Source: Arsenal via Facebook
In the 3-2 win over Cardiff City at the Cardiff City Stadium prior to the international break, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started a game together for the first time in the Premier League under new boss Unai Emery. The pair managed to click well and showed that they could be about to form a deadly partnership in attack. The former Paris Saint-Germain manager liked what he saw against the Bluebirds, and it is likely that the two strikers will now be given more chances to play together. This superstar pairing could be key to Arsenal having a successful first season in the post-Arsene Wenger era.
It is now two wins in the last two games for Emery’s charges, as the Spaniard continues to play around with his desired formula on the pitch. The Cardiff game showed that there is serious potential for the attack, but the Gunners are still lacking drastically in defence. Emery’s side had 72 per cent of possession against Neil Warnock’s newly-promoted outfit and fired 17 shots on goal. However, they also allowed last season’s Championship runners-up 14 shots on goal, with two of the Bluebirds’ three shots on target finding the back of the net.
For Aubameyang’s first goal against Cardiff, there was amazing link-up play between Arsenal’s three front men. First Mesut Ozil picked up the ball and quickly passed to Lacazette, who then flicked it into the Gabon international’s path for him to score a sublime goal. Lacazette managed to seal the three points in the 81st minute with a great turn and thunder strike from within the box.
This flowing, attacking football is what Arsenal fans will be desperate to see more of, and it seems as though Emery may have struck on his desired formula in the final third. It was nice to see Aubameyang open his account for the campaign, as the January signing had been a bit subdued prior to the Cardiff game. Indeed, in the three preceding games, the 29-year-old only had 8 shots on goal, with a mere four coming from inside the box.
With Ozil pushed out to the right and Aaron Ramsey playing in the hole behind the front three, there was no room in Emery’s starting XI for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has been one of the standout performers so far this season. In fact, in his fourteen top-flight outings for Arsenal, the Armenian has been directly involved in eight goals for the club. The former Borussia Dortmund man shone in the feisty London derby against Chelsea, where he scored one goal and assisted another. It was an intense game, and betting tips sites like Oddschecker had predicted that there would be goals at both ends before the match. After that performance, Mkhitaryan seemed nailed in Emery’s squad, but now his starting berth is far from secure.
Ozil’s return showed that rumours of a rift between player and manager may have been false, but whether the German will be at his best operating on the right side of three-pronged attack remains to be seen. Ozil is best-suited to the number 10 spot, which would allow Mkhitaryan to return alongside Lacazette and Aubameyang. The only worry with that for Emery is the fact that the former Real Madrid man is not known for his pressing off the ball.
Arsenal need to be able to defend from the front, because at the moment they are not succeeding in doing so from the back. Some Wenger-era issues are still very much apparent at the Emirates, and the lack of defensive rigidity is one of those things. Petr Cech, in particular, may soon find that he is phased out as the club’s number one between the sticks.
There was a calamitous occasion in the Cardiff match which could see the former Chelsea goalkeeper dropped for Arsenal’s next top-flight game. Cech tried to play out from the back against Cardiff, and passed the ball straight to Harry Arter, nearly gifting the Bluebirds a goal. Emery clearly wants to play the same kind of possession-based attacking football as Manchester City and Liverpool, and this means starting moves from the back. For this to work, he needs a goalkeeper and defenders who are confident on the ball and can safely pass out from the back. Cech certainly appears to be uncomfortable with this.
Emery’s summer signing Bernd Leno is ready to step in when the new boss deems that Cech is unsuited to his system. However, the 26-year-old will also need to work on his passing abilities, after only completing 67 percent of his passes for Bayern Leverkusen in the Bundesliga last term. As for Arsenal’s defence, Laurent Koscielny has been badly missed this campaign, with Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos looking unconvincing as a centre-back pairing. Neither of the players seem to have the pace required to perform Emery’s desired high press.
At the moment, it looks as though Emery’s first season in charge at the Emirates could be a bit of a roller-coaster ride. With such a fragile-looking defence, it could be a case of the attack having to outscore their opponents in every game. Luckily, Aubameyang and Lacazette are more than capable of firing in the goals, and if they continue to play together frequently, they could form a deadly partnership.