What Unai Emery’s tactical change against Spurs means for Arsenal
There was no shortage of excitement and emotions amongst the fans on the red and white halves of North London as Arsenal and Spurs shared the spoils in the first North London derby of the season on Sunday.
Christian Eriksen, who made his first start of the campaign in the Premier League, put the visitors in front and Harry Kane doubled the advantage for Mauricio Pochettino’s side from the penalty spot after Heung-min Son was fouled inside the box by Granit Xhaka.
Arsenal, though, somehow managed to pull one back in the first half, as Alexandre Lacazette showed some neat footwork before firing past Hugo Lloris just at the stroke of the interval.
And in a second-half where the Gunners completely outplayed their bitter rivals in all departments of the game, it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who restored parity for the hosts with a smart and intuitive finish, thus completing a remarkable comeback for Unai Emery’s side.
Both the teams came into the game on the back of defeats in their previous Premier League fixtures last week.
Arsenal were handed a 3-1 drubbing by Liverpool away at Anfield while Spurs suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United, meaning the North London rivals were looking to get back to winning ways in the derby.
In the end, a draw was a fair reflection on how things shaped up over the course of the ninety minutes at the Emirates, with Spurs dictating the play in the first half before Arsenal looked like a completely different unit following the restart. Lloris was the busier of the two goalkeepers but in all honesty, neither team did enough to turn one point into three.
Having come under scrutiny for fielding a narrow midfield in the loss against Liverpool last week, it was always going to be intriguing to see how Unai Emery altered his tactical stance heading into the high-voltage derby clash on Sunday.
And the Spaniard’s team selection would certainly have endeared him to the hearts of the home fans, who had so desperately waited for the devastating trio of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe to start up front together.
As opposed to the unorthodox 4-3-2-1 that the manager deployed last week, he went in with a 4-3-3 shape in order to accommodate all the three attackers up top
. Lacazette started as the spearhead of the attack through the middle, with Aubameyang and Pepe playing on either side of the Frenchman.
In the midfield, Granit Xhaka started in a holding role, with Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi playing as the two forward-thinking No.8s on either side of the Swiss international.
There was no place for the likes of Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos, both of whom dropped down to the bench from the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool.
Interestingly, Emery might have made an attempt to replicate Liverpool’s tactics last week with his change to a completely different looking 4-3-3 formation in the North London Derby.
And he was, indeed, successful in doing so to a certain degree, although the Spaniard apparently didn’t have the same kind of personnel in all areas of the pitch to execute his plans to a level that Jurgen Klopp’s side manage to do more often than not in the Premier League.
Aubameyang and Pepe drifted inwards and occupied the spaces between the Tottenham defenders, playing a similar kind of role as Sadio Mane and Mo Salah do for Liverpool, whilst Lacazette dropped down deep to pick up the ball and bring the others into play with his smart hold-up and link-up play, similar to how Klopp uses Firmino.
The main difference, though, was that Arsenal didn’t have the same kind of quality in their full-back department and while Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles drove forward to threaten the opposition’s backline on a number of occasions, they were hardly as proficient as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
However, it is imperative to mention here that the much-needed understanding and coordination among the front three was lacking at times.
Yes, both Lacazette and Aubameyang getting their names on the scoresheet is a big positive from the 2-2 draw but Emery should probably take note of the fact that both of them scored their respective goals while operating through the middle.
Aubameyang, who wasn’t really at his best in the first half, equalised for the Gunners with an intelligent run and a brilliant finish, showcasing his proficiency in the No.9 position after Lacazette was withdrawn midway through the second half.
And that is something that wouldn’t have eluded the eyes of a detail-oriented and pragmatic manager like Emery.
Nicolas Pepe was quite horrible on Sunday and his first taste of the North London Derby wasn’t the one that he would have hoped for. The Ivorian seemed to miss a trick every time he got on the ball and Arsenal will be hoping that he hits the ground running sooner rather than later.
For the time being though, Emery seems to have a conundrum as far as his team selection is concerned, and the Spaniard would probably be aware of the fact that he would have to find his best eleven and preferred formation in the weeks following the international break.
Emery might have to make a choice between Aubameyang and Lacazette. And if he is really serious about accommodating all three in the same team, then he might as well have to put in a lot of hard work with the players on the training ground to get the coordination and the movement right.
