The opening game of the season may not have gone the way Unai Emery intended to, with Arsenal losing 2-0 at home to Manchester City, but the Spaniard has a lot of decisions to make ahead of their next fixture at Chelsea on Saturday.
Arsenal fans know Arsenal under is still a work in progress and it showed on Sunday. There were several teething problems against Man City, such as losing possession while playing the ball from the back, notably relinquishing possession either in midfield or their own half. The Gunners’ found it difficult when trying to play the ball from their own 18 yard box, with goalkeeper Petr Cech mostly at fault, culminating in nearly scoring a calamitous own goal.
Emery has to decide whether to stick with Cech or replace him with Bernd Leno, with the former at times looking ill-assured in his distribution. Leno showed in pre-season against Lazio his ability to distribute the ball effectively and successfully build attacks from deep.
In midfield, it is likely Lucas Torreria will make his full Premier League debut for Arsenal, well deserved after a strong cameo off the bench against Man City. The Uruguayan’s dynamism will be a important asset to have, from the style of his passing range, to his ability to disrupt opposition attacks in the final third. Importantly, he can be the conduit to transition from defence to attack, which at times the midfield struggled to do against Man City.
Matteo Guendouzi will be likely the fall guy but that doesn’t represent a negative reflection on the 19 year old midfielder. Far from it, his fearlessness in going forward is to be commended, which understandably led to errors, but will have learned so much against tough opposition.
The key question facing Emery is does he play Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang together against Chelsea? There is a case for it seeing Aubameyang was badly isolated upfront in the first half against Man City. When Lacazette came off the bench in the second half, deployed upfront with Aubameyang on the wing, the Gunners troubled Man City before they doubled their lead.
Emery could decide to play Aubameyang with Lacazette vs Chelsea, with Mesut Ozil making up part of the front three, pushing Ramsey back into central midfield and relegating Granit Xhaka to the bench. In addition, Emery could decide to play a counterattacking game, utilising the rapid pace of Aubameyang. Should that be the case Arsenal’s defence will have to absorb a lot of pressure, which means working hard off the ball, exactly what Emery has drilled into his players in pre-season.
The fixture computer may not have been kind to Arsenal but Saturday represents an opportunity to show progress on the pitch. It won’t be easy but Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge should be compelling viewing.