Qarabag Review: The Good and The Bad Win Ugly

Qarabag FK 0 – 3 Arsenal

The record books will show a comfortable win with three players claiming their first senior goals for the club. Eight wins on the spin and we’re beating teams we ought to in 45-minute bursts. We remain a work-in-progress, with plenty for Unai Emery to chew on in the aftermath of victory.

Not least of which is why the hell we wore red shorts? Even with a decent shirt design, it doesn’t look right so with the sh*tshow Puma came up with this season, it’s even more of a hideous mess than before. If that’s my biggest bugbear, we did well.

An early Sokratis goal was just what the doctor ordered and blew the home side’s gameplan out of the window. There were plenty of positives in a night of experimentation, not least a bright performance from Emile Smith Rowe. On a day when Gareth Southgate announced a youthful approach for the coming internationals, Smith Rowe offered a glimpse of the talent we’re told doesn’t exist in the English game.

Which as I type this begs an unrelated question: what happened to the hyphen in his double-barrelled surname? What’s the etiquette on this?

It didn’t matter when he calmly finished in the second half to double Arsenal’s lead. Guendouzi’s rasping drive sealed the win and put a positive sheen on the night.

Despite the mithering from the pundits’ sofa, Guendouzi had a good game. While the worldly-wise former pros complained the young Frenchman gave the ball away cheaply, his stats begged to differ. Three times in 90 minutes isn’t high when it comes to ceding possession. There will no doubt be other stats that show he was rubbish; you believe what you want and I believe he was unfairly singled out for criticism.

International Bright Young Things

Another who shone was Alex Iwobi. His form is resurgent after he decided to knuckle down as he admitted yesterday. Coincidentally, a new coach arrived to inspire him. Would he be as bright this season without a change at the top?

It isn’t enough, however, to make his place in the starting line-up certain:

We will look tomorrow and Saturday to see how [Aubameyang and Ramsey] are for Sunday to see if they can play. For us, each match is very important to show us and for them to take responsibility, take confidence and take rhythm. Each match is one exam for them. I am very happy with how they are responding on the pitch. Alex Iwobi is another player who is the same.

Unai Emery on team selection

Bernd Leno was also impressive in all aspects of his game with some smart saves and decent distribution. Fulham on Sunday is likely the last game of Petr Cech’s absence which leaves Emery with a decision to make. Hopefully.

There’s plenty to ponder as well. The back three formation didn’t work. Is that the personnel? It was certainly the match in which to experiment. Better a minnow in the Europa League than the Premier League which is a more punishing environment.

Sokratis pointed out afterwards that we’d been lucky in not conceding and there’s an element of truth in that. A better side that Qarabag would take advantage of that formation ruthlessly. The question is whether we’d play that formation in a high-stakes match? I’d be surprised is my view.

Once again, it was Lucas Torreira whose introduction brought some semblance of balance to the performance. If Emery was looking for proof of the Uruguayan’s importance, he found it. If he wasn’t, he still found it anyway.

Never Mind The Quality…

So, we’re eight matches unbeaten against teams we expect to beat. Last season, we would have lost one or more of these games. Fair play to Emery for instilling a strong mental improvement.

That’s not to claim everything in the garden is rosy. There’s plenty to work on, particularly in getting a 90-minute performance. To be honest, it’s a baffling situation. Even with an early goal, we didn’t settle into a rhythm or routine. While Unai talks about it is good that we had a difficult game, I wonder if it is?

Is eight games a long enough spell for the players to adapt? We seem to be making harder work of adapting to new ideas than other teams. Is that just perception or is it the reality of Arsenal? He’s got players in the XI who won’t be at the club in the next year or two so there is that to factor in as well. 

A final thought about the match in general as well. When the Champions League emerged from the devil’s bowels in 1992, there was a knockout round before the group phase. It’s time for the Europa League to embrace that. Rather than having 12 groups of four, sort the wheat from the chaff and then have six groups of four, before taking the top two in each and then a Round of 32. Or Eight groups of three and straight into a Round of 16. 

