It was an unconvincing performance from the Gunners as they recorded their first victory of the season, beating West Ham 3-1.
Pre-match, Arsenal appear to retain the 4-2-3-1 formation that Emery employed versus Man City and Chelsea, but the players’ average positioning indicated that they adopted more of a 4-1-1-3-1 formation throughout the match, with Guendouzi occupying a more advanced central midfield position ahead of Xhaka but behind Ramsey, who occupied the central attacking midfield role.
Possession and key observations
As predicted pre match, West Ham were happy to cede possession, play with a deep defensive block and counter attack. This was reflected in Arsenal’s domination of possession (62% to 38%).
Despite that, there was minimal difference between the two sides in terms of total shots (17 to 14 to Arsenal), and arguably West Ham’s approach enabled them to create clearer goal scoring opportunities than Arsenal’s, which is a concern for the Gunners moving forward.
But for some poor finishing by West Ham, a fortunate deflection for Arsenal’s second goal, and some loose defending from West Ham in second half injury time, which enabled Welbeck to score, Arsenal could have easily lost the match.
GK: Cech (7/10)
It was a busy day for Cech, who, while conceding a goal to Arnautovic, did very well to keep West Ham at bay, making 4 saves for the match. On the goal conceded, there was nothing more Cech could have done. Cech also did well when called upon to deal with West Ham’s 15 crosses for the game.
RWB: Bellerin (6/10)
It was a poor defensive performance from Bellerin, who showed limited defensive anticipation (1 interception) and was not aggressive enough with his defending (1 tackle). Bellerin’s defensive positioning was also way too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to counterattacks from West Ham. Bellerin’s primary opponent, Masuaku, took full advantage of this with 3 crossing attempts and 4 successful forward dribbles.
Conversely, it was a highly productive offensive performance from Bellerin, with 2 assists from his 5 crossing attempts for the match. The only real negative with Bellerin’s offensive effort was his failure to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play, with no attacking dribbles.
RCB: Mustafi (4/10)
It was a poor defensive effort from Mustafi who was neither aggressive in his defensive approach (1 tackle), nor did he demonstrate good defensive anticipation (0 interceptions). While the German was regularly isolated during the match, due to poor defensive positioning from right wingback, Bellerin, individually Mustafi was unable to contain his primary opponent, Antonio, who managed 2 shots, 1 of which was on target, and 2 forward dribbles. Disappointingly, Mustafi wasn’t even able to best the Englishman aerially, with both players registering 3 successful aerial duels a piece. The one positive of Mustafi’s defensive performance was his tendency to simply clear the ball from Arsenal’s defensive third (a whopping 14 clearances). This repeatedly relieved pressure on Arsenal’s back four.
LCB: Sokratis (5/10)
It was another mixed defensive performance from Sokratis. Positively, the Greek international showed solid defensive anticipatory skills (2 interceptions). However, he was no where near aggressive enough in his defensive approach (0 tackles). This allowed Arnautovic to showcase his talents (a goal from his 5 shots, 2 of which were on target). Disappointedly Sokratis, like Mustafi, also failed to win the aerial battle against his opponent (0 successful aerial duels to Arnautovic’s 1). And while Sokratis’ effort to clear his lines was reasonable (3 clearances), he could certainly have simplified his defensive approach more often.
LWB: Monreal (5/10)
It was a similarly mixed performance by Monreal. While the Spainard showed excellent aggression in his defending (3 tackles), he failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions). As a consequence, his opponent, Fredricks, had a productive performance down Arsenal’s left flank (3 successful dribbles, and 2 accurate crosses from his 2 attempts).
His composed strike for Arsenal’s opening goal aside, Monreal was underwhelming offensively (0 attempted forward dribbles, and only 1 crossing attempt for the match, which was off target).
RCDM: Xhaka (7/10)
It was a much improved defensive performance from Xhaka, who was aggressive in his defending (3 tackles). That said, Xhaka once again showed limited defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions). In terms of his defensive positioning, while Xhaka was disciplined, in that he wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch, he was arguably too central in his positioning, which left Arsenal’s right flank unnecessarily exposed.
Offensively, Xhaka’s performance was also much improved, as he recorded 88% passing accuracy and produced 7 accurate long-range transitional passes. The only real belimish on Xhaka’s offensive performance was his failure to contribute in terms a successful forward dribbles for the match (1 successful forward dribble).
LCDM: Guendouzi (6/10)
It was a solid, albeit slightly underwhelming, performance from the young and inexperienced Frenchman. Defensively the youngster was aggressive in his defending (2 tackles) but showed limited defensive anticipation (1 interception). The Frenchman’s defensive positioning was also poor in that he lacked discipline and was drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch too often.
Offensively, Guendouzi was equally solid, albeit slightly underwhelming, as he recorded 90% passing accuracy, contributed 4 accurate, long range transitional passes, but failed to produce a successful forward transitional dribble.
RCAM: Mkhitaryan (5/10)
It was an underwhelming attacking performance from Mkhitaryan, who showed good goal scoring intent, with 3 shots for the match, 1 of which was on target, but he failed to produce a successful forward dribble, key pass or through ball.
CAM: Ramsey (6/10)
It was solid performance by Ramsey, who showed some goal scoring initiative (2 shots, 1 of which was on target), a real desire to penetrate West Ham’s rearguard via the dribble (3 successful dribbles) and some creativity with his passing (2 key passes). The only real negative was Ramsey’s failure to attempt a through pass.
LCAM: Iwobi (4/10)
It was an poor performance by the young Nigerian, who, while producing an assist from his solitary key pass for the match, showed limited desire to penetrate West Ham’s rearguard via the dribble (1 successful dribble) or through passes (0 attempted through passes). Iwobi also showed no goal scoring intent (0 shots).
CF: Aubameyang (5/10)
It was another energetic and trying performance from Aubameyang, who had 3 shots for the match, 1 of which was on target. Aerially though, the Gabonese striker lost the battle with this opposing defender Balbuena (2 successful aerial duels to 0).
Overall, it was a performance by Arsenal which was reminiscent the side’s performances under Wenger during the second half of his tenure. While Arsenal dominated possession, they failed to regularly create high probability goal scoring opportunities. The Gunners also overcommitted players in attack, which exposed Arsenal’s centrebacks to dangerous counterattacks.
Arsenal are likely to encounter many more sides this season which are happy to employ the counter attacking tactics which West Ham (almost successfully) implemented.
If Arsenal’s performance versus the Hammers is anything to go by, Emery has a lot of work to do tactically and with the players.
The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.