Ed’s note – My thanks to Charlie Ashmore for covering me for the piece on the game yesterday as I was not able to attend.
It's easy to moan at teams at the bottom end of the table who come to the Emirates and set out their stall to frustrate, irritate and time waste. But why shouldn't they? We can't expect them to come and open themselves up, giving us a free rein to attack at will. It is of course up to the referees to do their jobs properly and ensure that what they do is within the rules of the game and today the referee manifestly failed in that duty.
In the first half he repeatedly allowed them to get away with fouls which should have merited yellow cards and had he done the right thing early on he would have properly set the boundaries for Huddersfield's approach. As it was he let them get away with countless fouls designed to break up our play which they achieved to good effect. The end result of that was that by the time he started dishing out the yellow cards our players had had enough and were biting back so that they got caught in the flurry of cards that did eventually materialise even managing to end the first half leading the card count.
The big fear for today was a sending off. The big fear for next week is that it looks as if both Lichtsteiner and Sokratis will be suspended for the next game which with Holding out and Mustafi looking like he will be out having limped off with an apparent hamstring injury (Ed’s note – I think he is also suspended for five bookings anyway), leaves us picking two or three from Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka and Jenkinson to be our defence.
As for the football, we started slowly and took a long time to get going. We created little of note in the first half and they created less so it was one of those annoying stop start niggly type of games. A controversial decision to disallow Lacazette’s goal for offside when the last touch was by a Huddersfield player got the crowd agitated, Aubameyang put one wide when he might have done better and Lacazette slipped as he shot from the edge of the box putting it high over, but there was little else of note.
As is becoming traditional already Emery shook things up at half time with Lacazette and Lichtsteiner (booked for his usual in yer face reaction to a foul on a teammate) being replaced at half time by Iwobi and Mkhitaryan. Both brought a bit more directness to the play but both frustrated in equal measure. Iwobi, whilst producing a couple of the mazy twisty turny runs only he seems capable of in our squad, also managed on numerous occasions to make my first touch look good (and believe me I am no footballer). Mkhitaryan feels like he is a good player trying to burst out of a player who just cannot quite deliver and end product. The comparison has been made with Theo and I can understand that.
As the second half wore on a head of steam built up despite the referee’s failure to get a grip on the time wasting in particular. It felt as if any winner would come from us though there was a dangerous moment on 77 minutes when my neighbour Matt’s prediction that this felt like the sort of game to be won by a scrappy 78th minute goal threatened to come true with a Huddersfield corner but it came to naught.
In the end the winner did come from us and a bit of a peach it was too with Guendouzi feeding Aubameyang who did well to keep the ball alive and saw his chip back into the box met with a spectacular scissor kick from Torreira (any other player would have just stooped and nodded the ball in but Torreira is after all giving any other player a lot of inches in height!). Suddenly Huddersfield were in a hurry and we showed signs that we were indeed learning about game management, seeing the game out with few alarms and if anything we could and perhaps should have extended the lead.
21 games unbeaten in all competitions now and whilst we cannot continue to expect to turn matches round in the second half from losing or drawing positions, our continued ability to do so and to get these results bodes well and reflects a significant change in mindset and approach under Emery.
He now has a real challenge of finding a workable defence at a time when our options are severely limited and games are coming thick and fast. Expect to see one or two youngsters in the Premier League over the next 4 weeks I would suggest.
It wasn't great. It wasn't pretty. But a win is a win is a win and winning breeds the sort of confidence that enables teams to keep going and continue to deliver results when not playing well.
The early signs continue to impress and I am looking forward to Emery's work on the defence over the next couple of transfer windows. In the meantime, let's keep enjoying this run.
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