A Big Week For Arsenal

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Following four points from two tricky looking fixtures, Arsenal are within touching distance of the top four and showing real improvements under new boss Unai Emery. 

North London is red again.

What a performance it was in Emery’s first North London derby at the weekend. The intensity and passion shown from the players was something the fans have been waiting for years to re-emerge. It was a derby to remember for both the neutral and of course Arsenal fans, with high quality football and emotion on show throughout.

Strength in depth was on display in this game as was Emery’s ability to be bold and make two half-time changes. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi were hooked for Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey, with the substitutes having a significant impact on the result of the game. We also saw a shift to a 3-4-1-2 formation, allowing Aubameyang and Lacazette to combine in attack, with lethal consequences. Arsenal haven’t been prolific in the transfer market in recent years, but Aubameyang and Lacazette were hefty purchases at £50million each and so far they are proving that the investment was worthwhile.

Whilst both have good goal returns, their ability to make the difference in the big games was doubted before this fixture and it was great to see them at their best when it mattered.

20 unbeaten despite Old Trafford and Mourinho.

Arsenal fans feared the unbeaten run would come to an end when the team travelled to Old Trafford, so often a terrible venue for the club. Despite this, and the presence of Jose Mourinho, the Gunners remained unbeaten, taking the run to 20.

Arsenal will be upset that they didn’t take all three points after leading twice and conceding two avoidable goals. The decisions were also leaning in the favour of United, most crucially for Anthony Martial’s equaliser, with Ander Herrera offside in the build-up.

The young duo of Lucas Torreira (22) and Matteo Guendouzi (19) were mightily impressive in the heart of midfield, not intimidated at all by the environment or opposition.

Whilst there were many positives, the same weaknesses were clear. The defence was again the issue for Arsenal, conceding four goals in the last two outings. Rob Holding’s injury may force the club into the market, but even when fit, it’s clear that a world class defender needs to be added to the squad to take the team to the next level.

Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan again struggled, highlighting the clubs lack of end product and quality in wide areas, whilst Aubameyang did not look comfortable on the left after Alexandre Lacazette was introduced.

There’s plenty of positives for Arsenal to take from recent performances and the marked improvements in big games is certainly great to see as a fan.

Emery already eyeing summer changes to the squad.

We might not yet be one year into Unai Emery’s spell at Arsenal, but already we are seeing some long-term clues as to how the Spaniard may be looking to shape his squad next summer. These clues may be worth considering for Football Index traders with long-term strategies as Emery looks to bring players in that align with his style of play.

The club appear to have confirmed that Danny Welbeck will not be offered a new deal upon conclusion of his current contract, which ends at the end of the season. His latest injury is the third long-term setback the Englishman has encountered since joining the Gunners, it is a sad way for his time at the club to come to an end, but a sensible decision from the club, led by the head rather than the heart.

His departure opens the door for a wide forward to join. The most heavily linked in this position to date is Lille’s Nicolas Pepe. The 23-year-old predominantly plays as a right winger and has scored 10 and assisted 5 in 16 appearances so far this season. His final ball is a particular strength, with his ability to pick a pass and find the back of the net his best attributes. This is something Arsenal’s current wide players (Mkhitaryan and Iwobi) often lack.

Despite his recent upturn in form, it seems Emery and the club are still not keen to hand Aaron Ramsey a new contract, so the Welshman is also set to part ways in the summer. It will be interesting to see how he is replaced, with Sevilla’s Ever Banega heavily linked. Emery is a known admirer of the Argentinean midfielder who consistently scores highly on match day rankings on the Index – certainly one to watch as the transfer period approaches. There’s also some question marks over Mesut Ozil’s future under Emery, so could Banega be the new conductor at the Emirates?

Stephan Lichtsteiner was the first signing under Emery, but set to turn 35 in January, he only signed a one-year deal at the club and so far there is no indication that this will be extended. This could see the club dip into the market for an alternative to Hector Bellerin on the right hand side. Monaco’s Djibril Sidibé has been regularly linked in the past and the French clubs poor start to the season may see the player push for a move in the Gunners come calling again.

Nacho Monreal’s contract is also set to expire in the summer. Emery may wish keep Monreal as a versatile defensive option, especially with the Spaniard’s ability to play as a central defender in a back five. If not, it could open the door to a new left back arriving, with the Gunners still unconvincing in that position.

Petr Cech is another who may be let go in the summer with his deal expiring and Bernd Leno now taking the number one spot. The Gunners would benefit with keeping Cech’s experience on and off the field at the club, but the 36-year-old may be looking for regular minutes considering his age. Should Cech be allowed to leave, it may present a chance for Emiliano Martinez or Matt Macey to move up the pecking order – saving the club some money to invest in other areas.

No matter how Arsenal perform this season, you can expect Emery to make some significant changes to his squad in the summer now that he has had some time to work with the current crop.

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Social media influencer and football blogger, owner of Fresh Arsenal and big Arsenal fan. Former writer for Squawka, Metro and others. Loves a stat.

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