Arsenal 1 – 0 Huddersfield Town
There really isn’t any point in holding a supporters’ Player of the Season vote for 2018/19. Just hand the trophy to Lucas Torreira; it’s his and in all honesty, it should the most one-sided vote in history. The diminutive Uruguayan produced an overhead kick to break the deadlock close to the end of normal time.
It was a hard-fought win with Huddersfield battling hard and it came at a cost. Next weekend’s trip to Southampton is without the suspended Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, our two fit senior centre-backs. Laurent Koscielny will presumably fill one of the berths but could find two full-backs either side of him.
Stephan Lichtsteiner and Nacho Monreal can fill those roles or will one of the academy players be promoted? It’s a risk; Koscielny has yet to finish 90 minutes in his two comeback matches. He made the bench for this match but when defensive changes were made, he wasn’t called upon. Caution on Unai Emery’s part no doubt but not inspiring confidence that he is fully fit.
Post-match, Emery suggested the two experienced players will be in a back three, if that’s the way he decides to play that way:
Now, I don’t know how we are going to play next week, but we have players. Stephan played at centre back today and had a good performance in Manchester with good commitment. Koscielny is also coming back, Nacho Monreal too. We’ll have players.
We know we’ll have players, just not the ones we want. Mustafi’s hamstring twang isn’t serious, judging by the coach’s comments and a rest for this week and next ought to put things right. Back in time for the second NLD in ten days?
Those problems are for another day’s contemplation. Emery has enough on his mind from this match.
Sharp Eyes, Dull Mind?
We were distinctly ordinary. Had Alexandre Lacazette’s goal stood as it should have done, things might have turned out differently. I’m far from convinced we would have used that as the inspiration to score a hatful. Too many players were off-key.
What angers me more about the offside is that the official spotted the initial offside at full pelt when his peer couldn’t see one from a deadball situation on Wednesday. How is that possible? Yes, I know; they guessed; one got it right, one wrong.
Yet the offside should surely not apply after the defender made a deliberate pass back to the goalkeeper. That he underhit it is irrelevant. He was in control of the situation and effectively, a new passage of play had begun.
Lacazette and Aubameyang as a duo didn’t work today in the way it had against Tottenham. The Frenchman was hooked at half-time with Mkhitaryan replacing him. Additionally, Alex Iwobi came on as we switched to a back four to try to give more width.
That didn’t work particularly well either. Mkhitaryan is a pale shadow of the player whose blistering season at Dortmund made him a wanted man across Europe. His touch is lethargic in attack but he does work hard in defensive duties. However, in a match such as this, it’s the attacking third where he will be noticed. Or not.
That typifies how poor we were. It’s all relative; the standards set are those by which we judge the players and the bar sits on a lofty perch. There is also an element of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’. The intensity of the derby and then Manchester United away was bound to drain the players mentally. That played into an overall flatness.
We Are The Arsenal: Learn The Lessons
It didn’t help that we picked up stupid bookings. Three players received a yellow card for ‘simulation’ and the only one which looks dubious is Mustafi’s. He was caught on the sole of the foot, which was a foul no matter how slight. Enough for a penalty? It would have been soft, that’s for certain. Simulation with contact is a tough decision to make.
Which begs the question why Mr Tierney didn’t book Depoitre for simillar simulation later in the game when he went shoulder-to-fresh-air with Sokratis.
Therein is the rub. Not that Depoitre getting away with it, just the sheer lack of consistency from officials. Maybe VAR will bring that over time; I’m not holding my breath. But until we get some kind of consistency, referees are always going to be the butt of invective. Maybe allowing them to speak in a controlled environment post-match is the first step?
And those players today must look at themselves and take on-board the consequences of their actions.
Meanwhile, it’s now 21 matches unbeaten. Bogey grounds and teams are coming and going without beating us. Sometimes you must win ugly in these runs and we may need to do so against Southampton following yellow cards received today.