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Awesome Aubameyang Gives Arsenal the win for the weekend

by Prospero
Awesome Aubameyang Gives Arsenal the win for the weekend

The Gunners fought back from 2-1 down to beat Aston Villa with two late goals, but it was a far from impressive performance
It felt somewhat ironic to see Bruce Rioch on the pitch during the half-time interval against Aston Villa at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.

Rioch’s tenure as Arsenal boss lasted just one season. He arrived as a replacement for George Graham in the summer of 1995, yet by the start of the 1996-97 season he was gone – with the ship being readied for Arsene Wenger.

Rioch had always been viewed as stopgap. He did a solid enough job after arriving from Bolton and led Arsenal back into Europe thanks to some final day heroics from Dennis Bergkamp, but something just never really felt right.

The connection wasn’t there and that’s how it is increasingly beginning to feel with Unai Emery at the helm.

Emery had a decent enough start to life in north London following his appointment last summer. It wasn’t always pretty, but you could at least see signs of how he wanted his team to play. The blueprint always felt like the performance during the 4-2 win against Tottenham in the north London derby.

But fast forward less than a year and Arsenal are now looking more and more of a mess. They were horrific in the second half against Watford last weekend and on Sunday they were equally abject at times, despite winning 3-2 having played for 50 minutes with 10 men following Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ sending off.

Arsenal sit fourth in the Premier League after the opening six games of the campaign, just two points behind champions Manchester City, so on paper it’s been a decent enough start to the season from the Gunners.

But this win shouldn’t paper over all of the cracks. Arsenal have to raise their game and Emery has to get his team selection right because at the moment there just doesn’t seem to be any sort of plan. It’s been mentioned time and time again since he arrived, but this is a team without an identity.

Emery chops and changes his formation on a regular basis and the one he seems to have settled on now, the 4-3-3, allows the opposition to pick Arsenal apart at will.

They conceded 31 shots on goal against Watford last weekend, taking the total to 96 in their first five league games. That was more than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues.

Unai Emery Arsenal 2019-20

And they conceded a further 14 this afternoon to a Villa side who had only scored four times going into the game. The three-man midfield simply isn’t working, especially when Granit Xhaka is the man tasked with doing the holding role.

A loud cheer rang around the Emirates when Xhaka was substituted 20 minutes from time against Villa, a clear indication of the captain’s current struggles.

At the moment it feels like Arsenal consistently need moments of individual brilliance to get them something from games. And that’s what rescued them against Villa because they were second best for most of this contest.

They went behind on 20 minutes when John McGinn was allowed to run behind the midfield to poke home Anwar El Ghazi’s cross from the left. Things then got even worse when Maitland-Niles was dismissed for a second yellow card five minutes before the interval.

At that point, the hosts looked down and out and the way they started the second half didn’t give you the sense that a comeback was on its way.

They levelled out of the blue, however, with Nicolas Pepe opening his account for the club from the penalty spot after the excellent Matteo Guendouzi had been fouled.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles Arsenal 2019-20

But within 81 seconds they were behind again. Jack Grealish was allowed to drive into the box and cross for Wesley to score at the near post.

A defeat seemed inevitable but to Arsenal’s credit they kept sending balls into the box and Calum Chambers, who came on at half-time to fill the void left by Maitland-Niles, did superbly to get onto the end of one and equalise nine minutes from time.

But within 81 seconds they were behind again. Jack Grealish was allowed to drive into the box and cross for Wesley to score at the near post.

A defeat seemed inevitable but to Arsenal’s credit they kept sending balls into the box and Calum Chambers, who came on at half-time to fill the void left by Maitland-Niles, did superbly to get onto the end of one and equalise nine minutes from time.

Then, just three minutes later, Aubameyang produced a moment of magic to win it with a thumping free-kick from the edge of the box. It was bedlam at the Emirates, on the pitch and off it.

Arsenal deserve real credit for somehow finding a way to win against all the odds, but if they are going to secure the return to the Champions League that the club craves, then things need to improve massively.

They can’t keep playing like this. They got away with it against Villa, more through sheer will than anything else. But they won’t continue to get away with it.

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