There were clear signs of promise but the manager will probably acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to do if he is to continue with a 4-3-3 system later on in the season.
Nevertheless, his bravery to field a different system altogether in the derby encounter certainly deserves a lot of credit.
3 Winners and 3 Losers from PL gameweek 5 including Tottenham and Arsenal
3 Winners and 3 Losers from Premier League gameweek 5
Premier League action returned with a bang after the end of the first international break of the season and Round 5 of the 2019-20 campaign produced some mesmerizing football for all sets of fans to savour and admire.
Man City’s shock 3-2 defeat away at Norwich City was arguably the hottest talking point from this weekend, while a few of the other big-six clubs, including Man United, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea should also be happy with how things panned out for them in Round 5.
Arsenal blew away a two-goal lead at Vicarage Road to share the spoils in a 2-2 draw against Watford, while top-six hopefuls Everton were beaten 3-1 away at Bournemouth.
Watford and Wolves once again finished the week as the only two sides in the Premier League who are yet to register a single victory thus far.
Without further ado, let us take a look at 3 winners and 3 losers from Round 5 of the Premier League:
Jurgen Klopp’s side stretched their lead over defending champions Man City to five points at the top of the table, as a first-half brace from Sadio Mane followed by a third goal from Mo Salah in the second half guided the Reds to a comfortable 3-1 comeback victory over Newcastle United.
Jetro Willems put the Magpies in the driver’s seat early in the game with his pile driver from the edge of the box but heroics from Mane, and Roberto Firminio who came on as a substitute for Divock Origi midway through the first half ensured that Liverpool stretched their winning run in the Premier League to 14 games in a row, becoming only the fourth team to achieve such a feat.
While it was more of a regulation victory for Liverpool, the fans at Anfield have every reason to hope that Man City’s stumble at Carrow Road proves to be one of the title-defining moments later on in the season.
Nevertheless, for the time being, Liverpool have a lot of breathing space with a five-point lead at the top of the standings.
It was a treat to watch how Chelsea’s young guns completely whitewashed an underwhelming Wolves side 2-5 away from home on Saturday, with Tammy Abraham’s hat-trick making him the youngest Blues player to achieve such a feat in the Premier League.
Frank Lampard’s side had come under criticism for blowing away a two-goal lead at home against Sheffield United prior to the international break but the Blues absolutely demolished Wolves in ruthless fashion to get back to winning ways and finished the week placed 6th in the standings.
While Abraham stole much of the limelight with his hat-trick, fellow academy graduate Fikayo Tomori also got the crowd off its feet with an absolute stunner from 35 yards out, as did Mason Mount, who bagged his third goal of the league season.
3. Tottenham Hotspur
Having lost 1-0 to Newcastle United and drawn 2-2 away at Arsenal prior to the international break, Spurs came into the game against Crystal Palace with only a solitary victory in their first four games.
However, the home fans will be relieved after the Lilywhites produced arguably their best display of the season thus far and cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Roy Hodgson’s side, who dropped down to 12th place in the standings after that defeat.
An own goal from Patrick van Aanholt, sandwiched by Heung-min Son’s brace and Erik Lamela’s strike made the score 4-0 before the interval and though Spurs moved up to 3rd place in the standings this week, they still have plenty of catch-up to do if they are to get back in the title race.
1. Man City
It was always going to be interesting to see how Man City would cope with the opposition in the Premier League following Aymeric Laporte’s injury and the defensive blunders against Norwich City are sure to have Pep Guardiola scratching his head to find a solution for the upcoming fixtures.
Some poor marking allowed Kenny McLean to head home the opener for the Canaries early in the first-half before Teemu Pukki took advantage of some ineffective coordination at the back to set up Todd Cantwell for the second.
Sergio Aguero pulled one back just at the stroke of the interval but a horrible error from Nicolas Otamendi allowed Pukki to make it 3-1 in favour of the hosts. It stayed that way until Rodrigo found a late goal. City struggled to hit great heights against a Norwich side that ran them ragged with their never-say-die mentality on the pitch.
Undoubtedly, Man City’s defeat comes as the first big twist in the title race and Guardiola will be aware that his team cannot afford such slip-ups if they are to keep themselves within striking distance of Liverpool at the top of the table.
