Arsenal under Unai Emery secured the first win of the season while beating West Ham United 3-1 at the Emirates stadium. Both the teams came into the game with back to back defeats and desperately wanted to put first points on the board and looked weak in defense however Arsenal and Emery had picked up a lot of positives from the previous losses to champions City and away to Chelsea owing mainly to the problems in the Arsenal defense.
Emery had made only one change from the line-up starting against Chelsea, Ramsey was in place of Mesut Ozil who didn’t even make the bench due to illness. The primary weakness about the team once again was the Arsenal defense for which they were punished for when Arnautovic scored a goal just after Iwobi had lost the ball high up the pitch.
West Ham had plenty of chances which could have been turned into the net had they been more clinical. Growing into the match Arsenal scored goals via Nacho Monreal and Lacazete’s good work which led to an own goal and a sucker punch by Danny Welbeck in the added time of second half which secured a 3-1 comeback which was far from convincing specially in regards to the Arsenal defense.
Arsenal head coach must have assessed the trouble in Arsenal defense in all the three PL matches which he diligently mentioned in his post-match conference,
“It’s clear that we need to improve (defensively) and we need to improve on working to not concede many chances.”
Arsenal have been playing a very high line while attacking which leaves the Arsenal defense back line very vulnerable to long and through balls. Mustafi and Sokratis have been solid while defending set pieces but since it is very early days of this partnership it quite often leads to an array of chances for the opposition to exploit when Arsenal are trying to play the high defense line.
Emery really needs to work out the positioning for both the centre backs in the training ground as their lack of pace usually hinders the tracking back and makes that maintaining of the back line really troublesome for the Arsenal defense
Bellerín loses the ball upfield and West Ham break. Xhaka is dragged across the pitch by the runner Arsenal can't pressure the ball as they'd like to in such a situation. Positioning for a counter when in possession is somewhere to improve. pic.twitter.com/UH25ts075c
— Arsenal Tactics (@ArsenalVids1) August 28, 2018
Nacho Monreal who scored also spoke about the unsatisfactory defensive performance at the post match interview,
“Obviously it has not been our best performance and we have to improve. In the first half we concede but we have conceded few more so we need to learn about that.”
The right-hand side of the Arsenal defense has really led to a number of openings in all the three games. Arsenal have already conceded total 44 attempts on goal in just three matches, out of which 13 were in the game against the Hammers. This is where Hector Bellerin has to step up and be a much improved version just like he’s looking right now in the attacking third.
CONSISTENT MIDFIELD PARTNERSHIPS
Guendouzi has come to rise under Emery who agreed that the young French is a quick learner. But judging by the three games, Guendouzi should really be eased into the games and the league gradually.
Emery’s style of play demands full backs to push forward while attacking leaving them out of position with a need of a midfield cover which has till now fallen to Guendouzi who seems better suited playing centrally rather than as the defensive cover that the Arsenal defense needs him to be quite too often.
Aaron Ramsey adapting to the new style of play spoke to the press at the end of the match and explained saying :,
“He wants us to press and press really high up the pitch, so that’s the biggest thing really and then obviously we’re trying to figure it outgoing forward as well, so hopefully we can combine the two next week and get another win under our belt.”
Arsenal needs a stronger and experienced partnership in the middle of the park where Lucas Torreira would be a mainstay in front of the defense and Xhaka can play higher up the pitch like he does for his national team.
— GoonerViews (@GoonerViews) August 26, 2018
Torreira gave the required balance that the team really lacked when he was subbed on for Matteo Geundouzi. Playing the two defensive minded central mid-fielders would actually bring the required balance in attack and defense for Arsenal.
The Uruguay International made efficient ball recoveries and timely interceptions whereas Xhaka also kept and used the ball well with his precise long passes with Torreira’s defensive security behind him and giving him the stability that he needs to impose himself into the game.
Now Emery needs to find a way to play his main game changers Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan together. Emery with his style of play likes to play a defensive shape with three in midfield so with Ramsey trying to play from a little deeper position when the fullbacks barge ahead will actually provide the structure to the team all around and get the team properly and fluently function right from the middle.
Ozil and Mkhitaryan can play further ahead with the striker but lack of a true winger troubles Arsenal going ahead. This is where either Ozil or Mkhitaryan (or both) has to adapt into the role from wider positions.
Keeping the Arsenal defense issues aside, Emery has already spoken out in his press conference about how Arsenal striker Aubameyang is low on confidence and a goal would do a world of good to his form. After 10 goals in 13 matches last season he is expected to deliver whenever on the pitch with the kind of scoring appetite he has. But this season second half substitute Lacazette has always looked influential when brought on.
Starting as a lone striker, Aubameyang was isolated.
Bringing on Lacazette was a game-changer. Straight away Arsenal looked more threatening. Eight attempts on target and scored the two goals that won them the game. This was a huge result for Arsenal and Emery. pic.twitter.com/cQPwM4LFti
— Emery's new era 👏🏾 (@tomgunner14) August 27, 2018
Unai needs to reconsider who he likes and chooses to play up top and maybe for a few games atleast be ruthless enough to replace the striker in the team with the one that seems more likely to score and looks to be in better form as of now. The boss has also spoken about Aubameyang and Lacazette might be playing together but for that to happen he has to sacrifice either Ozil or Ramsey in his place and this is something which is potentially a huge decision to make but one that nevertheless needs to be implemented.
Emery has already show how he is absolutely unafraid of dropping his star names from the match day squad by keeping Ramsey out of the starting XI against Chelsea and reportedly telling Ozil to pick up the slack else face the axe, so this is exactly something that he needs to do here by dropping either of them when they aren’t upto their best and instead trying out Lacazette and Aubameyang up top and check which works better.
Emery’s philosophy of tactical high press and playing out from the back can work only if the individual personnel adapt into their roles as quickly as possible, especially in the Arsenal defense. With the run of games Arsenal have in coming game weeks they have really a good chance to establish their best combinations and Unai Emery really needs to address these key issues and effectively decide on his starting line up as early as possible ahead of the peak season kicking in.