New Arsenal boss Unai Emery must now be aware of the enormity of the task ahead after seeing mostly the side he inherited from Arsene Wenger systematically dismantled by Manchester City. To make matters worse, the champions were not at their best: they were sloppy at times and a sharper Arsenal could have taken advantage and, at least, earned a draw. However, the gulf in class was shocking to many fans, who may have believed that Emery could put the wheels back on and the track down on this wrecked train of Arsenal’s first XI.
Nevertheless, Emery was courageous to play Matteo Guendouzi from the start and give him the full ninety minutes. The 19-year-old always shows for the ball, and keeps going even when he makes a mistake, as he did when he accidentally allowed Sergio Aguero to one-on-one with Petr Cech. The ancient keeper (representing a steam train, if we going to continue the extended metaphor of railways) came to his rescue, which was apt given the Czech had nearly conceded an own goal with poor footwork after Guendouzi’s innocuous back pass.
Overall, you can’t knock Guendouzi, although some of the players like Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi tried to pin the blame on him for the first goal for not closing down Raheem Sterling enough, in their opinions. Maybe they should have looked at one of the ‘five captains’, Granit Xhaka and asked him why he didn’t get closer. Guendouzi was forcing Sterling away from goal, so I’m not sure what else he could have done, especially after the City frontman had already left Bellerin for dead. However, the old Wenger pecking order appears alive and well, which is why players could be complacent under the old regime: their places were never under threat and being dropped was a rarity.
After this largely abject performance a number of players should be left out:
1. Mesut Ozil: the German was absolutely shocking. His tracking back was sporadic and his forward play lacked incisiveness. He was a complete waste of space or a train-wreck passenger, who didn’t even pay the fare.
2. Granit Xhaka: the Swiss ‘hard man’ looks tough, but is probably nothing to worry about for opponents. He’s almost as liable to give the ball to them as a team-mate. At least, he managed to improve as the game went on. However, this Swiss clock needs recalibrating or selling before it loses its re-sale value.
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: the Gabon international was not at the races. He’s a proven and prolific striker, so you can argue that the manager should persevere with him, but not at the expense of Alexandre Lacazette (who looks razor-sharp) missing out.
4. Petr Cech: the once-reliable custodian is so rusty now that he squeaks when he kicks. Nowadays, keepers need to be able to distribute the ball using their feet and Cech is, sadly, not up to the task.
5. Aaron Ramsey: another cursed captain (there are five this season), who should have been sold.
The question now is will Emery be able to patch up this side and field a team that could beat Chelsea? If it were me, I’d go with the following team:
GK: Leno (deserves his chance)
CB: Sokratis (promising debut)
LB: Lichtsteiner (looks more at home at left back than right back)
CM: Torreira (more ‘legs’ than Xhaka: the comparison is like a millipede versus a one-legged fake pirate)
CM: Guendouzi (if he can iron out his mistakes, he could be world class, based on what we’ve seen so far)
RM: No one! Arsenal should have bought someone before the transfer window closed! Okay, let’s stick with Mikhitaryan, (who did okay) shall we? No, let’s put him on the left and give Reiss Nelson a chance.
ST: Lacazette (livened up the team once he entered the fray)
ST: Aubameyang (let’s persevere with the misfiring Gunner).