A Win’s A Win, But The Good and Bad of Emery’s Arsenal All Too Obvious against Villa

Online Editorial: 10 man Gunners take all three points with spirited comeback

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Aubameyang celebrates his winning goal

Well, well, well. Drama at the Emirates, a comeback to stir the heart and three much needed points to raise Arsenal to fourth place, in between Leicester and West Ham on goal difference. And although it was indeed a triumph to win the game with ten men after the dismissal of Ainsley Maitland-Niles for a second yellow before half-time, let us not forget that Arsenal were already a goal down before that, and that after equalizing, it was less than two minutes before they conceded again.

The attack got the defence out of jail, which seems to be the underlying principle of the Gunners’ football under Unai Emery. Last season, it wasn't quite good enough to get the club into the top four. This season, we wait to see. One thing’s for sure though, looking long term. You don't win titles without some element of discipline and organisation on the defensive side of things. And that is not going to happen under Emery. Ever.

It felt ironic when Bruce Rioch was the half-time guest, interviewed pitch side. It would have been interesting to hear what he had to say, but the PA is so bad at the back of the east upper, there was zero chance of making out his words. Emery has been compared to Rioch by those who don't feel he will enjoy a long tenure at the club. In the second half, after Villa had taken a 2-1 lead, I reflected on Arsene Wenger’s quote back in the 1998/99 season that fans might have to get used to sausage after experiencing caviar. Because at times right now, the football is tripe, and sausage seems a distant memory, never mind caviar.

That was certainly the case for Villa’s goals, and with better finishing they could have had more than two. I reflected before the game that Dean Smith’s side were the perfect opposition at this time for Arsenal, but with Emery’s lack of defensive nous, the same could have been said the other way round. Still, at least the attempts on Bernd Leno’s goal were reduced to 14 from last Sunday’s 31. That’s progress of sorts.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles had a stinker. His first booking led to Villa’s opening goal, and AMN did not get tight to prevent the cross that came after the resultant free-kick was taken. In the centre, Guendouzi did not track the scorer McGinn and it was an easy chance, which he took gleefully. Maitland-Niles’ challenge that led to his second yellow could easily have been a red card on its own, so high and reckless was one of his legs. As it was he looks to have badly injured himself as he took out this man, which given his performance at least gives us the opportunity to play a more natural defender at right back until Hector Bellerin is fit again. Calum Chambers entered at the start of the second half in place of Buyako Saka.

After each side has scored once in the second half, the feeling of the game changed with a key substitution. Granit Xhaka was removed from the fray after 72 minutes, accompanied by loud boos expressing many of the home fans’ feelings about the player who is by default the current club captain. As one friend texted me, Xhaka contines to pen the ‘View from the Dressing Room’ in the club programme and “frankly that is where he should stay for 90 minutes of game time”. Dani Ceballos was also subbed at the same time. On came Lucas Torriera and Joe Willock and it felt like the spirit of the team was transformed.

Late goals from Chambers and Aubameyang (the latter from a free kick) put Arsenal ahead and they hung on. It was a relief to see the drive in the team, with man of the match Guendouzi at the forefront of the recovery.

It felt like a huge result, although the reality is that Arsenal need to go back to the drawing board in terms of their defending. And in terms of contribution, Xhaka should not be in the starting eleven against United. He made a few errors yesterday, but nothing major. However, his laconic style and lack of defensive ability does the team few favours, and compared to the drive of Guendouzi, Torreira and Willock, he hampers the momentum of Arsenal’s play.

It was refreshing to see Buyako Saka given his chance after his display in Germany, although he was an obvious choice to be sacrificed once the team were reduced to ten men. His replacement, Chambers was partly responsible for Villa’s second goal, a quick response to Pepe’s equalizing penalty to open his scoring account for his new club. You could point the finger at Chambers, Sokratis and David Luiz as all failing to do the basics as Villa punctured the joy that had arisen from the hard fought equalizer. No matter in the end, because Chambers made up for it with the goal that made it 2-2. But you have to hope that when Bellerin, Tierney and Holding are fit that the defending will improve, because it’s unlikely to be a consequence of anything being done on the training field in the meantime.

Chambers’ goal and Aubameyang’s winner came in the last ten minutes, a testament to the fitness levels of Emery’s team. They were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Sokratis left an arm dangling to block a late Villa shot, and we’ll only know the significance of that at the season’s end when the points tally is finalized.

If only the team could sort themselves out at the back, then games like yesterday’s would be far less stressful, and the club would be much nearer to Manchester City and Liverpool in the league table. Nevertheless, it was good to see the spirit the players demonstrated, and credit to Emery for at least making the right switches when he made the double substitution at 2-1 down. He now has to have the balls to start matches without his captain, and we will hopefully see more purpose about his team. It would be refreshing to see more of that at Old Trafford in a week’s time. It’s about time Arsenal won there again.

