We found ourselves 3rd going into the international break and even though our football and performances were anything to be happy about, there was a general feeling that having played most of the top 6 it was quite a good place to be in and with upcoming fixtures against a string of bottom half teams, we were in good position to kick start things especially with the return of many important players.
Sheffield United was the first in line and after it’s conclusion it was easy to say that the above perception just proved to be hallow and that no matter the results, performances always catch up.
Set-up to stop Sheffield
The whole evening started in usual Emery era manner. The coach continued his seemingly personal vendetta against Ozil by keeping him out for yet another game, picking more “deserved” players like Willock and Ceballos ahead of him and setting up a team that was built to stop Sheffield United from playing rather than dominating them to victory.
Unai choose Willock ahead of Ceballos, maybe he felt the later was too creative for the night and needed a more workhorse player instead but whatever the reasons, he ended the night by adding his name to one of many half time substitutions of Emery era.
Players returning from injury were kept in check with Lacazette, Holding and Tierny finding place on bench. Unai Emery persisted with his back four and a defensive midfield and the results were hardly surprising.
Sheffield got hold of the game early and pushed Arsenal back. It was not hard to see that they were pumped for a Monday Night fixture under lights and could smell blood. On other hand it seemed like Arsenal seemed like a team still on their way to the match. Sheffield bossed midfield and created opportunities that resulted in quite a few corners. They scored from one of the them and from there on, Arsenal hardly ever looked like scoring a equalizer.
Arsenal were terrible in first half and the frustration was obvious when teenager Saka tried desperately to make most out of a contact that he himself initiated. But even then we still could have and should have got 2 goals. Sokratis was clearly pulled in the box and if VAR was truly implemented in the Premier League it would have been overturned. But alas.
Arsenal created only one chance from open play when Kolasinac was found out left on a counter and his near perfect crossback should have been converted by Pepe who with every passing day seems to be a shadow of player we thought we bought.
Pepe did return strongly in second half and looked like the only player capable of scoring for Arsenal before Unai Emery took him off for Martinelli. This proved to be another fruitless decision as the latter failed to spark any light from whatever kindling Pepe had created.
Incapable of creating chances
Second half saw changes to the setup of both teams with Arsenal getting more hold of possession after Cebellos introduction and Sheffield dropping deeper and deeper. But what ever Arsenal did or Unai Emery threw at Sheffield, we seemed incapable of creating a chance to score the equalizer.
Our play was static, lacked imagination and felt like a never ending loop in which our midfield will go wide to the fullback to deliver yet another cross in the box. Can’t Ozil do better than this?
At the end, the only man that was surprised by the outcome was Emery himself. According to him we did not deserved to lose. The fact is that even though Arsenal had 61% possession, we only had 3 shots on target and saw us consistently getting out balled and out thought by a team who hardly has any Premier League experience.
The Sheffield result was on cards. Aubameyang was bound to have a bad day and on night that it happened Unai Emery had no answers and raised questions on his Arsenal period, questions that have been coming but everyone refused to take them seriously. But now we can’t escape. The only thing to see is, will Emery escape them?