They may have won from an impossible situation against Aston Villa last weekend and followed that one up with a resounding victory against Nottingham Forest in The Carabao Cup. But let’s face it: Arsenal’s old problems have refused to go away.
From schoolboy errors leading to goals, to outright poor team selection and reckless tackles, The gunners always seem to find a way to shoot themselves in the foot. This was most clear in their kamikaze display against Watford. Arsenal could not hold onto a two-goal lead against a team that had failed to win any of their previous four premier league games, a team that got Manchester City wiped the floor with just one week later.
No disrespect to Watford, but any team aspiring to be in the top four should be winning these games- especially after taking such a comfortable lead at halftime. It was an almost similar sight as Arsenal escaped with all the three points after going a goal and a man down after Ainsley Maitland Niles went into a reckless challenge despite having already picked up a caution earlier and the team trailing at home.
Arsenal’s defensive errors record is nothing to be proud of. They made the most errors leading to a goal last season (13) followed closely by relegated Fulham(12). This season, they have already made two errors directly leading to goals and they are joint second with Wolves, Man City, Villa and Southampton in an infamous table topped by new boys Sheffield United. The most notable error was the one against Watford where Sokratis misplaced a pass in his own penalty area while trying to pass from the back.
There had been warning signs before when they had tried to pass out of defence . One wonders why they insist on passing out from the back when the opposition is pressing so high and when they don’t seem to have the personnel to do this. Granit Xhaka is a decent midfielder but he is no Sergio Busquets. Matteo Guendouzi is not yet the finished product and in fact, in David Luiz, they have one of the best at passing long.
Unai Emery opted to take off their best ball playing midfielders on the day Mesut Ozil and Dani Ceballos and went for the pace and youth of Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock immediately after Watford had gotten their tails up after pulling one back when in fact, one would think Arsenal needed to keep the ball more in the circumstances. It’s not clear why the manager has continued to keep faith in his newly named captained Xhaka when the combative Lucas Torreira seems to be a safer pair of legs infront ofnthe back four. Already, there were rumours that a section of the players aren’t comfortable with the Spaniard’s tactics after leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang openly criticised his team mates following the draw at Vicarage Road.
With the arrival of Emery, Arsenal faithful were upbeat about a more tactical approach but Arsenal look confused by Emery’s tactics and his fielding as was evident when he went for a front two of Aubameyang and Nicholas Pepe against Liverpool with Emery opting to shift Ceballos to the flank even after he was impressive in central midfield for the first two games.
David Luiz lost Salah for his goal and went into a rash challenge for the penalty against Liverpool. It seemed almost inevitable that Arsenal would concede their customary penalty against Tottenham when they faced each other this month and Xhaka obliged with a clumsy tackle against Son moments after Bernd Leno had palmed the ball straight at Erikssen for Spurs’ first goal. In fact, Arsenal have already conceede 3 penalties this season which is joint top for penalties conceeded.
With the improvements in the latest transfer window, Emery and his charges seem to be runnning out of excuses or even time and the eagles will soon be circling with chants of ‘Emery out’. The spaniard can only hope that the return of fit again Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and new boy Kieran Tierney can inject some life into the stuttering gunners’ ship.