As the first international break of the season is now over, Arsenal will be looking ahead to four busy weeks with Premier League, League Cup and Europa League matches to contend with. Before these busy weeks get underway, we now have a chance to look back on Arsenal’s start to the season. Four games in, there have been both positives and negatives for Unai Emery’s side. So, let’s take a look at the positives, negatives and areas to improve for Arsenal moving forward in this season.
The Aubameyang and Lacazette combination picking up where they left off last season has been a big positive for Arsenal in the early stages of the season. Aubameyang has notched three times in the opening four games with Lacazette adding two of his own. This is huge for Arsenal as they are reliant on these two to win games. As Nicolas Pépé gets bedded into the side and builds chemistry with these two, he will add further firepower to an already potent attack.
Matteo Guendouzi has been the biggest plus for the Gunners this season. Outstanding against Newcastle and Burnley as Arsenal won their opening two games, he capped off his fantastic start to the season with a man of the match display in the North London Derby. If Guendouzi can continue on his current trajectory, Arsenal have got an incredible player on their hands for the next ten years. He’s certainly a player every Arsenal fan will be looking forward to watching as the season progresses.
The performances of Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock have also been bright spots for Arsenal thus far. Ceballos has looked like a fantastic signing in his four appearances since joining on loan from Real Madrid and I expect him to have a bigger impact in the coming weeks and months.
20-year old Joe Willock has had a much bigger role to play than any of us Arsenal fans would have expected at this early stage of the season. He has been one of the standout performers for Unai Emery in the opening weeks and with seven games to play across three competitions before the next international break, we can expect Willock to continue to play a massive role for Arsenal.
The biggest negative for Arsenal is nothing new. Individual errors have been the cause of almost every goal that the team has conceded so far this season. Granit Xhaka, David Luiz and Sokratis have all been directly at fault for goals in the opening four games. David Luiz conceding a silly penalty and overcommitting to a challenge on Mo Salah led to two of Liverpool’s three goals in Arsenal’s only defeat of the season in the game against Liverpool at Anfield.
These mistakes can be tolerated to a certain extent if the team gets the result. Against Tottenham however, Arsenal dominated proceedings for the vast majority of the game at the Emirates and it was the two goals gifted to Arsenal’s North London rivals that cost Arsenal a big two points. These errors cannot continue if Arsenal are to achieve success this season.
Only having seven points instead of nine from the opening four games is definitely a negative. As outlined above, despite being two goals behind, Arsenal were, without question, the better team across the 90 minutes. Dropping points in games which they should have won is what cost Arsenal a top-four finish last season. This cannot be allowed to become a habit again this season or the outcome will be the same.
Nicolas Pépé’s end-product can be viewed as a negative so far but not one that I think Arsenal fans should be worried about. Pépé hasn’t quite hit the ground running in terms of goals but his performances have been more than good enough to make up for not getting on the scoresheet yet.
Areas to Improve:
One area in which Arsenal should definitely improve is in defence. The improvements needed are, in-part, out of Unai Emery’s control with injuries to Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. Arsenal have been without three of what will most likely be their first choice back four. Kieran Tierney, in particular, will excite Arsenal fans when he is available for selection. He and Bellerin should provide Arsenal with excellent attacking options from the full-back positions which is certainly an exciting prospect as the season progresses.
Unai Emery figuring out how to get the best out of Arsenal’s best players will be key to the club’s success moving forward. While he did finally start with a front-three of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pépé against Tottenham in the final match before the international break, the midfield-three behind them lacked the guile to get the best out of the front-three. It’s a difficult balance that Emery has to find but it is essential to arsenal’s success that he manages to find it. Arsenal are blessed with a massive array of options in the midfield with Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Willock, Ceballos and Ozil. Emery must find the best combination of these players to give the frontline the best support and ammunition to fire on all cylinders.
Overall, the positives have outweighed the negatives in the first four games of this very new Premier League season. The new signings and young players have had an impact to help out last season’s star performers who show no signs of slowing down. The world is like a broken record saying Arsenal need to improve defensively but it is still just as true as it ever was. You would hope that the players returning from injury will have an impact in this regard and Arsenal’s season will hinge on this being the case.