Changes are coming with a third tournament so maybe the quality will improve.

As it is, we’re through (almost); it’s just a question of first or second to be resolved.

’til Tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “Qarabag Review: The Good and The Bad Win Ugly

  1. About Guendouzi, he played well despite losing the ball thrice and I wonder with Maitland Niles capable of doing a job, if they are capable of replacing Xhaka. Maitland Niles had a good game against Manchester United last season and I look forward to him returning into the side.

    The positives we can take are that Kolasinac can play as the LWF or Iwobi can do that while Mkhitaryan can be the RWF for a 4-2-3-1 and we would have to choose between Aubameyang or Lacazette.

    I am puzzled about Emery’s style. He seems to be instilling a tough mentality in the team and he was talking about the virtues of suffering. Contrasting that with what Sokratis said about the team been lucky to have a clean sheet, how much more work needs to be done to become consistent and is the coach holding the defenders to the same standards of accountability as the strikers and midfielders ?

  2. I’m with you on Guendouzi. His passing was crisp and he got stuck in, sure he gave the ball away a few times, but he wasn’t the only one.

    ESR has a decent burst of pace and has an eye for goal. Emery clearly like him. Has that influenced the Ramsey decision?

  3. Any American football (refuse to call it soccer) shed any light on who he is… What his game is etc

  4. Good stuff Yogi.

    Leno had to make some good reaction saves to preserve the clean sheet and his distributin was as I thought it would be. 3 points and while 3-0 flattered to deceive, it was a good result and we keep up our winning ways. More than that though, we continue to see the confidence building in Iwobi, who looks much more like the player that burst onto the scene than the one from last season who suffered from the toxicity at the club and a loss of confidence.

    Smith-Rowe looks like a bright talent and I think the thing working not only in his favor but also Bellerin, Iwobi and all the young players is that they have a manger who is coaching them up and giving them direction and specific instructions.

  5. MesutsLeftFoot,

    He is an 24 atypical playmaker who can play as a 10 or on the flanks. Currently, he is part of a deadly duo who is destroying MLS(his striker has already broken the MLS single season record with a couple matches to go) playing in a high pressing style. He has both an eye for goal and for a pass (12 goals 11 assists) with plenty of quickness and pace. He is a full Paraguay international who is thr fulcrum of Tata Martino’s attack with the manager constantly praising him saying that he can easily play in a European side.

    The thing that I like most is that he not only attacks but defends more like a box-to-box player. He is a direct replacement for Ramsey but has the pace and quickness as well as the instincts to play on the flanks.

  6. I think most, if not all, Arsenal fans would say, “Good to see the wins, but we aren’t really playing that well”, and I have to agree with that. However, we seem, so far at least, to have avoided the peaks and valleys of previous seasons – sublime performances offset by the egregious. I’m OK with that because the team has been fairly consistent (OK, consistently worrying) and, if we can establish that as a base, we can build upon it. The last thing I want to see is an outstanding performance against (say) Liverpool followed but a toasting by one of the lower six. Perhaps my expectations should be higher but I have been an Arsenal fan for many years and have the scars to prove it. So, I’ll take the wins and may they continue.

  7. Blue Yonder,

    Best bit of Emery diction I’ve heard. Excuse the interpretation , “we suffered from our forward moments”… and he took action to counter this.
    At least he sees what we see, and is clearly attempting to reprogram our squad. Winning is awesome, progress is reassuring.

  8. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Figures look good. Queer looking fella eh! Is he really that skinny?
    That’s not to say he’s not a majician, but think he’ll take a battering on his way up in the Prem. Citehhhh’s last Jesus is testimony.
    Also the same page from the Scum reference, also says we’re in for Sanchez ,and Banega(again).
    Anyone more reliable than that rabble supporting the info?

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