Arsenal 3 – 1 West Ham United
As the game drew to a close, the commentator mentioned something about Unai Emery “having a platform to build on”. It certainly isn’t a defensive one based on the first three matches of his reign. We were a shambles defensively, not helped by full-backs thundering forward in attack with nobody dropping back to cover. As soon as we ceded possession, our naivety was utterly exposed.
It’s a point not lost on the coach:
“It’s clear we need to improve and we need to improve on working to not concede many chances like today for the opposition. Also, why we conceded is for analysis and for us to improve.
“It is clear today that maybe in the first half we wanted to use the right back and left back in the attacking moments and we needed the balance with the midfielders. In the first half, we conceded a lot of options.
“But in this balance, the first goal is in one action with Hector, finished by Nacho. And another option we didn’t do this attack with the fluidity and the balance for the transition.”
But we won. And while we can’t gloss over the concerns, we can’t ignore the positives. Three goals, coming back once again from a goal down, and not letting up in our attacking purpose from kick-off to the final whistle. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still hasn’t scored but has done his utmost to find the back of the net.
We were a lot better in the second half. Maybe Unai Emery should use reverse psychology and name the team he wants to finish the game with at kick-off, before reverting to his original line-up at the end. Anything’s worth trying to get a ninety-minute performance out of the players.
There’s A Hole In My Defence, Dear Liza
The Spaniard threw his curveball. No Torreira from the start and his performance from the bench made his omission all the more baffling. When he arrived, Xhaka played a lot better which is no coincidence. That Guendouzi made way for Torrerira was no surprise. It’s a game for the youngster to chalk up to experience. By no means the only culprit, the frequency of ceding possession was a significant factor in being hooked.
Torreira influenced the second goal but not as much as Issa Diop. His ‘Garryowen’ from the byline was met returned with interest following good work by Monreal, with the hapless Diop eventually diverting the ball into his own net. When you grin and think about the calamitous defending, see how seamlessly the name Mustafi slots into that sentence instead of Diop…
There was a more balanced side in the second half but not an end to the defensive problems. Not that the centre-halves were the issue nor West Ham having some decent individuals on display. Our performance was crying out for someone with the pace of Felipe Anderson on the break. He made light of the space vacated by the midfield on more than one occasion and left us trailing in his wake.
The visitors created enough chances that the headline for this post could have easily been “How?” because I’m pretty sure we’re all wondering how West Ham didn’t equalise before Danny Welbeck scored. Lucas Perez demonstrated why getting any sort of fee was good business but his cross-shot was just one of a number of wasted opportunities as the game drew to a close.
Welbz sealed the win, finding himself with enough time and space to pivot slowly and thump the ball home. With his feet and not a shin in sight.
Dear Mr Emery, Mesut Can’t Do PE Today…
As Unai Emery was to find out post-match, three points are good news but the questions inevitably turn to the problems. Defensive lapses were just the warm-up, the appetiser before the entrée of the bad. Mesut Özil might well be sick and there may well not have been a training ground bust-up, but that doesn’t sell.
Everyone’s eyes rolled when the reason for absence was given as ‘sick’; c’mon, Arsenal, that’s an E-. Cynicism is so high after his absences last season so giving ‘sick’ as the reason was never going to be accepted. Perhaps there is something more serious underneath in which case come up with something better than ‘sick’.
There are some legs in this story, all the club will be hoping is that Jose Mourinho shows a bit of stamina and doesn’t completely implode until tomorrow night’s game.
Anyway, three points is three points and from being relegation candidates, we’re now mid-table mediocrity. Onwards and upwards.