Only two games deep in the English Premier League, Arsenal have yet to register a single point after losses against Manchester City and Chelsea.
This marks the first time since 1986 where the Gunners lost the first two games in the Premier League. During that time, Steve Burtenshaw was the caretaker manager for Arsenal and went on to lose the first three games of the season.
There is no doubt that there are a lot of reasons to be concerned if you are Unai Emery, but is it necessary to push the panic button this early?
With two Premier League matches to judge from, it is safe to say that Emery and the team have a tough journey ahead.
QUESTIONABLE DEFENSIVE TACTICS
First thing on Emery’s list of troubles is undoubtedly on the defensive end. This does not simply point to the back line but to the team as a whole as they look lost most of the time when trying to track the ball moving backwards.
Against City, Arsenal’s defence was stretched at times and there seemed to be a proper disconnect between the defenders and the midfielders. Oftentimes they would lose the man they were supposed to mark, allowing City attackers from either side of the pitch to launch forward to threaten to score.
When they visited Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea, people expected some sort of improvement given that this was Emery’s first crack in the Premier League. Unfortunately, the early stages of the game proved that they might have been worse than before.
At times, defenders like Hector Bellerin seemed too keen to join the attack that he failed to realise he was moving too far forward, causing him to be off position to try and defend when needed. It was evident in Chelsea’s first goal as Bellerin failed to track Marcos Alonso, which allowed the Chelsea man to run towards the final third to provide the assist for Pedro to score.
BUILDING A DECENT ATTACK
Another cause of concern for the Gunners in their 2-0 loss against City was that they did not have any sting when it came to their offensive flow.
Emery chose to play Aaron Ramsey and put Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the wings, which effectively nullified their capabilities in the match-up.
Ramsey was unable to help Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the Gunners were held scoreless at the Emirates in their Premier League opener.
Against Chelsea, it was different as Ozil was given his more traditional role and the Gunners looked more menacing in the attack. In fact, it is possible to say that the Gunners looked like the better team in long stretches within the game.
Down two goals, the Gunners found the sense of urgency to move forward and quickly drew level before the half ended. They also had some chances to take the lead if not for wasteful attempts by Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan before the half ended.
If only the Gunners were more clinical in their finish, they could have gotten three points in the London derby. The silver lining in the loss is that they now know how to break down defences and can build on that moving forward.
STILL SHUFFLING PERSONNEL
Last but certainly not the least, Emery is still experimenting with how the starting XI should be and how Arsenal can play best with the right players on the pitch.
As mentioned above, the first game saw a few surprises as Ramsey was chosen over Ozil to link up with Aubameyang on the attack. Some questions were raised as well why Alexandre Lacazette was not paired with the Gabon striker when they were given the chance during the pre-season.
Against Chelsea, Emery went a little more conventional, but was still questioned as to why new signing Lucas Torreira was still not part of the starting XI.
The team’s big-money signing of the summer, the Uruguayan international was brought in to put some grit in the midfield, providing someone with pace who has the capacity to win balls in key spaces on the pitch. Instead, Emery insists on bringing him in as a substitute when the team’s overall shape and defensive tenacity improves when the former Sampdoria player is controlling the midfield.
Regarding their lapses on the defensive end, players like Stephan Lichtsteiner could be put in place to have a veteran presence who can keep things in order in Arsenal’s weakest area.
SHOULD THEY PANIC?
Arsenal’s next games are against West Ham United at home and away games against Cardiff City and Newcastle United.
Outside of the most recent meeting against the Magpies, the Gunners have not lost against these teams in their last six meetings each, but with the current state of the team these fixtures should not be taken for granted.
Emery was brought in to establish a sort of system that would finally elevate Arsenal’s game to new heights. It was supposed to be breath of fresh air for fans to try and adapt to the new style of play.
The two losses are alarming but against the competition, it is understandable. The Gunners still have time to pick up the pieces and getting the first three points is vital. West Ham is a key fixture and a win is expected to appease the fans for the moment.
There is no reason to panic, but there is no room for more mistakes.