Unai Emery was handed the most difficult start to Premier league life, when his Arsenal side hosted Pep’s well oiled Manchester City. Unai Emery’s tenure as Arsenal boss began with defeat as his side lost by 2-0 against champions. He was handed an impossible task of beating last season’s Premier League champions Manchester City on the opening day campaign of 18/19.
The Citizens looked well drilled to defend their crown. Arsenal on the other hand looked defensively well organised even though the scoreline suggests otherwise, but they handled the barrage of attacks throughout the game very well. They were energetic going forward especially when Alexandre Lacazette came on and we could see glimpses of how deadly the duo of Auba-Laca could be which comes to Arsenal fans as anew hope to see more.
There were some big drawbacks we could take from City game and learn to avoid those very quickly.
1. Midfield Crisis
Emery surprised everyone by handing young Matteo Guendouzi his first Premier league start of the season ahead of the much anticipated Lucas Torreria. Matteo Guendouzi split the crowd with his performances when he showed glimpses of maturity and his ability to adapt to the quick tempo of the game was quite remarkable. But it was his lack of concentration and literally no help from Granit Xhaka who was just brushed aside by the City midfield, that led to the opening goal by Raheem Sterling.
Whereas going forward Ozil was quite instrumental, even he was found guilty of losing possession on number of occasions. If at all Arsenal are to avoid back to back defeats Unai Emery has to settle down on his midfield combination and show trust towards his new signings.
2. Left Back Solution-
With Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac injured, Emery had to do with a makeshift left back in the form of Maitland-Niles, who was incapable of tracking back and Kylie walker had a field day.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 16, 2018
Unai Emery would need to trust his newly signed right back Stephan Lichsteiner who was signed for free. Despite being 34 when brought on during the first half of the match, there was immediate difference and to some extent a solution to stop the free flow attack from the left flank. With the transfer window shut, Emery must see this as a real piece of concern and would hope that his regular left backs recover soon enough to completely solidify Arsenal’s revamped defence.
3. No. 1 needs to be established-
After having splashed £22m out of a already strict budget on Bernd Leno it would be fair to say that he should have been given the start ahead of Petr Cech who looks way past his prime. After pulling out a string of decent saves, it seemed as if Petr Cech was back to his best only for him to fumble a few chances while trying to play the ball out from the back. 36 years old seemed shaky with the ball at his feet and nearly passed the ball into his own net when trying to switch the play from the back.
With Cech having countless hours of premier league football under him, it was fair to say Emery trusted the veteran keeper to start ahead of the new signing. Cech can be a valuable asset towards building a stronger team for the longer version by giving valuable inputs to his successor, but if Leno doesn’t get any game time he will not reach the potential that we all think he can achieve.
It was not all that bad a performance as the scoreline suggests but there were valuable points which could be taken from Sunday’s game, which every Arsenal fan would have enjoyed watching.
1. “Hunting in Packs” –
Unai Emery’s philosophy could be seen at large as the Gunners were playing a high pressing game with a quick tempo. Even when they lost possession it could be seen these players pushing high and hard, usually in twos or threes, in order to cut down the spaces and create more chances or mistakes from opposition. But with Arsenal not used to playing such a high pressing game they were caught out of position on number of occasions causing a great deal of problems for their back four.
2. Auba-Laca can play together-
Emery trusted the Aubameyang to lead the line but couldn’t get a grip of the game, only for him to fade away in the latter stages of the game. It was not until the inclusion of Lacazette in the second half did we see two of them link up and show glimpses of their potential if played together.
Aubameyang vocally admitted that he likes the style of play with Lacazette on the pitch speaks magnitude regarding how good they know each other and how important their partnership could mean for Arsenal in the upcoming season.
This has to be the starting XI against Chelsea this week. I prefer the duo of Guendouzi and Torreira both are intelligent on the ball, play forward and are great defensively which will be very key for us. pic.twitter.com/u7hOCunlBj
— ᵀᴴ¹⁴ (@MrThierryHenry) August 16, 2018
3. CDM not yet established-
With Matteo Guendouzi still in his early days and Xhaka unable to pass the ball around or to track back, it is still important for Emery to find the right balance in the heart of the Arsenal midfield. New signing Lucas Torreria showing his ability to adapt quick and also found the right passes should be the go to man for their game at Stamford Bridge. Emery would have to chalk up a tactic real quick and hope his players implement them inch perfect against their West London rivals in order to scrap some points.
All in all Arsenal are still a work in progress and players adapting to the new style is a good sign for the Arsenal faithful, we could hope for better times ahead and find the perfect rhythm which would make this team a winning side.