Huddersfield Town 1 – 2 Arsenal
It’s something which vexes me: when did it become fashionable to drop ‘Town’ when speaking of Huddersfield? This is the important issue coming out of the game. It’s the only one which has an immediate solution: stop being lazy.
In the real world, you remain vexed by the performance yesterday. I was as the game went on; it was 10, 20, 30, etc., minutes of my life I would never get back. As far as I can recall, I always feel that way after a dull football match but I get over it very quickly. When there is no hope of improvement or we’re stuck in the cycle of despair which swamped the club in the past few seasons, that’s a different matter.
Others don’t feel so phlegmatic at the moment. Judgement, as ever in this world, is quickly passed on Emery. He’s not good enough because, using the majority of last season’s squad, he hasn’t found all the answers.
The case for the defence of the manager rests with the defence itself. The word “sloppy” accompanied Mustafi throughout the commentary; “Loses possession” summed up Ainsley Maitland-Niles defensive work but he, at least, had the saving grace of his attacking play. He, Iwobi and Mkhitaryan provided lively support for Alexandre Lacazette when we countered.
Therein is the issue. We went to Huddersfield Town and played on the counter-attack. Bottom of the table, beaten by everyone Huddersfield Town. And we are frankly awful away from home Arsenal. There’s your answer: we hadn’t won on our travels since beating Bournemouth in November. To visit the John Smith’s Stadium and play flamboyant attacking football was tantamount to committing hari-kari with our defence.
In this instance, surely it was more about the result than the performance?
As it was, we played largely defensively and tried hari-kari anyway. It’s no wonder we don’t have a clean sheet away from home this season when you look at the goal we conceded. God only knows what Kolasinac was thinking in flicking the ball into the goal. Surely, a thunderous thwack into the roof of the net to emphasise the futility of his intervention was called for?
There was still time for the goal to cease being an academic exercise. With virtually the last kick of the ball, Bacuna shot goalwards from twenty yards. Fortunately, it was straight down the throat of Leno, to use the footballing vernacular.
So, 2 – 1 it finished and we’re back to winning ways on the road. Which was the object of the exercise. Ending a dismal run of results away from the Emirates had to happen. From here, it is all about kicking on in the fight for fourth. Yes, we’re still in that race. Outsiders but still in it.
Of course, it is hard to overlook the defensive frailties. Leno produced several good saves at key moments while Monreal cleared off the line in the last ten minutes. The bar saved us as well, and the three points.
Emery went with a back three and it didn’t really work. Koscielny was outstanding but there was too much space on the flanks for the home side. That, the result of a narrow line-up on our part as much as anything, caused us problems. Until we improve the defence by signing better players, this is the Arsenal we have.
There is a conundrum within that solution. Finding better players is easy, we’ve set a low bar with Mustafi. Finding players to make us a top-four side again is far from easy.
And to focus on the negatives no matter how big they might be is to ignore the positives and I thought there were quite a few. Guendouzi’s work-rate remains phenomenal to the point where you forget he is 19 and that this is the norm.
Iwobi after his disastrous defensive contribution last week, found space, a goal and some redemption with a spritely performance on the flanks. It probably helped that his defensive contribution this week didn’t involve fannying around with the ball.
Meanwhile, the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang necessitated using Alexandre Lacazette in the central striker role. It served to underline how good the Frenchman is; one goal and was denied a second by Elneny or did he deprive Elneny of a goal. Between them, it was a bit of a cock-up.
Inevitably, Mesut Ozil was ill. He’s always ill. I bet he was the kid at school who always had a note from his mum excusing him from games. Ian Darke wondered what future Ozil had at the club given he has missed half the Premier League fixtures this season. The answer is none, Ian. None.
If, after a summer of investing in the players, we’re still producing this kind of performance then there are genuine questions for the coach to answer but this season, with minimal investment in the squad? We’ll agree to disagree if you think sacking him is the answer.