The season was supposed to start with BANG, but it’d be fairer to categorise the Newcastle showing as a light crackle, not even a firework, I’m talking a bag of Quavers in the cinema.
The opening game of the season was all about delivering a win, something we didn’t manage last season. It was also about showing that the club had moved on defensively. We delivered against both objectives, landing a clean sheet and a 0-1 win.
The football wasn’t very pleasant and had most of the hallmarks of last season. We struggled to make use of the possession we were afforded, there was little coherence moving forward, and we looked similarly one dimensional.
That said, it’s hard to fault the manager on this occasion. Most of our new players are either injured, unfit or off the pace of the league. Kola and Ozil were dealing with criminal issues in London which don’t sound pleasant. So Emery really had to roll with a makeshift starting 11.
That gave Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson a start, and it also offered up Emery the chance to leave Mustafi out of the 11, something he wasn’t prone to doing last season… so we saw Chambers gifted a start. I think you could confidently say that with a fully fit squad, at least 6 of the player wouldn’t have featured.
We controlled possession with ease but struggled at times to deal with Newcastle’s aggressive pressing approach. We struggled to create chances, so you felt that we were going to need a decisive intervention. Auba to the rescue. The man doesn’t need much of opportunity to devastate teams. We hit Newcastle on a quick break led by AMN who intercepted a stray pass and drove forward, his threaded pass to an unmarked Auba was truly special, the finish was tight, the deadliest sharpshooter in the game lifted the ball over the keeper and did just enough to make the difference.
We took control for the rest of the game, introduced Pepe, Martinelli and Ceballos all made their debuts and all did very little. The Spanish U21 looked extremely off the pace, which is to be expected, but also a big problem because we need a ball-carrying midfielder that can do the job now.
Of the kids, I think Chambers had a solid game, Joe Willock looked comfortable but a touch meek, Reiss was largely anonymous for me, he did create two chances though, and that’s what he’s there to do. He will need to impose himself a little more if he wants to earn more chances.
The player that really stunk the house out was one that’s dropping £170k a week. Mikhi had a shocker of a game, he’s so out of sorts it looks like he’s come out of retirement to play in a charity game at Old Trafford with Robbie Williams best mate… but to be fair, I think Robbie’s best mate would contribute more to the game. Outside one devilishly good pass to Auba, he spent the game getting himself dispossessed or spraying the ball at imagined shadows. His pass completion rate in the final third was 55%… even for someone taking riskier options, that’s kind of appalling. As someone said online, it’s like peak Alexis Sanchez without the goals or assists.
The big thing I’m focused on this season is how Emery evolves the style of play. Our pressing seems very unstructured at the moment and I’m concerned that this system he’s building is easy to suss and not exactly a chance creation machine. We had two shots on target yesterday, that’s really poor when you consider the level of striker we have upfront.
Hopefully, those numbers will improve as we integrate pace and quality into the side. I’m very interested to see what David Luiz brings to the table. Xhaka isn’t the full ticket, but whatever you think of him, you can’t deny that he’s vital to our ability to move the ball forwards and his long balls are a chance creation option in a side that doesn’t create a lot of chances. When opposition teams know where the creativity comes from, it’s easy to control us. Xhaka can get away with being Xhaka against teams like Newcastle, but he’s easily wiped out when you have a team that aggressively pursues him.
Problem is… I’m not sure Matteo and Joe are ready to hold strong in that midfield with Ceballos. Could be a touch weak sauce and it’d be open to bullying. So I’d imagine the main hope is that if we put more mobility into the midfield with Willock and Ceballos, hopefully, we’ll offer more creativity and more running options. Having a midfielder that can move the ball through agressive press is also going to be game-changing. It’s so easy to box our midfield in at the moment.
This squad is exciting because I have literally no idea what it’s capable of producing. The great thing is it’s all on Emery to unlock heat, these are his guys. 8 of that starting 11 are Emery players, probably 9 as Chambers wasn’t a regular fixture with Wenger. All 3 subs were his. No more excuses.
Better football has to be on the menu. Raul and Edu are Barca/Wengerball types. Top 4 needs to come with style. Emery has the players now, let’s see what he can do.
ALSO, did you watch the Chelsea vs United game? The most Brexit game I’ve seen in a while. Neither side impressive, but I’m still unsure how Chelsea managed to lose 3-0. Both squads are not good enough, both managers are not good enough. Top 4 really should be ours! Interesting that Chelsea are going so hard at youth with players that don’t look up to scratch.
Final thought before we go… it was interesting that Jose Mourinho was being so kind about Arsenal players. This on Auba.
“That control looks simple but it’s not simple, it’s genius. Then the finishing is beautiful.”
A few voices indicating that he has deep ties with Mendes and might be trying to ingratiate himself with the Arsenal fans/execs if the inevitable happens earlier than May.
I wanted to hate that idea, but then I started to like it. It totally goes against everything I believe our next manager should be, but the guy has prestige, he’s built winning machines and now I love the idea despite knowing the risks.
There, I said it. I’m really sorry. It was literally a fleeting thought that got out of control.
See you in the comments. x
P.S. I cleared out the banned list as it’s the new season. Same rules apply, agree with me or go elsewhere. Just jokes. But play nice. All are welcome.