Arsenal has changed a lot for good under the managerial changes brought at the different hierarchies of the club. Most of the deserved praise and credit for this changed Arsenal side goes to the new head coach Unai Emery.
The Spaniard has been a fresh breath of air in the midst of all the “Same old Same old”. He has revolutionized the club with his unique training methods, decision-making, tactical awareness and most importantly bringing a winning and fighting mentality back to the club.
All of this has not only been seen on the training ground, but has also transpired in the outcomes on the pitch. Arsenal has gone on a 22 matches unbeaten streak in all competitions after the opening two defeats in the Premier League.
The Gunners have been unbeaten since August, and recently added a feisty North London Derby win to their list. A 4-2 win was not as comfortable score-line as it seems; Emery’s men had come back from 1-2 down to win 4-2 which showed the character with which the team played.
Arsenal were also held to a 2-2 draw by a physical Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Arsenal would feel that they dropped two points at an added cost of losing two important players of the squad. Aaron Ramsey seemed to have done his ankle just before the halftime and kept moving gingerly till the first half whistle: substituted at the start of second half.
The North London outfit had already substituted their center back Rob Holding who was stretchered of the pitch after a Rash-ford push on the sidelines of the pitch. Few days later, reports have revealed that it’s a season ending injury as the Englishman has suffered damage to his knee’s ACL.
The creativity of the Gunners suffered in the match against a struggling Huddersfield at the Emirates. Arsenal dearly felt the absence of their number 10 Mesut Özil who has been out of action since the Bournemouth away trip with a back problem.
Arsenal suffered one more injury blow during the Huddersfield game when Shkodran Mustafi signaled to the bench that he has pulled his hamstring.
Arsenal will also be without Sokratis Papastathopoulos who is suspended for the next Premier League game.
One more yellow card for Lucas Torreira and he will be suspended for one game.
With games coming thick and fast in the festive period, Arsenal will be without their regular backline which can be major issue. The Gunners play 5 matches in span of a fortnight –
- 16th Dec Southampton (A)
- 19th Dec Tottenham (H)
- 22nd Dec Burnley (H)
- 26th Dec Brighton (A)
- 29th Dec Liverpool (A)
Emery had switched to three at the back since the return from International break at the Bournemouth away game. It had allowed the likes of Héctor Bellerín and Sead Kolašinac to express themselves in the wing-back position. The Bosnian has specially grabbed the opportunity and has made up for his lesser defensive positioning in the attacking half with reassuring cover of three at the back.
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The Arsenal Head coach has to make some tactical changes and give priority game and opponent wise, since he cannot risk three center backs in such a hectic period when he has to do with players returning from long term injuries. Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal have returned to the first team with the later getting few minutes under his belt at CB position in the Huddersfield game.
Koscielny was all smiles to start his first game in six months, and was taken off unscathed after seventy odd minutes in a dead rubber game against Qarabağ FK in the last group game of the Europa League.
For the next few games, the gaffer has some player and game management headaches. His priority will be not to lose Torreira to suspension before the Anfield away game.
With the kind of stability Torreira brings in the attack and defense of the team, it is very important he is there at the Liverpool game. Emery will hope that he picks a tactical yellow in either Southampton away or the Burnley home game. With all respect to Brighton & Hove Albion, the Uruguayan can get a rest just before the away trip to Liverpool.
Emery will go for three at the back for the away game at Southampton but has to risk two players returning from injury and two out of the back three will be makeshifts.
The experience of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Monreal will play a big part in this game where Arsenal will play all their full backs in a single game. Papastathopoulos will be available for the Burnley game at Emirates and Mustafi should be back to full fitness by then.
After the taste of first NLD victory, the Spaniard also has this Cup game which he would like to win and progress further in the competition.
The coach has to keep all permutations open so this unbeaten run goes on and the team ends the year on a high. The most important thing during this hectic festive season is to take one game at a time.
The difference between recent Arsenal teams and this squad will be set straight with the response to this kind of injury crisis at the back. The positives of this squad of wanting to stand for each other and prove the worth of this group is going to take them places with the kind of character they have developed under Emery.
Still, the Gunners have to fit the proverb “The tough gets going when the going gets tough” to maintain their top four chase and the unbeaten run.