Arsenal didn’t have the worst of results in Round 5 but Unai Emery is likely to be disappointed to have come away with just a draw from the trip to Watford, with the Gunners blowing away a two-goal lead in the second half to somehow salvage a point.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace in the first half was cancelled out by goals from Tom Cleverly and Roberto Pereyra after the interval, the latter coming from the penalty spot after the Argentine was tripped by David Luiz inside the box.
A victory over Watford would have propelled the Gunners to 3rd place in the standings, ahead of Spurs, who currently hold that position, but some poor defending and lack of resilience at the back cost Arsenal heavily once again.
A victory over Bournemouth would have seen Everton finish the week in the top four but instead, the Toffees currently find themselves outside the top-ten, languishing at 11th place in the standings after suffering a 3-1 defeat to the Cherries away on the south coast.
Callum Wilson’s opener was cancelled out by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header just at the stroke of the interval before Ryan Fraser made it 2-1 with a free-kick and Wilson put the game to bed with his second goal midway through the second half.
The Toffees failed to capitalise on their chances and this defeat definitely comes as a big blow to their hopes of challenging for a top-six place.
3 Talking points from Watford 2-2 Arsenal ahead of PL gameweek 6
3 Talking points from Watford 2-2 Arsenal ahead of gameweek 6
Arsenal and Watford played out arguably one of the most enthralling encounters in the Premier League so far this season, as the Hornets came back from two goals down to salvage a point at Vicarage Road in their first game following the return of Quique Sanchez Flores as the new manager.
Arsenal had more of the possession in the first half and went into the interval with a two-goal advantage, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace.
Sead Kolasinac set up Aubameyang for the opener with a driving run while Mesut Ozil’s wonderful pick-out paved the way for Ainsley-Maitland Niles to assist the Gabonese for his second.
However, Watford came out with more determination in the second half and took the game by the scruff of the neck. The Hornets completely dominated the proceedings, had more efforts on target and were by and large the better side by a long margin.
Gerard Deulofeu’s clever interception inside Arsenal’s penalty area allowed Tom Cleverly to pull one back in the 53rd minute before a mistimed challenge from David Luiz on Roberto Pereyra inside the box led to Pereyra’s equaliser from the penalty spot nine minutes from time.
Watford had plenty of chances to wrap up a famous victory at home over the Gunners but Bernd Leno made some smart interventions to save the blushes for the Gunners, who have only themselves to blame for blowing away a golden chance to finish the week in the top 4.
Here are 3 talking points from Vicarage Road:
1. Playing out from the back
The new ruling in the Premier League, which allows players to be inside the box during goal-kick situations, certainly favours teams opting to play out from the back with short exchanges. And Arsenal, who pride themselves in using such tactics to good effect, were the architects of their own downfall on Sunday.
Watford were very much alive to the Gunners’ tactics and when they tried to play the ball out from the back with short lateral passes. The Hornets adopted a high pressing style to disrupt their rhythm.
In the build-up to Watford’s first goal, Leno passed the ball to Sokratis, who apparently thought that passing it to a crowded Matteo Guendouzi was a good idea.
Deulofeu, who was just waiting for a sniff to win the ball back, put out his leg to intercept the ball inside the box and Cleverly made it 2-1 with a cool finish.
That, however, wasn’t the only time when Arsenal were sloppy when playing out from the back. Guendouzi was robbed off the ball inside his own penalty area in the first half and had it not been for Leno’s fine reflex save, the Gunners would have got some serious stick from their own fans.
Quite clearly, Arsenal were too slow while playing out from the back and Emery, who knows a lot about the implementation of such tactics, will be aware of the fact that he needs to put in a lot more work on the training ground to avoid such embarrassment in the future.
2. Watford’s resurgence under Sanchez Flores
The 2-2 draw was probably a fair reflection of the balance of the game but Quique Sanchez Flores would know that his team was ever so close to registering its first victory of the Premier League this term.
Having failed to win any of their league games since April last season, the Hornets looked short of confidence under Javi Gracia but the appointment of Sanchez Flores has come as a breath of fresh air amongst the players, who put in a lion-hearted performance and showed the audacity to take the game to Arsenal.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for the hosts when they went into the interval with a two-goal deficit but the way they fought back to salvage a draw speaks volumes of their character and resilience, highlighting the change in mentality that the new manager has already brought to his unit.
