He wears number 14 like Henry and Walcott before him, but Aubameyang looks like he’s turning into the latter.
More about that later, but firstly, Petr Cech may not have recorded a clean sheet yet, this season, but his display against Newcastle was less nervy than what we’ve seen to date. His handling was close to impeccable and needed to be against the Magpies.
I kept a close eye on Cech as, in the light of David Seaman’s comments about the veteran receiving too many dodgy backpasses on his right foot, I wanted to see how true that was. In fact, against Newcastle, all the backpasses were carefully aimed at Cech’s left foot, so there can be no excuses for any poor distribution on his part. Nevertheless, Cech did exude more confidence overall and the team are learning to adapt to his weakness, when it comes to kicking the ball clear.
However, the outfield players surrendered possession too easily in the first half, especially. To make matters worse, the ball was given up around the half-way line. That was quite alarming and better teams than Newcastle will punish Arsenal.
Nevertheless, any type of win at St James’s Park is difficult to achieve so this Arsenal team deserves the plaudits for gaining three points there.
I have to say I felt sorry for Guendouzi, who was replaced by Torreira at half-time. I thought Guendouzi had a good game, but tactically it seemed that he had instructions to stay on the right, presumably to cover the gaps left by Ozil, Arsenal’s makeshift right winger. I didn’t see Guendouzi do anything wrong, so couldn’t understand why Xhaka stayed on the pitch, after a less-than-inspiring first half. At the time, I was thinking that Wenger’s old pecking order is still in place, meaning Guendouzi will have to do more than just play better than Xhaka to replace the Switzerland international. Obviously, after Xhaka’s wonder goal from a free kick, Unai Emery’s decision to keep him on was vindicated and I must admit the midfielder had a better than average game. Xhaka was solid and didn’t look like an accident waiting to happen, so it was a big improvement. He must be full of confidence following his much-lauded performance against England.
Low on confidence, though, are Aubameyang and Mustafi. The Gabon makeshift left-winger is putting the team first and his individual game is suffering. Aubameyang has gone from a world-class striker to an average winger overnight. It doesn’t seem fair, so it wasn’t surprising that he looked so disappointed when he was substituted. Emery needs to do more tactically to get the best out of this asset, but the lack of proper wingers in the squad is a major problem. I read that Aubameyang could be a real threat from the wing with his pace, but I’ve always thought speed is best utilised when playing ‘off the shoulder’ of the centre back(s). If a ball is played ahead of them, Aubameyang would get there first and then potentially he would have a one-on-one situation against the keeper. Instead, he can only use his pace to get into a crossing position from the wing and, as we saw against Newcastle, he’s not the best at putting decent balls into the box.
Moving onto Mustafi, I’m not sure what I would do with him. I’d be tempted to drop him, as he has a tendency to slip over and make mistakes that could cost Arsenal goals. The slip against Newcastle reminded me of Senderos, who suffered panic attacks before playing against Drogba, if William Gallas is to be believed. I think Mustafi has more about him than Senderos ever had, but if he’s not producing his best on the pitch, surely it’s time to give Holding a chance.
If Arsenal can’t resolve their problems before they take on Everton, I can see this winning run coming to abrupt end. Ironically, it could an ex-Arsenal striker, who like Aubameyang was wrongly converted into a winger, who is the difference between the two sides.