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13
comments

  1. itsRonagain2

    Sep 23, 2019, 22:49 #114960

    Many PL coaches have said that the easiest facet of the game to coach is tightening the defence. This coach has overseen our defence getting worse. We often have crazy games v AV. One of the best was at Highbury in about 2001 time. We won that 3-1 or 3-2 after a fight back. It was a great game. Henry scored. Can’t recall who else.

  2. Miamigooner

    Sep 23, 2019, 21:24 #114959

    For me, the defence is a disaster........SB and Freddie obviously have no imput.......I’m hoping Tierney is as good as reports say, and RH carries in improving........I don’t trust Hector, Socrates or David Luiz ( are we making him worse? )........amongst Cebollas, LT , MG and Joe Willock, there is a midfield in there somewhere..........Xhaka has had over a year, and is still weak, slow, can’t read the game.....but has a good left foot.....I read today that UE said don’t boo him, because he’s gonna start........personally I’d put the little fella in front of the CBS......he reads the game, and can pass a ball.......the other 3 are Willock, Cebollas and Guendozi who is growing game by game.......up front we’re sweet.......but Xhaka MUST go.......one more thing......in Europe last week, how fucking good was Martinez ?..........that’s it.......Miami......

  3. Miamigooner

    Sep 23, 2019, 21:24 #114958

    For me, the defence is a disaster........SB and Freddie obviously have no imput.......I’m hoping Tierney is as good as reports say, and RH carries in improving........I don’t trust Hector, Socrates or David Luiz ( are we making him worse? )........amongst Cebollas, LT , MG and Joe Willock, there is a midfield in there somewhere..........Xhaka has had over a year, and is still weak, slow, can’t read the game.....but has a good left foot.....I read today that UE said don’t boo him, because he’s gonna start........personally I’d put the little fella in front of the CBS......he reads the game, and can pass a ball.......the other 3 are Willock, Cebollas and Guendozi who is growing game by game.......up front we’re sweet.......but Xhaka MUST go.......one more thing......in Europe last week, how fucking good was Martinez ?..........that’s it.......Miami......

  4. mbg

    Sep 23, 2019, 16:21 #114956

    Got out of jail there alright but I suppose a bit of credit where it's due too, if only we could have came out like that in the second half against Watford, speaking of Watford and those who celebrated like they'd won the league against us brought back down to earth with a big sore arse, shouldn't laugh really as it shows how far we're behind City.

  5. John F

    Sep 23, 2019, 15:51 #114955

    We wouldn't of needed a comeback if Dick didn't start the match with a eunuch (no tackle)midfield which Villa found it easy in the first half to waltz through.For years we have been crying out for a defensive midfielder and Dick has a choice at the start of the game of 3 Torriera,Chambers or even Luiz but starts Xhaka.This is similar to this time last season when we get out played in the first half Dick makes substitutions and turns the game around and gets praise for doing so.If he started with a balanced line up to start with perhaps we could compete for 90 mins instead of 45.

  6. CORNISH GOONER

    Sep 23, 2019, 15:17 #114954

    I think that we are all on the same page now, we have the basis of a decent team &, with some regret because he seems a better sort of guy to Arthur Webster, Dick should go asap. Allegri won't settle for anything less than a Real Madrid & I just wish we had gone for Conte - the fans would have loved his touchline passionate antics! Xhaka's comments post Watford alone should have meant that he never played for AFC again. In that regard it's a sad day when AFC & Xhaka feature on page 32 of the latest edition of Private Eye of all magazines. It's on their cartoon feature "The Premiersh*ts" & very funny it is too because it features Xhaka & us fans - a must read imo! Finally, blimey, it looks as if Auba really cares about the Club - a good time, nightclubber reformed?

  7. nut flush gooner

    Sep 23, 2019, 11:20 #114953

    The way Arsenal is these days with their defence, someone is genuinely going to have a heart attack at the Emirates. After dropping 4 points against the Spuds and Watford due to defensive deficiencies anything less than a win yesterday would have been a disaster, with the Manure game next. Whilst the defence clearly still needs sorting, our best midfield trio is equally as important in creating the platform to give Auba, Pepe and whoever the third frontman is their much-needed service. For me Xhaka is a busted flush, I cannot take anyone seriously that thinks he's Arsenal class. Willock gave Arsenal the late impetus required to overturn the deficit yesterday, Guendozi although arguably at fault for the first Villa goal ran himself into the ground and is quickly at 20 becoming a fans favourite. Torreira when fit must also start, and for me that trio is who we should line up with against United. No doubt Emery will select Xhaka though, to remain loyal to what has to be the worst Arsenal captain I can remember. His poor performance aside, when Guendozi clashed with Villa's Goalkeeper and was arguing with the Villa players in front of the referee (on a yellow card remember) Xhaka just stood there and watched the proceedings unfurl. Tony Adams would have gone up and diffused the situation and pushed (literally) Guendozi away from the confrontation. For me Xhaka should be sold sooner rather than later.

