I thinks it’s fair to say that Arsenal haven’t really got going so far this season with a mixture of encouraging, determined, laboured and blunt performances to date. The game against Rapid Vienna was an opportunity to rev the engine and bag some much needed goals.
Thomas Partey got his start with Elneny as a partner, Pepe was partnered by Lacazette and Nketiah and Soares and Kolasinac came in for Bellerin and Tierney.
Yet again Arsenal struggled a little in possession with some stodgy passes and fruitlessly predictable adventures towards the oppositions goal.
Saka and Pepe looked lively and full of intent but Rapid are a side that looked more than capable of upsetting the applecart.
For all the effort and industry of both sides there was a lack of penetration in the final third and a somewhat indifferent and inconsistent first half closed as a scoreless draw.
That ended in the 52nd minute when Leno and Luiz were involved in a typical Arsenal calamity.
Luiz fed the ball back to the German who played the ball straight to Fountas for a low shot towards the right post.
Oh dear. Arsenal’s bolstered defence is still prone to moments of Monty Python defending and the look on the faces of both players said it all. Neither will come out of this well in the media I thought.
It was clear about 57 minutes in that Arteta had to inject some urgency into the proceedings. Arsenal were predictable, blunt and lopsided with most things going down the right with Cedric or Pepe.
The problem was that Ceballos wasn’t available and to be completely honest the bench didn’t look very inspirational or inventive.
Thomas Partey's full Arsenal debut against Rapid Vienna:
◎ Most passes completed in opp. half (50)
◎ Most tackles (5)
◎ Most aerials won (4)
= Most ball recoveries (8)
Ooft. ? pic.twitter.com/ZaDH3w3E1N
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 22, 2020
Partey started to show his repertoire with crisp and precise passes but they weren’t opening doors for Arsenal.
Bellerin and Aubameyang were introduced (62) and Aubameyang added some much needed urgency going forward but it was still hard to see Arsenal earning anything other than a hard fought draw against Rapid Vienna.
Then suddenly the gunners appeared interested in the eventual outcome and there was a feeling that something was going to happen now the tempo had increased.
Pepe may split opinion but he was a terrific inconvenience to Rapid Vienna who broke into a sweat every time he got the ball and zipped forward.
He passed the ball on quickly just before the equaliser and was victim to the most blatant body check that you’ll see this season.
Pepe subsequently delivered a wicked free kick for the head of David Luiz who continue to be villain and hero in the same game (69) Rapid could have taken the lead again shortly after (71) courtesy of another Luiz and Leno tangle but the sequel didn’t live up to their first mistake and with players heading back in numbers the ball from Fountas was sliced well wide.
With 73 minutes on the clock, Arsenal got their noses in front when Elneny provided a killer ball between Barac and Ullmann. Bellerin picked his moment to square the ball to Aubameyang and that was that, drought over !
If Aubameyang is to score an easier goal this season it’s because the defence decided to stay in the changing room and keeper went to the wrong goal mouth.
Lacazette could have got on the scoresheet after a stunner of a pass from David Luiz. You may hate the defenders inconsistencies but he can deliver a devastating ball over distance and into space that is simply world class and that is exactly what he did against Rapid Vienna
Lacazette had too much to do and even though he knew Aubameyang was in more space he took a chance without success.
It would have given the Frenchman some much needed confidence when his starting position appears to be so vulnerable.
The good thing for Arsenal fans is that once the gunners took the lead Partey put out all the fires with impressive authority.
How the North London side have missed a player of this ilk and he is definitely the upgrade everyone thought he would be.
Four minutes turned this game on its head but perhaps Mikel Arteta needs to forget trying to preserve his assets and go for broke in Europe’s second tier competition.