Arsenal are now 21 games unbeaten in all competitions after winning 1-0 against Huddersfield at the Emirates on Saturday.
The Gunners didn’t make it look pretty against Huddersfield. The starting XI didn’t work. Having no creative midfielders left a bit of a void and the creativity was pushed to the wingbacks to feed the front two, and the three deep-lying midfielders provided a little push from behind.
There was a massive gap to be filled in the chance creation department, where only Mattéo Guendouzi stood out.
The team under-performed especially in the first half, and Unai Emery wasn’t pleased either – moving up and down the touchline prompting his team into doing something they seemed so incapable of. In the second half, they were able to find the goal they desperately needed through a sublime over-head kick by Lucas Torreira, after being found out by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
They also kept their first clean sheet since Bernard Leno took over starting keeper duties.
The match was ugly but it showed that the Gunners are able to grind out the results, nasty and pretty ones alike.
Here are 4 things we learned from the game:
1. Torriera Typifies Arsenal’s Newfound Spirit Under Emery
What a signing Lucas Torreira is showing to be for Arsenal!
The Summer signing from Sampdoria has become an important fan favourite for his tough tackling and hard-working approach. The added bonus of bringing the best out of Granit Xhaka cannot be ignored.
Even after Emery’s positive half time changes, the Gunners struggled to create too much worry with Jonas Lössl, until an unlikely goal-scoring hero emerged.
Aubameyang controlled the ball well inside the Huddersfield box before chipping into the middle, with Torreira (his second goal in as many appearances at the Emirates) lurking to beat Lössl from close range with an overhead kick. It sent the Gooners into a tizzy.
That magnificent unbeaten run has featured some indifferent performances, yet the common theme is resilience. Quite simply, Emery’s team never gives up.
There is a stubbornness about Arsenal’s players who just don’t want to be on the losing end.
2. The Starting XI of Arsenal That We All Desire is Only in its Initial Stage
The Premier League season is now 16 games old and Arsenal are still yet to lead at half-time.
Following Saturday’s first-half stalemate with Huddersfield, the Gunners have now gone in at the break level 12 times to add to the four occasions they’ve been behind.
For the first time this year, Emery went for a starting line-up with Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up top together. This was a combination the Gooners had been wanting to see for quite long.
Alas, they screwed that chance. Both the strikers squandered major chances, though Lacazette had a goal ruled out on a blatantly incorrect offside call. At halftime, Lacazette came off.
The side lacked creativity, and the massive gap for the absence of creative midfielders was only partially picked up by Mattéo Guendouzi who lead the team creating five chances on his own.
It was his pass that led to the breakthrough goal having picked out Aubameyang from the most improbable of positions, making it look far easier than it really was. Guendouzi seemed like a passing master in the game completing 94% of his passes in general, which also led the team by some distance.
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3. No one can do what Xhaka does at Arsenal
There were times Granit Xhaka looked so slow and dawdling. There were a couple of times where he was a bit wayward with his passing.
Now, these problems are slowly disappearing from his play. Aside from those few slip-ups, Xhaka had quite a fantastic match. He led the team in touches by twice of what any other outfield player had, except Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
He led the team in aerial duels won (which is slowly becoming a massive strength of his), helmed the club in defensive clearances, tied for the team in tackles, some of which involved tracking all the way back to make a sturdy defensive play.
Granted, he didn’t have a perfect game. But the workload he puts in, the way he showcases his strengths, the way he drives Arsenal and controls the play remain unmatched.
4. Clean Sheet
It has taken Bernd Leno over a month to get his first clean sheet. Leno has had far better matches – where he was the Man of the Match and where he made ridiculous saves.
It probably isn’t the one he dreamed of, but a clean sheet is a clean sheet. Leno deserves credit for his keeping his head calm in the fracas going on out there. If he had a good, solid defense in front of him, these clean sheets will become far more consistent.
For context, there were 9 yellow cards shown in the match – 5 for Arsenal – and in total, 32 fouls were committed with Arsenal contributing 13.
Next up for Arsenal is a Europa League encounter with Qarabağ FK at the Emirates, before they travel to Southampton on Sunday in the Premier League.