Looking at the stats, Watford had as many as 31 attempts over the course of the ninety minutes on Saturday, 10 of which were on target, while Arsenal managed to get only 4 out of their 7 attempts on target.
Furthermore, the Hornets finished the game with 53% possession, which is largely a result of their unrivalled dominance in the second half, while the work rate of the players and the ability to carve out chances on a regular basis were a few other hallmarks of their performance.
Despite the impressive 2-2 draw, Watford stayed at the bottom of the Premier League table with just 2 points from their first 5 games but they certainly won’t be there for long if they continue their resurgence under Sanchez Flores.
3. Luiz a liability once again
Arsenal’s persistent woes at the back over the past 12 months have been one of the biggest talking points of Unai Emery’s reign at the Emirates and the club’s hasty decision to bring in an impetuous centre-back like David Luiz in the summer has already shown early signs of backfiring, with the Brazilian veteran conceding yet another penalty on Saturday.
Luiz was quite horrible with his decision-making and mentality at the back in the games against Liverpool and Spurs, and his clip on Pereyra just inside the box paved the way for the Hornets to equalise in the second half.
Looking back at how things shaped up over the ninety minutes, the very fact that Watford managed to register 31 attempts is a clear indication of the fact that the Gunners just didn’t do enough at the back to close down the attackers soon enough.
In fact, they were lucky not to have conceded three or four goals, thanks to some goalkeeping heroics from Leno and some poor finishing from the home side.
If Luiz continues to let the team down on such a regular basis, Emery might have his work cut out in guiding the team to a top-four finish this season.
[Image] Premier League Team of the Week for gameweek 5 featuring Chelsea duo and Norwich star
2019-20 Premier League: Team of the Week Round 5
Premier League returned to action with a bang this weekend after the end of the international break and Round 5 witnessed plenty of turnarounds in fortunes for some of the big-six clubs.
Wolves continued their losing habits and Everton stumbled against Bournemouth, while newcomers Norwich City grabbed the headlines with a shock 3-2 victory over Man City at Carrow Road.
There were plenty of individual performances that got the crowd off their seats and it is now time to assemble the standout performers from Round 5 in our Team of the Week.
Premier League Team of the Week
Tim Krul (GK)
The Dutchman showed a tremendous level of calmness and composure between the sticks against a world-class Man City attack and made several key saves to propel his team to an upset victory.
Serge Aurier (RB)
Perhaps a rather surprise inclusion in the list, the Ivorian announced his return to Spurs’ starting eleven in an emphatic manner and stole the show against Crystal Palace with a superb all-round display.
Harry Maguire (CB)
The England international returned to face his former club Leicester City and did ever so well to keep Jamie Vardy at bay in the Red Devils’ 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Fikayo Tomori (CB)
He might not have done an awful lot defensively in Chelsea’s 5-2 victory over Wolves but his 35-yeard screamer is likely to be one of the top contenders for the Goal of the Season award.
Andrew Robertson (LB)
The Scotsman assisted Sadio Mane’s equaliser in the 3-1 triumph over Newcastle and put in yet another lion-hearted performance down the left-hand side of the pitch.
Scott McTominay (CDM)
The youngster was one of the brightest sparks in United’s victory over Leicester this weekend, thwarting the Foxes with numerous interventions in the middle of the park.
Emiliano Buendia (LM)
Norwich City, as a unit, completely outplayed Man City in the 3-1 win at home and the Argentinian was one of the standout performers with his creativity and uncompromised work rate.
Heung-min Son (RM)
The Korean hasn’t had the best start to the season but he finally rose to the occasion and bagged a brace in the 4-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace, including a stunning volley that rattled the net.
Roberto Firmino (CAM)
The only inclusion in the elite eleven who came on as a substitute, the Brazilian changed the whole complexion of the game in favour of Liverpool and completely bamboozled the Magpies with his guile, craft and work rate.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST)
One of the sure contenders for the Golden Boot this season, the Gabonese international took his tally up to 5 goals with a well-taken brace against Watford.
Tammy Abraham (ST)
The Chelsea academy graduate just can’t stop scoring at the moment. The youngster bagged a hat-trick in the Blues’ 5-2 triumph over Wolves and took his tally up to 7, becoming Chelsea youngest-ever player to score a Premier League hat-trick.
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