The positives for Arsenal in defeat to Chelsea | Premier League 2019-20
In the end, it was a familiar scoreline. Arsenal led for 3/4th of the game, only to lose the lead and the match 2-1 to London rivals Chelsea. And there will be questions again- about whether the players are good enough for the club, whether Arsenal can again claim some sort of respect among the big six of the Premier League and whether Mikel Arteta is the right man to be on the sidelines.
But it seems what we saw at the Emirates was the start of something new. For the first 30 minutes, it was all Arsenal. Then Frank Lampard made changes in formation and personnel and Chelsea grew into the game and ultimately won it.
In the overall 90 minutes, even if one is downright pessimist; he can see the positives for the Gunners. Arsenal were confident on the ball, they played some beautiful one-touch football and were resolute in defence. Chelsea did have the ball but threat wise, they did not do enough till the equaliser. And it will be fair to give credit to those who deserve it.
Probably had his best game in Arsenal shirt. He was immensely effective with his timely interceptions and positioning and made a couple of good passes too. Maybe it was the motivation of playing against his old club or maybe it was Arteta’s counselling but if he can keep up this level of performsnce; Arsenal can breathe easy for some time.
Pep has a special affection for holding midfielders and Arteta has shown the same love for the little Torreira. It looked like he was everywhere. He was making tackles, winning balls back and taking the team forward. It did not help that he had to do things alone but he can be the first name on the team sheet in Arteta’s time.
Till the time he was in the game, Ozil was God. Before Lampard made changes and stifled him; Ozil ran the show. He was dribbling, he was stringing passes and he was pleasing to the eye. But therein lies the problem. The moment the opposition cut the supply lines to Ozil, his shoulders dropped and it affected the entire team. It is good that Arteta has starting getting performances out of him but Ozil needs to do more, provided he is not sold in the January window.
Overall, it was encouraging to see majority of the team playing with self-belief. The one player who was a big letdown was Lacazette. He is somebody who is hugely short on confidence. A confident Lacazette would have blasted his finishthe first time in the first half when Aubameyang set it up. This Lacazette made a hash of it. Arteta needs him to get his self-belief back and start performing. If not, he has the option of moving Aubameyang to the middle with Nelson on the left and Nicolas Pepe on the right.
One guy who will take most of the blame but should be spared some is Bernd Leno. It was his mistake that gifted Chelsea the equaliser as the keeper punched thin air and Jorginho got a simple tap in. But one needs to accept that Leno has been one of the best players this campaign. Agreed, there have not been many clean sheets but that is not his fault but more so of the porous defence in front of him. He has made some big saves this season. Unfortunately, the mistake came in the wrong game at the wrong time. A win against Chelsea in his first home game would have been a super boost for Arteta and club as a whole. Instead, it ended ina loss.
Arteta is not a stop-gap arrangement. He is the permanent manager. He has to plan for the future. And in the 10 days, he has seen the gaps in the squad. He can easily do with a proper holding midfielder which becomes a bigger priority if Xhaka moves out. A centre-back will also help. And if Ozil is also shown the door, then a creative midfielder will also be needed. It will be interesting to see what amount of funds the board will make available for him but in short, this could be a very crucial transfer window for the club.
Arteta wanted his players to show desire, commitment and energy when he took over. Two matches and still without a win but Arteta will accept that his team is taking steps in the right direction. It is up to the board really now to back him up.
Published 29 Dec 2019, 23:54 IST