With a publicised search for a new manager underway, it is easy to associate Arsenal’s fortunes solely on the appointment of a new Manager. Sunday’s performance at Old Trafford, however, gave us cause for optimism away from our managerial situation:
1. Chambers and Kavopolis: It is important not to get carried away with the two centre-backs given Mourinho is generally unwilling to ruthlessly attack defences (even those potentially vulnerable.) But nevertheless, there were positive signs, most pleasing of all was the focus on defending with aggression, competing aerially and the verbal organisation (areas we are often found wanting.) We shouldn’t get carried away given the numerous examples of central defensive false dawns but the signs were good. Kavopolis is more likely to get the plaudits given such an accomplished debut but credit should also go to Chambers for a promising performance.
2. Maitland-Niles: It’s been my view for a while that Ainsley should play all remaining Premier League games in his natural position. It wasn’t just the outstanding performance on Sunday but also the possibilities it denoted given the diverse skillset we witnessed. The energy, speed, strength and ball recovery ability lend themselves to a Kante-esque defensive midfielder whilst the drive, technique, aggression and passing range make you wonder whether Maitland-Niles could prosper in a Vieria-type role. Either way, we are looking at the development of a top-class talent.
3. Iwobi: Many Arsenal fans have been critical of Iwobi given a lack of output but Sunday’s performance in a deeper role presented a performance that oozed composure, ability to retain possession and quick feet in tricky situations. He has to prove he can do it on a more regular basis but Sunday gave a glimmer of what could be.
4. Mkhitaryan: A player who continues to exceed expectations. Sunday was a stark reminder that Mkhitaryan was once a multi-million-pound sought-after creative midfielder. Coming as part of a swap deal, perhaps he has not been too easily dismissed as a makeweight but he continues to show top quality potential, especially now he finds himself in a team that gives him freedom and encouragement for expression. Most exciting is that his contributions have come in big away games (including Milan and Manchester) and that his quality build-up play is backed up with a regular flow of assists and goals.
5. Aubameyang: New signing and big-named player bias are probably at play here (given Aubameyang was quiet on Sunday) however it is the impact Aubameyang has on the overall team that is interesting. His willingness to run behind speeds up our attacking play and makes it more direct, Giroud for example (an underrated forward incidentally) needed the ball to feet which in turn slowed our attacks and made our play seem too lateral. Remember Arsenal’s most successful teams of recent times have always contained quick attacking players who were the catalyst for exciting fast-paced football. Aubameyang has the same style of play and impact on those around him as Henry and Anelka did, which is why he is such high cause for hope.
We need to remember that there is cause for optimism on a bright new future for Arsenal, and importantly it doesn’t all relate to who is appointed as our new Manager.