Unai Emery led his men to victory against Vorskla in a cakewalk victory. The Emirates crowd, all 16 of them, witnessed Arsenal take a 4 goal lead, only to spoil the party late on with 2 needless goals.
The starting 11 was pretty strong. Rob Holding came in for Mustafi, Lichtsteiner for Bellerin. The midfield rolled with Lucas Torreira and Elneny at the base. The front three saw Mikhi and Iwobi reintroduced into the mixer.
The style of play imitated what Emery has been doing in the league, we played out of the back with a keeper who could roll with the sweeper style, we tried to draw the opposition out of their deep block, and we made it count moving forwards once things clicked after a rocky start. I thought Mikhi was special. His incisive thinking and contributions opened up space allowing Iwobi and Auba to shine moving forward.
The Nigerian found Auba at the back post for the first with a beautiful ball across goal. The man from Gabon still had a lot to do, sliding in, somehow flashing the ball across the keeper from his arse. The second came in the second half and saw Iwobi tee up Mikhi, he played a ball so perfectly Danny Welbeck really couldn’t do anything outside score with a beautiful cushioned header.
Our third came from another Mikhi assist, he found Auba about 30 yards from goal, he looked up and cruise missiled his shot low into the bottom corner. He really does give me Thierry flashbacks when he does that. The 4th arrived after Sokratis sent a silky ball into the path of Lichtsteiner, the Swiss managed to loop a cross into the path of Ozil who tapped home with ease. Fox in the box-ish. Maybe he’s been taking Auba tips?
At that point, I think everyone was praying for a clean-sheet… but always, the old Arsenal waits in the wings. Two replica shots from the edge of the box into the top left corner within 18 minutes sent our defensive dreams up in smoke. The first came from Chesnakov who made the most of Lictsteiner dithering on the edge of the box. The second came from the same spot, this time our whole defence was defending way too deep. They all failed to track Sharpar’s run into the box. BOOM. Leno’s net rattled again.
I’m not quite sure what to make of the shotstopping. Both strikes seemed pretty spectacular, and as Leno is new, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt… but it’s a bit of a worry. Not that Cech would have done any better, of course.
Overall, you can’t argue with 3 points… but, you know, fuck the folk who want to wait until next year to make a judgement. They are boring.
Arsenal has a defence issue. That was a pub team out there yesterday and we still managed to switch off and concede 2 goals after going 4 up. We’ve scored 14 and conceded 11 so far this season. That’s a real worry, especially as we’re dropping goals against really poor teams like West Ham, Cardiff, Newcastle and now a pub team from Ukraine. The two goals we conceded were purely down to concentration, and nothing else. You could put that down to it being a second string team, and I could roll with that, but this is an issue we’re having across the board. If you include preseason, we’re 11 games in and the defence looks more shambolic than it did last season.
It’s hard to read into the overall play because the competition was so lacklustre. I thought Torriera looked very solid. He puts his body on the line, he’s aggressive and his positioning and intelligence opens play up from the base of midfield. He’s incredibly aware of where he is on the pitch, he’s always moving into space and he’s very demanding of the ball. He’ll be a great addition when he gets fully up to speed with the league.
I also thought Elneny had a solid day out, he’s not world class, but he’s very good in games like last night. He works hard, covers a lot of ground and has a positive vision of how the game should be played. A great squad player.
The two stars for me were Iwobi and Mikhi. The Nigerian looks like he’s been focusing on his end product. His decision making was strong, he played with more purpose and he looked confident. Mikhi was very good, he’s another very smart player, he uses space well, he’s incisive and he moves the ball around the pitch efficiently. I think he’s been a little unlucky to see the bench in the league.
Overall, the winning machine rolls on. The performance this evening wasn’t dazzling, but we did the job. I’m really hoping this Sunday can be seen as a turning point from a football perspective. We need a real monster of a performance. We’re still on Emery training wheels, but we’re now 4 wins on the bounce. The confidence should continue to build and hopefully the manager can pick a team that works from the start on Sunday. Everton should be an interesting spectacle.
Onwards and upwards!
P.S. Great to see Sol Campbell sitting in cattle-class last night. What a hero!
P.P.S Well done to Emery for being the most winningest Europa manager there ever was