With Pogba purring and Manchester United storming to another victory, the three points was all that mattered. Two first half goals were enough to overcome the Terriers who are all but relegated. If you told me before the game that Huddersfield would finish with more possession, you would have witnessed a sarcastic smile, but with hindsight, that was highly possible due to our current injury predicament. Even Aubameyang had to miss the game due to flu. How can Emery expect the team to find any rhythm or consistency when we can’t keep anyone fit?
Most Arsenal fans have a soft spot for Huddersfield. We share a unique history with the club due to our connection with legendary former manager Herbert Chapman. The Yorkshire man replicated his trophy haul as manager at both clubs winning two league titles and one FA cup in the 20s with the Terriers and replicating the same feat with Arsenal in the 30s. At a time when the essence of modern football was in its infancy, it was a remarkable achievement to have that success across two decades with two separate clubs. Like Wenger, Chapman was a successful manager on and off the pitch. From advocating the use of shirt numbers to encouraging the use of physios, he was a true innovator. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Emery wants his name beside those great Arsenal managers, he will need to innovate to deliver a team that can challenge for the title.
With the mounting injury list, it was nice to see Mkhitaryan make his return. Emery started with a 343 formation with Leno in goal, a back three of Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal, a midfield four of Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Guendouzi and Kolašinac and a front three of Mkhitaryan, Lacazette and Iwobi. I am not a fan of the 343. I understand the reason for using it with the personnel available, but whereas a variation of 4231 makes us more potent in attack, the 343 seems to leave us average across the pitch with no improvement in our ability to defend.
Huddersfield started competitively and got more bodies forward than I expected. After going 11 hours without registering a goal, their appetite to attack had a new impetus. Despite their vibrant start, we managed to get the breakthrough on 16’ when Alex Iwobi’s volley was deflected past the Huddersfield keeper. Iwobi and Mkhitaryan’s movement was excellent in the first half and despite the luck with the deflection, the Nigerian deserved his opener. The game was then won just before half time after excellent work down the right by AMN who fizzed a ball across for a Lacazette tap in.
Huddersfield, who finished the game with 15 shots and six on target, still needed our help to get a goal. Kolašinac clumsily put into his own net deep into injury time after poor defending. Huddersfield deserved their goal, but it was gutting to miss out on that elusive clean sheet away from home. With tough away games from now until the end of the season we need to learn how to keep clean sheets and fast.
Man of the match: Alex Iwobi
Iwobi was by far our best player and did a fantastic job at trying to inject some fluidity into a disparate team performance. It must be hard playing with different players every week, but he is trying and should be commended for his hard work, not jeered. I agree that he needs to improve, in particular I want him to stop overthinking his play and develop that self-belief common amongst all top players. He will never have a bigger opportunity to stake his claim for the first team, and he must not let this moment pass him by. The jeering from supporters was unacceptable, but unfortunately it’s a symptom of our time. He must rise above it and eventually his football will do the talking. Like Vieira said, “the truth is on the pitch”.
Next round of fixtures will be vital for our top four chances
For the second time in recent weeks we moved ahead of Chelsea without kicking a ball after they were smashed 6-0 by the champions. The next round of fixtures gives us the opportunity to steal the march on fourth with both Manchester United and Chelsea facing tough fixtures. We play the Saints at home who have never won at the Emirates. We should have enough for the win, but I would feel a lot more confident if Sokratis was fit.
4 – Manchester United – 51 points, +17 Goal difference
5- Arsenal – 50 points, +16
6 – Chelsea – 50 points, +16
Next round of fixtures:
Arsenal vs Southampton
Manchester United vs Liverpool
Chelsea vs Spurs