A strong offensive performance coupled with some excellent defensive play by Chambers, Mustafi and Maitland Niles allowed Arsenal to establish a commanding lead against Oestersunds heading into the second leg. While Arsenal setup in a notional 4-2-3-1 formation prematch, they appeared to adopt more of a 2-4-2-1-1 formation in game.
Arsenal dominated possession (61% to 39%), though not as much as many thought before the game, as the Swedish club struggled to repel the Gunners and particularly Mkyhitaryan who adopted a shoot on site approach.
In terms of individual performances:
An excellent performance from Ospina, who may 5 saves for the match. He also did well when called upon to deal with Oestersunds’ 8 crosses for the match.
A terrible defensive performance from Bellerin (a penalty from a poorly timed attempted tackle , 0 successfully tackles and 1 interception) as his unfancied opponent Widgren, dominated the Spaniard (2 successful forward dribbles, 2 crossing attempts – 1 of which was on target). That said, Bellerin showed excellent attacking intent with 4 successful forward dribbles and 3 crossing attempts – though none of his crosses were accurate. Despite the experience the young Spaniard has accumulated at right fullback / right wingback, his defensive production remains poor and his offensive output is inconsistent at best and often fails to eventuate in him creating goal scoring opportunities for others. Arsenal need to make a change at the position if they want to improve as a defensive and attacking unit.
An excellent defensive performance from Chambers (3 tackles and 4 interceptions) as he engaged in a hard fought battle with his main opponent on the day Ghoddas (3 shots – 2 of which were on target and 3 successful forward dribbles). Chambers was marginally better than Mustafi with his clearances (3 clearances for the match), though he should have simplified his game at times and just cleared the ball when the opportunity arose. Aerially he wasn’t challenged or called into action. It was great to see the young Englishman get another opportunity in his preferred central back position and he played very well.
An excellent defensive display by Mustafi (5 tackles and 2 interceptions) as he expertly shut down the Swedish side’s offensive raids down Arsenal’s left inside channel. My only criticism of the German was, like Chambers, he should have simplified his game at times and just cleared the ball when the opportunity arose. He too wasn’t challenged aerially. He has been Arsenal’s shinning light in defence all season long.
An very quiet day defensively for Monreal (1 tackle and 2 interceptions) as Oestersunds largely funnelled their attack down the opposite flank. His main opponent Mukiibi offer nothing in terms of a dribbling or crossing threat (0 forward dribbles and crosses). While he scored a goal from his 2 shots for the match, it was a underwhelming offensive performance from the Spaniard, with no forward dribbles and two inaccurate crosses. Despite his goal, Wenger’s decision to repeatedly select Montreal over Kolasinac, who is equally solid in defence but far more dangerous in attack, remains baffling.
Another awful tackling display from Elneny (0 tackles) as his left it up to his inexperienced central midfield partner, Maitland Niles, to do all the work to contain Oestersunds’ three central attacking midfielders. While the Egyptian was solid in his defensive positioning (2 interceptions) he was no where near aggressive enough in his defensive approach. Offensively, it was a different story as his passing accuracy (97%) was excellent as was his long range transitional passing (6 accurate long passes from 6 attempts). That said, he again offered nothing in terms of transitional dribbling (0 forward dribbles) and he also failed to offer anything in terms of creative passing (0 through passes). Despite his passing accurate and transitional passing, it was the same old defensive frailties from Elneny. The stark contrast of Maitland Niles’ performance next to the Egyptian further highlighted the need for Wenger to drop Elneny and afford central midfield opportunities to the likes of Maitland Niles, Da Silva and Sheaf.
LCDM: Maitland Niles
Arsenal’s man of the match for me. 3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 94% passing accuracy, 3 successful forward dribbles, 7 out of 8 accurate long passes and 1 accurate through pass. It was a sensational central midfield performance from the young Englishman, who fully deserves to keep his spot in the starting side for the return leg.
CAM : Iwobi
A solid albeit slightly underwhelming performance from Iwobi, who had 2 shots for the match – 1 of which was on target, 89% passing accuracy, 3 successful forward dribbles but no attempted through passes. Despite his ongoing solid performances, I was surprised that Nelson wasn’t given an opportunity to start, at Iwobi’s expense, in this match, given his sensational attacking midfield performances for the under 23s.
Virtually a carbon copy of Iwobi’s performance, with 2 shots for the match – 1 of which was a goal, 90% passing accuracy, 2 successful forward dribbles but no attempted through passes. While it was a solid performance from the German, as the senior attacking midfielder more is expected of him in terms of creativity. That said, with Wenger not deploying any off the ball runners ahead of the German, apart from Welbeck, it is hard to be overly critical of the Ozil.
A strong shooting display for the Armenian. Despite being notionally deployed in a right central attacking midfield role, he occupied more of centre forward position just behind the striker Welbeck. That said, with 6 shots for the match – 3 of which were on target – he certainly justified his in game positional switch. While his willingness to shot and accuracy was good and his passing accuracy (82%) was solid, he failed to really threaten the opponent via the dribble (1 successful forward dribble) and didn’t really show any creativity with his passing (0 attempted through passes), despite recording an assist for the match. That said, in an Arsenal team so hesitant to shoot under Wenger’s guidance, it was a refreshing change.
Welbeck did what Welbeck does, with lots of running. He showed some good goal scoring initiative (3 shots) but his shooting accuracy again let him down (0 shots on target). His evident issues with his shooting accuracy and touch don’t appear to be able to be rectified and Arsenal would be better off giving Nketiah opportunities when Lacazette and Aubameyang are unavailable rather than continuing to invest in Welbeck.
A great outcome and performance by some of Arsenal’s players. The right and left wingback positions remain a problem as does central midfield. Bellerin, Monreal and Elneny are not the solutions nor is Welbeck in the centre forward position. Until a more tactically adept manager is brought in who has a proven track record of recruiting and deploying players in positions that accentuate their strengths and hides their weaknesses, Arsenal will continue to struggle to put together compete performances.
The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.