  8. Bard

    Sep 23, 2019, 10:11 #114952

    There are glimpses of a good side in the making but its the lack of organisation that worries me. Its Sunday football stuff. There's no game discipline. He has had 18 months to sort out how exactly to set up and how we play. Currently it a looks all to reminiscent of Wenger's last decade, 'spread out and see you at half time'. We need to get rid of Dick asap and get someone else in. Allegri would be fine with me.

  9. ArsenalMagna

    Sep 23, 2019, 09:55 #114951

    Also, it should be said that many people's hopes about returning players adding defensive solidity is probably misplaced. Yes there are better defenders to come back, but it counts for little in such a flawed system. By way of comparison, even Van Dijk gets exposed and looks ordinary playing for that mediocre Holland team. I'm sure if our back line was Bellerin, Chambers, Holding and Tierney, with Luiz and Guendouzi in front, that it would be much better, but we would still suffer from the lack of defensive doctrine.

  10. ArsenalMagna

    Sep 23, 2019, 09:35 #114950

    I only saw the highlights but wanted to point out that Pepe was also at fault for the first goal, turning his back rather than get a bit hurt... Also Chambers isn't pacey so would struggle in a ten-man side but I think he'd be a very good CB for us in general, alongside Holding especially. Easy to forget but Chambers looked great at Southampton and £20m for him seemed fair back then and he won Fulham's player of the season award last year too. Anyway, I think we could actually get third or fourth place this year, quite miraculously, given the weakness of United, Spurs and Chelsea. United's record since their PSG win (ie when the honeymoon ended) has been relegation battler level, and most of their players really don't seem to care. Spurs have held onto Eriksen but he seems unmotivated, and without him they look very ordinary. Chelsea to be fair look to have a lot of potential with their younger players like Abraham, but they'll be inconsistent given their onus on youth. Sadly we've reached a Wenger type situation: if Emery gets 3rd/4th then he'll probably be kept on, and might even get a contract renewal, meaning 1 or more years of diabolical football that could easily see us drop out the top 4 again, but would in any case be bad for the team as a whole. On the other hand, if we still don't get CL football, we'll struggle to keep Laca and Auba, plus others. We're running out of time to get back in the CL and work towards cementing our status as a top side. I think the best case scenario is we make top 4 this year but Emery leaves anyway, but I don't think the club have the balls to do that, and will have an eye on the pennies. Personally, I'd pay Emery his £12m in owed wages now and get Steve Bould as the temporary manager - we got that money from Mkhi and Monreal's wages being handled by other clubs so it's not a big loss to the transfer budget.

  11. RobG

    Sep 23, 2019, 09:13 #114949

    Didn't see it. But I feel I have seen it all too often before, if you follow me. A better midfield would definitely assist the defence. Xhaka is a strange character. He's not devoid of qualities but that laziness he always shows and his constant willingness to make crucial errors, is his - our - undoing. As for having him as a Captain - (shakes head) ; but then we are not overly blessed with leader. Although Guendouzi clearly has the making of one. Old Trafford, next week, will see two Managers in need of a performance and a result. It's always great to get something up there.

  12. Cyril

    Sep 23, 2019, 08:20 #114948

    The Old Trafford game is perfect timing for me. I’m not sure Emery will lift us to the next level. Lose at Man U and I think we should move on. Win and it could be a good season. It’s very early but there are Managers I would take right now. I want him to succeed but we seem to be caught in between stools due to indecisiveness. We lost out on Klopp and we need to try and get some consistency going in the games that matter - not mask over things with a run in earlier parts of the season with league cup and ropey cup victories. Xhaka is not the long term solution but great win all the same .

  13. GoonerRon

    Sep 23, 2019, 07:41 #114947

    Xhaka’s reception when coming off and Torreira, Willock and especially Guendouzi’s influence in the comeback could be a watershed moment for Xhaka’s automatic involvement in the XI (here’s hoping). Could also be likewise for Sokratis’ given his continued terrible form (Luiz not far behind) - I cant but feel a more energetic midfield would help us defensively and I also think Luiz could settle down alongside a ‘steady-Eddie’ such as Holding. Great to get the comeback and could turn out to be a big three points given traditional top 4 rivals all lost. Only based a a couple of replays I’m not sure I agree with your assessment of AMN’s second yellow - to these eyes he hooked the ball away cleanly. I know ex-refs will blest in about endangering an opponent blah blah blah but it looked like AMN got hit just as hard.