A disjointed performance from the Gunners punctuated by some excellent defensive play from Kolasinac and some fine dribbling from Iwobi.
While Arsenal setup in a notional 4-2-3-1 formation prematch, they appeared to adopt more of a 2-3-5 formation in game.
Arsenal surprisingly only shaded possession (56% to 44%) but were undone (again) by poor tactics which resulted in too many players occupying advanced positions and Arsenal’s central defenders being exposed to counterattacks.
In terms of individual performances:
It was a solid performance from Ospina, who wasn’t responsible for either of the goals Arsenal conceded and he made 2 vital saves which prevented the Gunners from being bundled out of the competition. The Colombian also did well when called upon to deal with Oestersunds’ 12 crosses for the match.
It was a strong tackling performance from Bellerin (4 tackles) but again his defensive positioning was questionable (1 interception) as his unfancied opponent Sema, dominated the Spaniard (5 successful forward dribbles, 5 crossing attempts and a goal from his 2 shots on target from 2 attempts). Offensively, Bellerin showed very little attacking intent with just the 1 successful forward dribble and 1 (inaccurate) crossing attempt, which somehow was credited as an assist for the Spainard. Despite an improved tacking performance, Bellerin’s defensive production per game (1.5 tackles and 1.5 interceptions) remains poor and while his transitional play (1.5 forward dribbles per game) is good, his end product (0.4 crosses per game) is not good enough. Arsenal need to make a change at the right fullback / wingback position if they want to improve as a defensive and attacking unit. Bellerin is not the answer.
An underwhelming defensive performance from Chambers (0 tackles and 1 interception). While his main opponent on the day Hopcutt was solid (2 shots both of which were off target and 2 successful forward dribbles), Chambers failed to put him under any real pressure. Chambers also failed to simplify his game and just clear the ball when the opportunity arose (0 clearances for the match). That said, aerially he was very strong when called into action (4 successful aerial duels). Overall it was a disappointing performance by Chambers who needs to make the most of his limited first team opportunities if he holds aspirations of commanding a regular spot at centre back for Arsenal.
Similar to Bellerin, it was an excellent tackling display by Holding (4 tackles) but his positional play was poor (1 interception). While Holding was effective at shutting down his opponent Ghoddos’ direct goal scoring threat, he failed to apply sufficient pressure to eliminate Ghoddos’ creative influence (2 assists and 1 accurate through pass) which had a telling impact on the outcome of the match. While he was marginally better than Chambers, Holding too should have simplified his game at times and just cleared the ball when the opportunity arose. He wasn’t really challenged aerially.
But for his error on one of Oestersunds’ goals it was a very strong defensive performance by Kolasinac (3 tackle and 2 interceptions). Offensively, while he scored a goal from his 1 shot for the match, he was largely underwhelming, with only 2 forward dribbles and 1 attempted (and inaccurate) cross.
It was another awful tackling display from Elneny (1 tackles) who, despite with some strong defensive positioning (3 interceptions), struggled to effectively screen Chambers and Holding. That said, some of that criticism can be mitigated by the fact that his fellow central midfielder Maitland Niles abandoned his defensive responsibilities in order join Arsenal’s attack. Offensively, Elneny’s passing accuracy (90%) was excellent as was his long range transitional passing (7 accurate long passes from 8 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). While his passing accuracy and transitional passing was again excellent, it was the same old defensive frailties from Elneny. While the woeful defensive performance of his central midfield partner, Maitland Niles, overshadowed the Egyptian’s defensive frailties in this particular game, the longer Wenger deploys Elneny in Arsenal’s central midfield, the more Arsenal’s central defenders will be exposed.
LCDM: Maitland Niles
After such a complete central midfield performance by Maitland Niles in the first leg, it was disappointing to see the youngest produce a woeful defensive effort in the return leg (0 tackles and 0 interceptions). That said, Maitland Niles was solid to good offensively, with 86% passing accuracy, 2 successful forward dribbles, 4/5 accurate long passes and 2 attempted through passes. There is no doubt Maitland Niles has all the skills to make an excellent central defensive midfielder. It is just a matter of consistently delivering complete performances.
A very poor offensive performance from the Armenian, with no attempts on goal, no successful forward dribbles and a paltry 63% passing accuracy. The only real positive was that he showed some creativity with his passing (1 attempted through pass). While it was a poor showing from Mkhitaryan, his career numbers are proof that the player has the skills and ability to be a fantastic attacking midfielder. The big question is whether Wenger’s tactics can allow him to consistently demonstrate those skills.
It was an underwhelming performance from Wilshere, who tried to be creative with his passing (2 attempted through passes, 1 of which was successful) and showed some goal scoring intent (2, off target, shots) but he struggled to penetrate the opposition’s rearguard via the dribble (1 successful forward dribble) and he passed the ball with less accuracy than usual (79%). With a glut of attacking midfielders at the club, Jack needs to vastly improve his offensive output if he wants to assure himself of a regular first 11 role. Then again Wenger loves to put square pegs in round holes, so we may see Wilshere at right fullback in the near future. 😋
LCAM : Iwobi
A solid albeit slightly underwhelming performance from Iwobi, who had 2 shots for the match, 0 of which was on target, 82% passing accuracy, 4 successful forward dribbles but no attempted through passes. While Iwobi has found some nice consistency in his performances this season, particularly in terms of his dribbling, passing accuracy and goal scoring intent, his shooting accuracy and creative passing needs to improve.
It was an improved offensive performance from Welbeck with 4 shots, all of which were on target. That said, goals still elude the Englishman which doesn’t bode well for Arsenal if Wenger continues to place his trust in the player, in the absence of Aubameyang and Lacazette.
There was no particular revelations about Arsenal’s lost. In defence, Arsenal’s centre halves were again left exposed by a lack of protection from Arsenal’s central defensive midfielders. While in attack, Arsenal failed to create separation between their back six (i.e. their 4 defenders and 2 central defensive midfielders) and front four (3 attacking midfielders and 1 centre forward), which left the front four with limited space to operate. Those persistent tactical flaws coupled with some poor team selection (e.g. Bellerin, Elneny, Welbeck) continue to hold Arsenal back.