Emery's tinkering fails as Arsenal hand Brighton late Christmas present
Posted On March 22, 2019
The Spaniard took the Gunners’ main creative outlet off at half-time as his side paid the price for sloppy defending on Boxing Day
Unai Emery has been lauded for his ‘in-game genius’ at times this season but his substitutions in the 1-1 draw at Brighton showed a manager who has yet to work out what his best Arsenal team is yet.
It could be called game management due to the number of matches Arsenal have in their packed festive schedule, but the decision to take Mesut Ozil off at half-time for Alex Iwobi will prompt further questions over the manager’s relationship with the German playmaker.
It proved to be a hasty substitution, too, when the Gunners required creativity in the final third in the second half. Without wingers, Emery’s side are forced to produce most of their creativity in central areas.
Arsenal started off in typically impressive style, as they have done in the first half of games this season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener on seven minutes was symptomatic of his brilliance since joining for a club-record fee last January.
The Gabonese forward has been directly involved in 30 goals in 32 Premier League appearances for Arsenal (23 goals, seven assists) and, if Aubameyang had finished off a one-on-one shortly after his goal, then the Gunners may have been walking away from the Amex Stadium with all three points, but he shot straight at Mat Ryan instead.
The lack of defensive organisation for Brighton’s equaliser, which came through Jurgen Locadia, wasn’t surprising, although Stephan Lichtsteiner’s rustiness at right-back was to Arsenal’s detriment. Starting in place of the injured Hector Bellerin, the Switzerland international was guilty of heading the ball into the path of Locadia, who rounded Bernd Leno to strike home. No team has committed more errors leading to an opposition goal in the Premier League than Arsenal this season (six), although some of that can be put down to the defensive injuries recently suffered at the back.
Alexandre Lacazette was hauled off on 62 minutes for Aaron Ramsey, much to his frustration. The Frenchman threw his gloves on the ground for the second game running and, while Emery has previously admitted that he ‘likes’ that kind of response from his striker, it’s already becoming evident that certain players are becoming irked by the manager’s mid-game decisions which aren’t working.
Lacazette’s harrying of Brighton players was integral in the opening goal so questions will certainly be asked over bringing him off and leaving three defensive midfielders on the pitch.
The lack of intensity from Arsenal in the second half will undoubtedly frustrate Emery and, ahead of Saturday’s match against Liverpool at Anfield, it appears that the Gunners find themselves in a similar position to when Jurgen Klopp took over at the Reds.
A team in transition with much improvement needed, particularly where keeping the lead is concerned. What looks like an enthralling match on paper could expose Emery’s tinkering methods even further if the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have their way on Saturday.