The 1-0 win over Bournemouth was not vintage Arsenal. Again, the side seemed to defend too deep and invite the Cherries onto them, which led to a particularly nervy final ten minutes. Indeed, were it not for some great last ditch blocks, Arsenal could have found themselves walking away with far less than the three points they ended up with. It is difficult to be disappointed with the club now sitting third going into the second international break, but it seems as if these ground-out victories will have to end one way or another soon enough. Nevertheless, there were good individual performances, and in this article I will highlight who I thought to be the three standout players.
Written off by many fans, myself included, as a dispensable player over the summer, the 24-year-old Englishman has returned to the Emirates seemingly with a point to prove. Having excelled in defensive-midfield for relegated Fulham, and picking up their POTY award in the process, I thought that he would be given a chance there once again. However, he has been so far deployed as a right-back, and with every start looks increasingly confident. This was demonstrated against Bournemouth, where he made two vital blocks. Not only this, but he looked more comfortable going forward than he has previously, providing the cross from which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post late on.
Personally, I would like to see him be given another chance at centre-back after the international break upon the return of Hector Bellerin. However, he is able to give the Spaniard good competition at right-back and his versatility can only help his longevity in Arsenal’s squad. That being said, you feel that he will have to choose a preferred position in order to get a long run-out in the starting XI. It has been refreshing, however, to see him prove his doubters wrong and perform whenever he is called upon- maybe now he’s ready to fulfil the potential seen in him when he was signed from Southampton in 2014.
Matteo Guendouzi is a player that Arsenal simply have to keep hold of. At just 20 years of age, he is already by far the best central midfielder in the squad, both in terms of ability and passion. Due to his tender age, he is of course prone to mistakes, but his attitude in recovering from these is truly inspiring. This was summed up in the final minutes of this encounter- Guendouzi played a poor poor pass in the final third, which eventually began a Bournemouth counter-attack. The ball was played in towards Josh King who had peeled off from the two centre-backs and looked as if he had a comfortable finish. Guendouzi, having sprinted the length of the pitch, put in an expertly timed slide tackle to force the ball behind for a corner. In this single passage of play, he had demonstrated his desire, defensive ability and willingness to get stuck in, as well as showing the tendencies for mistakes which accompany his inexperience. In him and Joe Willock, Arsenal have two stars of the future and need to aim to build their side around them.
Summer signing David Luiz has endured a tricky ‘bedding in’ process at Arsenal. After a promising display against Burnley, he has since been shakey and uncertain next to Sokratis, starring in the Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, where he was at fault for two goals. Not what Arsenal were hoping for after he swapped West London for North London, to say the least. More performances like the one he put in against Eddie Howe’s side, however, will see him cement his place in the starting XI very quickly. Luiz looked calm, collected, and even popped up in the opposition box to convert a Nicolas Pepe corner. At 32, he is unlikely to be in Emery’s (Or Arsenal’s) long-term plans. However, he looks as if he will be crucial this year at least, and forming a good partnership with Rob Holding will take Arsenal a long way towards the top four.
Overall, despite a poor team performance, these three stood out amongst the chaos. It will come as no surprise to see that all three are predominantly defensive minded players, and is in fact entirely representative of the game. Still, three points are three points, and with the poor performances from sides around us, it is crucial that we continue to pick up points.