Arteta’s ‘new-look’ Arsenal managed to pick up three points against West Ham, but quite how they did it is hard to fathom.
The game began with Xhaka gifting the opposition the ball. West Ham hit the woodwork and Arsenal fans breathed a sigh of relief.
That Xhaka pass set the tone really. I couldn’t help but think of how precise Arteta’s passing was during his playing days and how imprecise this current Arsenal team are, when trying to keep the ball.
Arsenal’s powder puff midfield was really crying out for an Arteta-like general to command the central part of the park or the huff and puff of Guendouzi, who at least covers a lot of ground, giving team-mates easy passing options and closing down opponents. Instead, Arsenal fans had to cover their eyes when possession was surrendered cheaply on the halfway line or in their own third. A better team than West Ham would have made Arsenal pay for their sloppiness.
As it was, the Gunners got away with it. Against Man City, Arsenal will be punished unless they cut out their mistakes.
Upfront, aside from Pepe, Arsenal looked devoid of ideas. Nketiah puts in a good shift, but doesn’t look like a top Premier League striker to me. How Lacazette must feel being on the bench, I cannot imagine. The Frenchman is a class act and deserves to start. Quite how Arteta can prefer Nketiah is beyond me so it was no surprise when his replacement, Lacazette, finished superbly to give Arsenal a coveted victory. More surprising was how long VAR took to award the goal. The same system had already denied Arsenal a penalty, so it seems too biased to work. The people running it appear to favour certain teams and Arsenal is not one of them. The sooner it is scrapped the better, as the wait to confirm the goal took too long. VAR is football and Arsenal’s enemy, even though it came to the rescue on this occasion.
Mari, meanwhile, looked pretty solid at the back, so the loanee looks to have a good future at Arsenal.
On the subject of loanees, I’m not so sure about Ceballos, who flatters to deceive, in my opinion.
Also in midfield, if Arsenal insist on playing Ozil, they will continue to be found wanting defensively. However, Ozil is playing better than he did during the pre-Arteta days, so there is hope. Additionally, he expertly provided the assist for the only goal of the game, so he did well enough to merit his selection.
Leno was outstanding in Arsenal’s goal and he will have to be again, if the Gunners hope to get anything out of the next game against Man City.