Unai Emery reversed the fortunes of last season’s openers with his second win in two games. For a brief moment, we are/were top of the league.
The game boasted lots of positives as the club looks to settle a squad of new players. David Luiz and Dani Ceballos earned starts, Auba moved out wide with Lacazette through the middle, Reiss and Willock retained their places.
The first half was pretty bland from a footballing perspective, but ultimately, I think you just have to accept that Emeryball is never going to get you off your backside. My main critique of our style is that we’re very predictable, more so than last season since the club added better ball players to the squad.
We are militant about playing out of the back even when it’s not working for us. Burnley penned us in our own half and it felt like were constantly turned the ball over needlessly. Liverpool will eat up that sort of approach if we don’t put a bit more variety in our build-up play.
The second slight bugbear is the lack of urgency in our game. We give the opposition all the time in the world to reset as we meander the ball forward from wide positions. I don’t think there’s an excuse for slow and methodical in year two.
That said, we’re more interesting when we do click into gear. David Luiz certainly has a lot more authority in defence than we’ve seen over the last ten years. He’s an attacking threat and the opposition knows it. His passing wasn’t elite today, but there’s a lot of variety in the balls he plays. He’s no 5 yard pass merchant.
I thought the passes that came off were excellent. Additionally, he’s a talker and an organizer. When you’re up against it, say what you will, but I’d rather him on my side… and I’d certainly rather him over Mustafi.
Back to the game. The deadlock was broken by Lacazette. He picked up a front post corner, used his weight to lean into those around him, then slid the ball into through Nick Pope’s legs when he was falling to the ground. Very Lacazette.
Something that’s very Arsenal, conceding sloppy goals. Ashley Barnes, the new Kevin Davies, managed to squirm between Luiz and Guendouzi to poke home.
The second half saw an immediate change, the manager introduced Nicolas Pepe. His introduction gave us a little more control out wide and a lot more know-how.
The football sped up a little, generally driven by the hugely impressive Dani Ceballos. He serves two purposes for me, firstly, he does all the things Mesut Ozil doesn’t want to do (turn up to work). He presses, he pesters, he tackles and he makes himself known. He dropped 7 balls recoveries and attempted 5 tackles. Secondly, he’s a better technician than Aaron Ramsey. He’s grown up thinking about the game differently, so hopefully he can give us a little bit of the best bits from both players. I have to say, I am super impressed how quickly he adapted to the pace. He touched the ball 97 times and created 4 chances.
It was the Spaniard that shut down a counter with an aggressive press, Auba picked up the ball, drove at goal, drilling a low shot past the impressive Pope. Our striker really is one of the most potent forces in world football at the minute. He looks so confident and so fit at the minute.
I’m not sure Emery’s defensive subs did much to calm the game. We looked nervous and it gave Burnley a bit of wind in the last twenty minutes. Bernd Leno had a very poor game, he was targetted with high balls into the box all game and it affected him. For me, if you’re going to flap at a ball with a single fist, don’t do it half-hearted. He’s usually so calm, the game reminded me of when Bolton were shooting from corners at Fabianski. I hope his coaches can nip this in the bud and it’s not an ongoing issue.
Mike Dean gave the game an extra 1 minute 40 and that was that, 3 points and an excellent afternoon in the sun for the fans.
A largely positive day at the office. I think we’re in for a shock against Liverpool next week if we don’t button up. We’re still shaky in defence and I think some of our play of the back has a touch of the kamikaze about it. Against rapid opposition with clinical finishing, we could be in a spot of bother. They haven’t been great against Southampton, but they have some many players that can decide a game in a flash.
I’m also hoping we can start to offer a little more variety to our play. If the gameplan is clear, it’s easy to counter. When we have great central players, why not use them?
The positives… Willock looked very good today. He’s rough around the edges, but you can see he’s going to be a very important player for us over the next few years. He created two chances today. Reiss has to impose himself a little more in games. It was notable how much more of a threat we were when Pepe came on. You have to take your chances, he has to keep pushing forward. That said, I thought his tackle early on was great and he was a shoulder away from a good goal.
Also, from a numbers perspective, we created chances. We had 9 shots on target, a huge improvement on last week. Dani Ceballos found an Arsenal player from all 6 of his corners (wow). Pepe, Willock and Ceballos had 11 successful take-ons between the… we’re running at players. Great to see.
Big week ahead…