Arsenal’s recent 3-1 defeat at the hands of reigning Premier League champions Manchester City highlighted many of the Gunners’ flaws.
Whilst defensive injuries have played a part, the Arsenal back line was all too easily pulled apart by City’s attackers. What’s more, despite chasing the game, the north London club couldn’t offer any attacking threat in the entire second half at the Etihad Stadium.
The result served to highlight how vast the gulf is between Pep Guardiola’s side and sixth-placed Arsenal at this time. It also shone an unflinching light upon the scale of the task facing Unai Emery, who is responsible for making Arsenal Champions League mainstays and title contenders once again.
Since Emery’s appointment, Arsenal have known a number of ups and downs. A 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions was a highlight, and the 4-2 win over bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur will live long in the memory.
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However, persistent defensive issues; at times dull and pedestrian football; questionable team selections and tactical setups; and a recent dearth of the creativity have all led to Emery coming under fire.
At times it is hard to see what kind of team he is trying to construct at Arsenal. What’s more, it is clear that the club are not able to back him as comprehensively in the market as fans would hope, as the manager’s admission that Arsenal could only afford to conduct loan deals during the January transfer window proved.
Emery will certainly struggle to build an elite level side with such financial restraints hampering him. However, being canny and bold in the market could see the Gunners take steps forward. The £8million summer capture of 19-year-old midfielder Matteo Guendouzi from French second tier side Lorient is proof of this.
The youngster has been a revelation since his arrival at the Emirates Stadium, despite his lack of top level experience prior to joining Arsenal. He was also the brightest spark in Arsenal’s recent defeat to Manchester City.
As per WhoScored’s stats, the Frenchman recorded the highest pass accuracy rating, 91.2%, of any Arsenal player. None of his teammates could produce more key passes, touches, successful dribbles or accurate long balls than the teenager either.
Guendouzi was dynamic, fearless, and tenacious in the face of intimidating opposition, and as many of his teammates wilted around him, he rose to the occasion.
The imminent departure of Arsenal’s head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, may hamper the club’s ability to identify and acquire such young, cheap and promising talents in the future. If Guendouzi’s approach to the game against Manchester City if indicative of Emery’s vision for what his whole team should become though, then that ideal is worth striving for, and the manager’s plans must be persisted with.