Arsenal 3-2 Guimaraes. We are saved once again by our superior strike force after 80 minutes of a very strong Guimaraes performance.
- This was a good lesson for our youngsters and more experienced players. Portuguese teams like to sit back and play on the counter, and they know how to defend. To effectively deal with such teams, we need to play a high tempo and pass well. We also need to be able to win the ball back quickly if and when we lose it, as that is exactly what they will be looking for. We struggled almost all game long in these areas and did not deserve to win, but as so often, our world-class attackers saved us.
- This time it was Pepe’s turn to do ‘an Auba’. Two superb free-kicks got us all three points and well done that man. As others (Erik, etc) have pointed out, Pepe had an improved performance against the Blades but was unlucky with his finishing. This time his shooting boots were on fire and boy did he and we need that! He is one of my MOTM.
- The other MOTM is Martinelli who was fabulous throughout this game. Such great movement and positioning and what an engine! Only 18 years old but he was one of the few who could deal with Guimaraes’ physicality, and how cool did he take his goal once more. Top class and a joy to watch.
- I thought it was wrong to take off both AMN and Willock at half time. Yes they were not in the game but surely this can happen and it is the manager’s responsibility to talk to the players and give new instructions at the break. This is one thing Wenger always excelled in and it avoids leaving two players in the dressing room with big dents to their confidence. Emery brought on Ceballos and Guendouzi and for the first half hour it made very little difference tactically. In the end, the opponents’ valiant defenders and midfielders tired a little bit and started to leave holes and make unnecessary fouls, and that cost them in the end (something similar happened yesterday in the Ajax- Spuds game, such is the intensity of the PL).
- Guendouzi’s spirit and fight was important and he made a difference in the last fifteen minutes with his determined runs and attempts at through balls. Ceballos’ performance was once again a bit hit and miss. He has drive but needs to be kept out of our own half as much as possible. Drive is good but good football also needs calm and composure, and this is still missing with Ceballos.
- Laca, Tierney, Bellerin and Holding were struggling with the intensity of this game but at the end they will feel good to have played in such a strong contest. It was the sort of test they needed and I can only congratulate Guimaraes for giving them such a great game. Holding looks uncomfortable on the LCB position, but with Mustafi also at CB it made sense to play him there. Laca really wanted to play better but it just did not come off: too many off-sites and he lacked composure. Bells and Tierney got better towards the end, and both look pretty close to starting a PL game soon. Especially the Scotsman is a real force already and what a player we have signed from Celtic!
- I have often said that Xhaka needs Torreira in order to shine but tonight also made it clear once again how much the reverse is the case. He struggled in the deeper role and both AMN and Willock did not support him enough to feed the attack with good passes, crosses and through-balls. But his second half performance was better as he was pushed higher up the pitch, where he seemed more comfortable than deep in midfield (without his buddy Xhaka).
- Finally, a word on ESR. He worked hard and you we could see once again what a great footballer there is in him. But we need him to push through a bit now and he should have been on the scoresheet tonight. Still plenty of games left to do this and today’s improved performance should give him the confidence to get there. I loved his drive and fearless attacking a lot.