Away Win? Yes. Problems Solved? No

Online Editorial: Arsenal win Europa League opener in Frankfurt

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Wow, what can you say? An away win – good. Cannot complain about a 3-0 win in Germany. So I’ll not complain but simply point out some things that indicate there is still a lot of work to do before anyone is going to be convinced that Unai Emery is the long term solution to the club’s decline.

Eintracht Frankfurt had 24 attempts to score. So an improvement on Watford (31), but let’s be honest people. The only reason the Gunners kept a rare clean sheet was the low quality of the German side’s finishing, and a decent display by Emilio Martinez. As open games go, well, it could easily have matched Eintracht’s famous European Cup Final against Real Madrid in 1960, which saw 10 goals.

It was not a 3-0 kind of game, with one side in control. Somehow, it remained 1-0 until late on when the home side were reduced to 10 men, and as they chased an equalizer, Arsenal picked them off. If they were playing even a moderate Premier League side, they’d have conceded at least a couple of goals when it was still eleven-a-side.

It was an interesting starting eleven. Three youngsters, five players that had experience of playing in German football (although not Mesut Ozil, left at home, nor Bernd Leno, as Martinez began the game, being this season’s cup keeper). It was a slightly more defensive midfield trio with Ceballos on the bench. Calum Chambers does not have happy memories of playing right back for Arsenal, and for much of the first half, Eintracht made hay down the Gunners’ right hand side against the combination of Smith Rowe and Chambers. That they then ran into Mustafi, making his first appearance of the season should have given them great heart. Think about it for a minute. A backline of Kolasinac, Luiz, Mustafi and Chambers. And a clean sheet. They say sometimes football defies logic. Certainly Martinez had both a busy and a commendable 90 minutes. He was arguably Arsenal’s standout player, although there is also an argument for Saka to be given that accolade.

One positive, as well as the good performances of the two aforementioned youngsters, was the number of opportunities that the visiting team created. Granted, at 17, it was lower than Eintracht’s, but nevertheless it demonstrated they were fighting fire with fire, and that ultimately they were more clinical, although they should have scored long before Willock’s opener, so clear cut were their chances. Their profligacy will cost them dear in tighter matches though, so it’s something to work on.

They didn’t play it short from goal kicks too much, which was a relief to us all, although Mustafi giving the ball away after four minutes from a short goal kick may have influenced Martinez’ decision to mix things up from subsequent goal kicks. He often rolled it out to a player on the move, which is how keepers should look to distribute. The outfield players are often guilty of being too static and thus easy to press.

The opening goal came from a deflection and the crossbar after 37 minutes, Willock being fed by Saka. It was a relief to see the ball enter the net after the previously spurned easier opportunities. The pitch in the Walfstadion looked very big, and there was no shortage of space to be found. Rarely can I remember such an open game from so early on. Xhaka hit the bar from a free kick in the second half and had a better game than he did on Sunday, not that that is saying much of course. Torreira seemed involved a lot, and certainly added something to the competitiveness of the team, although he alone could not prevent the flood of opposition attacks. In fairness, Arsenal did generally defend ok at set pieces, with the odd exception.

No-one seriously expects Arsenal not to make the knockout rounds, given the quality of the other sides in their group, and in fact they are apparently the current favourites to win the competition, something likely to change once the third placed teams from the Champions League groups join in after the turn of the year. However, this was the toughest fixture of the six they play to determine who goes through, and that they won it has made that task a lot more straightforward. Additionally, I am sure it guarantees we will be seeing the younger players more in the Europa League matches to follow, which is no bad thing.

Emery though, still needs to find a solution to the number of chances being conceded. Fact is they got away with it yesterday. They’ll rarely be that fortunate again.

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8
comments

  1. Bard

    Sep 21, 2019, 10:04 #114931

    A fairly meaningless game but good to see the kids in action. Also worrying rumours of Dicks inability to get his message over because of language issues. How much English do you need to coach footballers for goodness sake ? Its not university challenge.

  2. John F

    Sep 21, 2019, 06:43 #114930

    I am not Dicks biggest fan but I have to agree with Cornish I enjoyed the match.I think Sundays game could be that Aston Villa moment ,I remember the league cup Q/F in the eighties when we drew 1-1 in front of a huge Arsenal away support at Villa park only to lose 2-1 at Highbury. The crowd turned that night and then again for the Wenger trolley dash game.If there is not a positive result on Sunday the natives will become restless especially as Mark said there is rumblings of players unhappiness with his tactics and lack of English .

