Some more Mkhi Magic would be useful
That’s not to say there haven’t been flashes of brilliance though, his goal and two assists last night were a sign of what he is capable of. There’s no doubt Mesut Özil is the main creative force in this side, but Mkhitaryan isn’t far behind. Six assists to his name so far this campaign, he is more useful than some fans might think. As his heat map would suggest, the Armenian put quite the shift in last night, all the while maintaining an 89% pass success rate.
If his second assist was handed to him on a plate via some atrocious Bournemouth defending, his first was quintessentially Mkhitaryan playing a one-two with Özil near the byline from what looked to be a dodgy corner routine gone wrong, he flashed a fizzing low cross into the penalty area inviting any one of the number of red and white shirts to smash it home – Koscielny obliged.
One constant criticism of Mkhitaryan is his tendency to either fade from games or barely show up at all. Some stats would suggest that was this case last night, attempting the third lowest number of passes out of the starting 11, beating only Leno and serial goal poacher Aubameyang. The debate continues to rage on as to who got the better end of the deal last January, but with Mkhitaryan notching more goals this season than Sanchez has since the swap, Arsenal fans can rest easy.
Does Aubameyang need to do more?
No one is in doubt as to how vital this man is to our side. 16 goals this season and counting, some would argue he’s the first truly world-class striker we’ve had since the days of RVP. BUT, as the board went up in the 71st minute and the Gabonese striker was replaced by new boy Denis Suarez – I, and those in the North Bank around me, couldn’t help but feel it was another average performance.
Arsenal fans are under no illusion with Aubameyang and what he is – a goal scorer. The question mark that hangs over his head is if he isn’t scoring goals, what is he doing? Averaging just 21.3 passes a game, he seems to isolate himself. Until he rounded Artur Boruc, just shy of the hour mark, he was nothing more than a passenger throughout the tie. He won a feeble two aerial duels all evening, rarely successfully holding the ball up or bringing others into play.
These kinds of things can be forgiven when you are already cruising at home to a depleted injury hit Bournemouth side, but it will be a very different story come Saturday. With a win taking us just a point behind that lot from down the road, Aubameyang will have to work as hard as the rest of the team from his role as striker or expect to be shifted out wide in place of the tireless Alex Lacazette.
Thanks for the memories Shkodran
Lining up in a 3-5-2, many would have thought Mustafi would be a sure-fire name within that back three. Instead, Unai Emery opted for Monreal – Koscielny – Sokratis. Granted, there were still some trademark Arsenal style hairy moments defensively, Leno being forced into action minutes after Özil’s opener, and the skipper having to throw his ageing body on the line to prevent a certain equaliser. For the most part, however, The back three looked relax.
As easy days at the office go, there will probably not be a more comfortable 90 minutes for the defensive unit. Sokratis didn’t have to make a tackle the entire game. Bar the Greek warrior picking up an early yellow card for a trademark blood, guts and thunder challenge that he could have no complaints with, there was little for him to worry about.
Captain Laurent Koscielny turned back the clock to deliver a world-class performance. Four interceptions, three clearances, one block and even bagging a goal, it was a dominant display. Trading Jordan Ibe & Josh King for Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, Saturday’s task at hand will be undoubtedly harder.
After such a confident display, it will be interesting to see if Emery backs the same defensive unit to nullify Spurs, or if he sees this set up as a way forward permanently. In which case, thanks for the memories (?) Shkodran, but it’s time to say goodbye.