unfortunately, that was a chance we could never make the most of. I think there were some seriously tired legs out there from our Thursday night trip to Italy. Even the likes of Tierney and Saka, who were decent, didn’t seem to have their usual energy. Here are 5 talking points from the game…
1 – Conceding early is becoming a serious problem
3 times in our last 6 games have we now gone a goal down within the first few minutes of the game. Against Southampton, we had enough quality to come back and win. However, we were not so lucky against Villa and City. Generally speaking we have been on brilliant form since Chelsea on Boxing Day. However, if we can’t be completely 100% focused from the very start of the match and need to go a goal down to wake up and start playing, we will never achieve what we want to. You could see the same against Benfica. Everything was played at a slow patient pace until they scored the opener. All of a sudden we played with some urgency and scored a few minutes later. I noticed the same trend towards the end of Emery’s time at the club when we would often go in at half time either at 0-0 or a goal down. Perhaps it is just a symptom of the busy winter schedule, but whatever it is Arteta needs to fix it.
2 – We need to sign a proper partner for Thomas Partey
In the last few weeks we have seen a few faces play in that deep midfield role in the absence of Thomas Partey, and whilst none of them are bad players, I’m not convinced that any are good enough to be a long term partner for Thomas Partey. Ceballos I think is decent, but is very inconsistent and can often be a bit sloppy. Meanwhile, Elneny and Xhaka are consistent and dependable; you know what you’re going to get from them but you’re not going to get anything special. They are reluctant to take the ball on the turn and will generally just play the way they are facing, which all too often is sideways or backwards. We need to turn Partey into the kind of player who just sits, breaks up play and sprays passes around. Then next to him we need a top-quality number 8. Naturally, Buendia or Aouar would be perfect. A player who likes to drop into deep pockets, turn into the midfield and in doing so play through the press. For most of the game last night, we never looked like playing our way out of the Manchester City press
3 – We desperately need a right back
I don’t want to turn this into an anti-Bellerin post. It is a similar case as with Xhaka. They have both been on pretty decent form in the last couple of months, but ultimately I think most fans know that the two of them are only really good enough to be squad players. Bellerin is an average defender often saved by his speed. Unfortunately, his speed doesn’t seem to help him in attack. He seems unwilling to really commit on the overlap, making life very difficult for Saka or Pepe or whoever is playing ahead of him. When he does get into these dangerous positions, his crossing consistently lets him down. We need a right back that can match the effort and directness of Kieran Tierney
4 – Is it time to move on from Aubameyang?
Despite his hat-trick against Leeds, Aubameyang has largely continued his poor season. The thing with Aubameyang is that he is very often not even in the game. He is isolated, he struggles to hold the ball up and his strengths don’t really lie in dropping deep to link up the play. We all knew this when we signed him. But, when we signed him he was perhaps the fastest and one of the most clinical strikers around. Play the ball behind the defensive line and he would get there first and tuck it away. What I have sadly seen this season is Auba slowly losing those key traits. I saw John Stones keep pace with him on multiple occasions last night. He also doesn’t seem as clinical anymore. He had 3 golden chances against Benfica, none of which he could even force a save from. The trouble is when he isn’t scoring goals he isn’t really bringing very much to the team. We need to move to a different style of striker. Someone who can run and is clinical but also poses a different and more conventional threat. Someone like Dominic Calvert Lewin at Everton. He can work the channels, his touch is brilliant, his hold up play is perhaps the best in the league and his aerial ability is also second to none. I’d much rather play with him upfront with Martinelli and Saka as narrow forwards running in behind him.
5 – Arteta In
It was quite a dull game in truth. Not a lot happened at either end. However, for us to have limited City in such a way is credit to Arteta’s coaching. For the first hour we were effectively playing with a back 5 and generally speaking it was working. We were suffocating the central areas and looking dangerous on the counter down our left side. Considering the talent we were up against, I would say we handled City very well. Mahrez caused us some issues in the opening 20 minutes, but apart from that we saw pretty much nothing from the likes of Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Gundogan and even Sterling (who asides from his goal was generally ineffective). It is such a shame that we weren’t switched on from the get go, or I think we would definitely have come away with a point
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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