  3. markymark

    Sep 20, 2019, 19:51 #114929

    Saka on Freddie. “He helps so much. Sometimes when I don’t understand what the coach [Emery] is trying to communicate with me, I have a better communication with Freddie. He speaks better English” The above is a quote from Saka . Encapsulates the issues with Unai which apparently is also been whispered to Alan Smith from players who say they can’t understand his tactics. 1:) Arsenal should have insisted on crash course English language lessons during closed season. 2:) Emery out of pride should have done so anyway. Not sure if Emery is a bit naive but he’s giving the power to Freddie and undermining himself . I’d actually be happy with them giving the reigns to Freddie tomorrow as an interim measure

  4. CORNISH GOONER

    Sep 20, 2019, 19:00 #114928

    Look, like the majority on here I have changed my mind on the Dickster BUT I can't believe I was watching the same game as the majority of posters on other sites. Firstly, Frankfurt are definitely not a rubbish team. Secondly, they may have had plenty of "opportunities" but very few good ones. Thirdly, I thought the team showed far more energy than on Sunday. Chambers, Xakha , Smith-Rowe & Torreira were not rubbish either &, of course the remainder of the kids did very well. If they could repeat that sort of energy in the PL then I would be happy. My real long term concern with the Arse is more a psychological one. We seem to have plenty of technical skill but the minds of many are often "on vacation" with heads dropping far too easily & I would like to know whether the Club has any ideas or resources to deal with it. I guess it falls upon Dick but this has been going on for so long I wonder if it is now part of the AFC 's DNA. When did we last see an Arsenal team oozing self belief & playing with a real arrogance & a swagger?

  5. Don Howe

    Sep 20, 2019, 13:11 #114927

    I like Unai Emery. Perhaps that is a weakness. Clearly we can never have a Wenger situation ever again and this makes every one of us deeply intolerant of the continuation of the Wenger disease. NB here the enthusiasm with which The Very Rev K. Witcher DT is getting stuck in to the manager. He's absolutely right in all he says. "It's the Defence stupid". There is no safety or security or enjoyment to be had in a game of football if your team sucks at defending. It makes it worse still if they can't put chances away. At least the players don't laugh at that anymore. I wrote to the club suggesting that Martin Keown be employed to coach the defenders. It seems to me that this would achieve some increased skill level amongst the players without necessarily interfering with Emery's game plan. What do people think? If he could get a scratch defence through the 2006 Euro quarters and semi's, then he could improve our defence.

  6. ArsenalMagna

    Sep 20, 2019, 10:25 #114926

    You're right, Kev, and whichever way we wrap it up the fact is that Frankfurt had MANY gilt-edged chances. This could have been 4-4, 4-0 to either side, or anything in between... Last night I only really enjoyed the performances of Saka, Willock, Martinez and Chambers. You can see Chambers lacks the agility to play at RB but he is very composed and would be good at CB/DM. Xhaka improved as you say. Torreira gets more and more disinterested in his defensive duties and contributes little going forward. Encouraging that we can essentially play our second XI and finish top of the group, though I bet Unai will play more first teamers than is necessary. Overall, I am at the stage where I'm mainly waiting for Unai to leave. I can enjoy performances like last night because it shows long term we'll have great players, but all Emery's teams struggle in the way we have been since he joined. I heard yesterday that in his last season at Sevilla, despite winning the EL, they didn't win a single away game La Liga... Also I don't understand John Hartson saying we're the 'perfect counterattacking team' - probably just 'selling' the product for BT - it's actually astonishing how many chances to counter that we seem to squander, with misplaced passing, slow movement etc. Changing formations and line ups so regularly hardly helps create the kind of fluidity in play needed to counter properly.

  7. GoonerRon

    Sep 20, 2019, 09:36 #114925

    Good win, clean sheet, playing time / standout performances from our youngsters - all good. They did have some chances and would prefer for us to be more compact, although 9 of their shots were outside the box and only one big chance to our five. We looked far more menacing on the counter which is good to see and certainly played to the strengths of the pace and athleticism in our midfield and attack. This is a tiny baby step, still plenty to do, but at least we can look forward to Villa with a minor spring in our step.

  8. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Sep 20, 2019, 07:47 #114924

    Blimey Kev - that is a tenuous link, Real Madrid V Eintracht 1960 European Cup Final. I was 9 at the time of that game and my neighbour who was 11 (and went on to be a very good senior amateur footballer) raved over Di Stefano's volley in that match. He would practise the goal in his garden and I, being the runt of our little gang, had to climb into all our neighbours surrounding gardens to retrieve the ball when his execution of the volley went wrong - thanks Kev for stirring up happy memories. Good point about players receiving the ball from the keeper on the run - common sense really but a point well made anyway. Still a good win and Saka looked promising.