Unai Emery was handed a horrendous start to Arsenal’s new dawn the Premier League fixtures were drawn.
Manchester City and Chelsea. The last two champions. Winners of 4 of the last 5 Premier League seasons.
It was always going to be a thought start, and Arsenal have ended up with the results that many expected.
Two defeats from the opening two games.
Prior to the opening day game of the season, Arsenal had beaten Manchester City just once one 7 games – that FA Cup Semi-final.
Arsenal have not beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 2011 – when Robin van Persie scored a hat trick.
So anyone expecting 6 points from the opening games was deluded.
There was hope.
City and Chelsea both had a lot of players at the World Cup, and Chelsea had a crisis summer with a new manager coming in late. But the hope did not materialise as Arsenal lost both games.
Against City, Arsenal struggled; but every side is going to struggle versus the Champions.
The Chelsea game had a lot more positives about it.
Whilst we were still shaky at the back; we were electric upfront and could have scored 4 or 5 if the players realised it was not rugby and you have to put the ball under the bar.
Matteo Guendouzi continued his fine start to an Arsenal shirt. A physical presence in the midfield, he shows nice passing to get alongside defensive prowess.
The same old faces were the ones to late us down again.
Petr Cech could have done more with two of their goals. Hector Bellerin ran out of steam on the right, and Granit Xhaka was poor in the middle. The game passes Mesut Ozil by.
It is time to make a decision on Cech. He has had a rough first two games and does not look comfortable playing out of the back. With new signing Bernd Leno waiting in the wings, it is probably time for a swap.
As for Bellerin, I feel sorry for him a bit.
On another day, if the finishing was better, he would’ve come away from the game with a hat trick of assists. Instead he was horribly exposed towards the end, with Chelsea’s winner coming from his flank.
The problem is under Emery’s system he does not have the cover of a winger. He is expect to defend and attack, and it is draining.
Mauricio Pochettino up the road uses his full backs in a similar way, but he rotated them almost every game.
If Emery is to ask his full backs to bet up and down the wing every game, he is going to have to expect them to run out of gas.
In Stephan Lichsteiner Arsenal have an experienced, dependable right back who surely needs to come in for Bellerin, even if it is just for one game.
The middle of the park is a bit of a concern.
Xhaka was horrendous, but Emery played down taking him off at half time by saying:
‘It was a tactical decision because he has the yellow card also.
‘I think we don’t take risks with this yellow card and also to give the chance to another player in the match.’
On came summer signing Lucas Torreira and alongside 19-year old Guendouzi they looked an ok partnership.
The concern when playing that pair is neither is a good a passer as Xhaka, and you feel we might have trouble transitioning the ball from defence through the midfield.
I would like to see Xhaka alongside Torreira, but also think Guendouzi has done little wrong to lose his place.
It is a conundrum and it might take a few games to work out where our best pairing is.
8 of the next 9 fixtures are a lot more comfortable than the 2 we started the season with. These will go a long way to showing the progress Emery has made with this time.
I am not too concerned with the start we have made.
The truth is Man City and Chelsea was always going to be a tough first 2 games.
Had Arsenal played the likes of Fulham and Newcastle, we’d probably be top
Plenty of positives to take. Still expect us to be top 4.