The Huddersfield game was dogged and scrappy with both teams lacking quality. However, it didn’t matter how we got the win as long as we got it and Emery and the team must be given immense credit for our excellent 21 game unbeaten run. Ultimately the first moment of class delivered the three points. On 83’, our young French maestro Matteo Guendouzi lofted a great ball into the box which was brilliantly controlled by Aubameyang. The forward then drifted wide before chipping back across goal for Lucas Torreira to bicycle kick home. His ‘garra charrua’ refused to let him this game end in a draw.
Huddersfield spoiled the play well and the referee let them, so we struggled to find our rhythm. With a midfield trio of Guendouzi, Torreira and Xhaka, we were robust, but lacked the precision and creativity needed in the attacking third for games like this. Emery has introduced an intensity to our play that makes us far more competitive, as proved by our running stats. However, the players need to learn how to slow the game down by a split second, even when going at 100 miles per hour, and find their composure. Once we start doing that we will start winning first halves too. Lacazette is the one player currently who does this consistently and he was almost rewarded on 41’. He anticipated a mistake from the Huddersfield defender, and rounded the keeper to slot the ball home, but the goal was ruled out for offside due to his position in the previous phase. An odd one that helps to add more confusion to the offside rule, but I would be upset if that went against us.
For the first time I thought Emery got his starting 11, tactics and substitutes wrong. I know he is limited in choice due to injuries, but we did not need three at the back. I’m aware of Kolašinac’s vulnerability at left back, but in a game like this, I would take that risk and play with an extra attacker. He knows far more about football than me so I’m sure we’ll learn from this game and go from strength to strength.
Man on the match: Lucas Torreira
It has to go to Lucas Torreira again. He has to be the first name on the team sheet and is fast becoming the heartbeat we have lacked for years.
The table now looks like this:
- Liverpool – 42 points
- Manchester City – 41
- Tottenham Hotspur – 36
- Chelsea – 34
- Arsenal – 34
- Manchester United – 26
Chelsea’s 2-0 victory against City was a marker and indicated that every game from now will be like a cup final. The margins for error are so tight, I’m starting to think the top four will eventually be decided by injuries and who can keep their match winners fit. We are now approaching the part of our season where our squad is being severely tested. On Saturday we lost Mustafi to injury, Rob Holding’s season is over and there is still no sign of Mesut Ozil. With seven games to play in 19 days, starting this Thursday with Qarabag, Emery is going to have to meticulously manage his rotation of the first team.
Next seven games:
Arsenal vs Qarabag FK – Dec 13 – Europa
Southampton (19th position) vs Arsenal – Dec 16
Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur – Dec 19 – Caraboa
Arsenal vs Burnley (17th) – Dec 22
Brighton & Hove Albion (13th) vs Arsenal – Dec 26
Liverpool (1st) vs Arsenal – Dec 29
Arsenal vs Fulham (20th) – Jan 1
I know it’s tough, but to go into the New Year on sure footing we need 12 points from the 15 available. Luckily 4 of our 5 premier league games are against bottom half opposition, but as we saw on Saturday, no game is easy (unless you have Mo Salah).
Prediction: Arsenal 3 – 1 Qarabag
Laurent Koscielny is back from injury but I wouldn’t risk him on Thursday. Our captain and best defender is a consummate and experienced professional and he should have enough to come into the Southampton game and deliver a solid performance.
Come on Arsenal!!