Arsenal were able to grind out a hard-fought victory over Eddie Howe’s impressive Bournemouth side at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.
The win took the Gunners’ unbeaten streak to 17 consecutive games in all competitions. Overall, Unai Emery ought to be delighted with the start he has made to life at the Emirates Stadium since taking over from the long-serving Arsene Wenger in the summer.
It was not all plain sailing on Sunday though, and in a string of recent draws the north London side have often left plenty to be desired with their performances. They never looked particularly comfortable against the Cherries, and once again they were unable to break their quite remarkable record of failing to lead at half-time in any Premier League match so far this season.
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Tactically, the Gunners still look to lack balance and cohesion at times, and Emery does not appear to have yet settled on his favoured starting line-up.
One bright spark in the campaign so far has been the much-improved form of Alex Iwobi. The 22-year-old struggled for confidence and consistency last season, but his disciplined and committed showings this time around have made him a regular feature of the Spanish coach’s XI.
Against Bournemouth, though, old frailties in the Arsenal academy product’s game showed through once again. It is clear, that whilst the 21-cap Nigeria international has made progress under Emery, he is not yet a player that the manager can trust to deliver week in, week out.
When the Gunners were struggling to control the game, establish their dominance, or provide any end product, Iwobi failed to exert the control and composure required.
He regularly fluffed his lines in promising situations against Bournemouth. His three shots produced two on target, but neither was hit with force or accuracy, making them easy for the goalkeeper to deal with. On top of that, Iwobi registered a pass accuracy rating of just 76.2% and could muster only the one key pass.
As well as being poor in his distribution, the youngster was unreliable on the ball too. He was dispossessed twice against Bournemouth, and also produced two successful touches – in both instances, only Henrikh Mkhitaryan was a greater liability for the Gunners.
Perhaps the greatest drawback in his game on Sunday, though, was the fact that Iwobi failed to complete a single successful dribble. Running at and taking on opponents is one of his greatest strengths. If he is failing to deliver in this department then the Gunners would be better off lining up with an alternative option, who offers different attributes, on the left flank.
If Iwobi is to cement himself as a regular starter under Emery going forward, he must discover greater consistency and find a way, even when he isn’t at his best, to manipulate scenarios on the pitch to his advantage so that he can play to his strengths, rather than allow his weaknesses to be exposed.