They may be scoring goals, but Arsenal needs to strengthen their defence as well.
Unai Emery took over the reigns from Arsene Wenger as Arsenal’s boss last season with a sole of promise of restoring the glory days back at the Emirates. After a satisfying first half of his inaugural campaign as the Gunners’ head, Emery silently turned Arsenal as title contenders with a 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League. It was, probably, one of his biggest highlights of his career in England.
Fast forward to the 2019/20 season and Arsenal started making noises that they had a modest 45 million transfer budget. They tricked everyone and splurged out a lot more, signing players like Kieran Tierney, Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz and brought Dani Ceballos on loan from Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Emery’s signings displayed a clear intent of a team looking for their way out of troubles in order to engage in duels with Europe’s finest. The Spanish manager had already started working on building a young, attack-minded squad by retaining many young talents like Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka and Emil Smith-Rowe but the addition of a pacy Gabriel Martinelli from Tijuana is a testament of Emery’s vision for Arsenal.
The 47-year-old is aware of Arsenal’s horrible defensive record so far. After an encounter with Watford in the league, the Gunners became the holders of an unwanted record of facing the most shots on target in Europe’s top five leagues. Emery needs to instill a sense of calm especially in his German goalkeeper Bernd Leno while reminding David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos that their defensive capabilities are far more worthy.
Attack not a problem
Calum Chambers and Rob Holding finally deserve a run in the first team. Holding, especially, ensured that Arsenal walked away with a clean sheet against Nottingham Forrest in the League Cup and then again on Thursday night against Standard Liege in their Europa League outing.
Although the Gooners might be a little skeptical about Nicolas Pepe’s quality but Emery has placed his utmost faith in the Ivorian to shine in critical fixtures for the Gunners. His attacking play is what gets Emery going as he fits in the team nicely and enhances the pace of the game for his coach. But his inconsistency is worrying but Emery has called for patience with Pepe.
The attack is not a problem for Emery as the Gunners have scored in all matches across all competitions this season and the team is yet to concede in Europe and cup competitions. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has netted seven goals in seven appearances in the Premier League and has been leading the pack.
But the crux of the matter lies in the defence as the Gunners are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League so far this season. If Emery look to strike the adequate balance to succeed, Granit Xhaka needs to let go of his fiery temper and lead his team from the middle of the park. He needs to guide Lucas Torreira, whose confidence is seeping away quickly, and ensure that Matteo Guendouzi doesn’t run aimlessly in the midfield.
Emery has all the resources at his disposal and the Spaniard needs to come through by fixing the distorted Arsenal’s defence and restoring equilibrium to the Arsenal’s squad.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Glyn Kirk