So there you are, we have our first win and much needed three points. Watching our beloved team play at the home of football, or indeed away from it, remains something akin to an outer-body experience, or like a weird dream. Who are those players and why are we playing like that? Have I just woken from a three-year long coma and now have to familiarise myself with the team again?
The brave thing about Emery is that he is prepared to put his stamp on the team, and not just tweak and build on what Wenger has left him behind. In my first year as post-Wenger Arsenal coach – yes now I am dreaming – I would have done the latter rather than the former. But I respect Emery for making the players play football the Unai-ted way, even though it is a strange and often painful thing to watch. Patience is what is needed, and I am more and more sitting back and allowing Emery the time and support to gradually get it right.
Here are my eight observations:
- The team want to do well for Emery. There is a hell of a lot to improve right now, but the most important thing is that the players give their all with pride for the shirt and don’t give up.
- Five goals in three games is not a bad return. We are creating chances: we had 15 shots v the Chavs (six on target) and nine against MC (three on target) and yesterday we had 17 shots of which a whopping 10 were on target. So 19 shots on target in three games led to five goals; we need to improve in this. What is remarkable, though, is that Auba and super-sub Laca are both still not on the scoresheet. That is £100m of strikeforce currently failing to find the net. The goals came from Mkhi, Nacho, OG, Welbz and Iwobi. I am pleased that others have stepped up to score the goals, and two away goals at the Chavs should normally be enough for at least a point, but we need to get Auba and Laca to start scoring again. It will come.
- Now regular BKers will know my view on the enthusiastic and very promising talent of Guendouzi. What a prospect! To combine him with Xhaka in the DM pivot is a recipe for midfield – and therefore defence – disaster, though. Xhaka does not deserve the undisciplined and inexperienced Guendouzi next to him. Guendouzi needs a classical DM next to him which Xhaka is not. Torreira would make both players much more effective, and, as I like our midfield to be controlling and calm, I prefer the combo of Xhaka and Torreira, especially with Emery’s preference to have both full backs to be as free as the wind for us. As soon as Guendouzi came off and Xhaka and Torreira were allowed to play together for the first time, things started to look a lot more balanced all over the pitch. We did not concede many chances anymore and scored two ourselves to win the game. I have no idea why Emery is not starting with Torreira and Xhaka (or if you must, Guendouzi), but I really hope he will start doing this from now on. Balance is king. I would play Guendouzi more regularly in the hole, in front of two of Torreira, Xhaka and Elneny.
- The ex-Gunners, Wilshere, Perez and Fabianski had mixed games yesterday: Fabianski was superb, Jack tried hard but had little impact and Perez missed a more than decent opportunity to equalize the game at the crucial moment. I hope they do well this season and help the Hammers to stay up at least.
- Bellerin is our best attacker. Two assists v WH and more good balls into the box, Hector is firing on all cylinders. He is our outlet in the team and in every game until now he has been very effective going forward. It does leave us defensively frail though, especially with Nacho also being allowed to go forward whenever he feels like it (and Guendouzi also bombing forward in a free-as-the-wind role). We need Bellerin’s attacking prowess but we also need better defensive cover, hence my second observation above.
- Mkhi was enjoying himself in the creative department and stood in well for Mesut. He has an average of 2.3 key passes per game this season, which is promising. Would he thrive more if it is either him or Ozil on the pitch in games? I reckon we need to find a way to get both to be effective and leading the team to victory time and again.
- Lacazette brings energy and so does Welbeck. With Auba still not in the groove, it is important that we have an attacking plan-B, and the Frenchman and Englishman do just that. Laca produced a lucky OG and Welbz finished in a controlled way to finish the game off in extra time, but it was there energy and hunger that made the real difference in attack.
- Cech saved us again and I reckon it are his reputation, frame and professionalism which are giving him the edge over Leno right now. He probably should have done better on the WH goal, but he also saved us on a number of occasions from conceding a second, whilst being protected poorly by our defence. Cech is STILL a winner.