It was yet another unconvincing performance from the Gunners as they overcame Watford 2-0 at the Emirates.
Pre-match, Arsenal appeared to once again adopt the 4-2-3-1 formation that Emery has favoured this season. That said, the players’ average positioning indicated that they adopted more of a 2-4-3-1 formation throughout the match, with Bellerin, and particularly Monreal, adopting advanced positions on the right and left flanks respectively.
Possession and key observations
With Watford’s early season success built upon their combativeness and the directness of their attacking play, and Arsenal showing an effectiveness at monopolising possession but struggling to create high probability goal scoring opportunities, and struggling to force turnovers from their opponents, it was not surprising to see the Hornets lose the possession battle to Arsenal (36% to 64%) but win the shot count (13 to 9) and ball recovery battle (24 tackles and 15 interceptions to Arsenal’s 10 tackles and 6 interceptions).
In the end, it was a lucky own goal, a neat finish from Ozil, and Cech, and then Leno’s, shot stopping ability, which allowed Arsenal to claim yet another undeserved victory.
GK: Cech (10/10)
Prior to his departure from the game due to an injury, it was another excellent display from Cech, who made a number of saves and did well when called upon to deal with Watford’s bombardment of crosses and long balls into the box.
RWB: Bellerin (4/10)
It was yet another terrible defensive performance from Bellerin, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) and was again meek in his defending (0 tackles). Bellerin’s defensive positioning was also again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to counterattacks from Watford. Bellerin’s primary opponent, Pereyra, took full advantage of this, with 2 shots, 2 successful forward dribbles, and 5 crossing attempts during the match, 2 of which were accurate.
Offensively, Bellerin’s performance was mixed. While the Spaniard again failed to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles), he did show excellent attacking initiative with 5 crosses for the match, 1 of which was on target.
Bellerin’s repeated selection despite his ongoing poor defensive performances is a blight on Emery’s decision-making skills regarding team selection. With Lichtensteiner also performing poorly, as was expected, giving youngster Osei-Tutu opportunities at right wing back would appear to be urgently required.
RCB: Mustafi (5/10)
It was a mixed defensive effort from Mustafi. Despite demonstrating solid defensive anticipatory skills (2 interceptions), Mustafi lacked aggression in his defensive approach (0 tackles). As a consequence of Mustafi’s lack of aggression, his primary opponent, Deeney, was able to influence the match with 4 key passes and 1 shot, which was on target. Mustafi was also bested by his English opponent aerially, registering 5 successful aerial duels to Deeney’s 6. Positively though, Mustafi was solid with respect to clearances (6 for the match) and did manage to block a Watford shot.
With Koscielny still injured, Sokratis failing to produce complete defensive performances, which wasn’t unexpected, and youngster Chambers, out on loan, more complete defensive performances are needed from Mustafi.
LCB: Holding (6/10)
It was a mixed defensive performance from Holding on his first Premier League start for the season. While the young Englishman showed good defensive anticipatory skills (3 interceptions), he was too passive in his defensive approach (0 tackles). Despite this, his opponent, Gray, failed to take advantage (1 shot, which was on target, and 0 successful forward dribbles). That said, Holding’s effort to clear his lines was good (6 clearances). The young Englishman was also able to block a Watford shot, and he was dominate aerially, recording 6 successful aerial duels to Gray’s 1.
LWB: Monreal (4/10)
It was yet another poor defensive performance from Monreal, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) and was again meek in his defending (1 tackle). Monreal’s defensive positioning was also again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s left flank to counterattacks from Watford. That said, Monreal’s primary opponent, Hughes, failed to take advantage of this, with only 1 shot, which was off target, 1 successful forward dribble, and 1 inaccurate crossing attempt.
Offensively, Monreal’s performance was mixed. While the Spaniard again failed to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles), he did show excellent attacking initiative with 4 crosses for the match. Unfortunately none of Monreal’s crossing attempts were on target.
Like Bellerin, Monreal’s repeated selection despite his ongoing poor defensive performances is another blight on Emery’s decision-making skills regarding team selection. Kolasinac’s return to fitness can’t come soon enough.
RCDM: Torreira (6/10)
It was an solid, albeit slightly underwhelming, defensive performance from the Uruguayan, who was very and aggressive in his defending (3 tackle), but failed to demonstrate the requisite defensive anticipatory skills (1 interception). That said, Torreira’s defensive positioning was excellent, in that he was disciplined, protected Mustafi, and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch. The Uruguayan’s efforts to stay discipline in his positioning was particularly important, given Bellerin’s poor defensive positioning in the right wingback role.
While it was an improved defensive performance from Torreira, his offensive performance was underwhelming. Despite recording an impressive 90% passing accuracy, he only contributed 2 accurate, long-range transitional passes, and failed to complete a successful forward transitional dribble.
LCDM: Xhaka (7/10)
It was an underwhelming defensive performance from Xhaka, who showed improved aggression in his defending (2 tackles), but again failed to show the required defensive anticipatory skills (0 interception). In terms of his defensive positioning, while Xhaka was disciplined to a degree, he was at times unnecessarily drawn into advanced areas of the pitch, which, combined with Monreal’s poor positioning, left Holding unnecessarily exposed.
Offensively, Xhaka was, for the third match running, highly productive, recording 87% passing accuracy, and producing an impressive 7 accurate long-range transitional passes. The only real blemish on Xhaka’s offensive performance was once again his failure to significantly contribute in terms of successful forward dribbles for the match (1 successful forward dribble).
RCAM: Ozil (4/10)
His neat finish aside, it was another poor performance from Ozil, who had just the solitary shot on goal, and only produced 1 successful forward dribble and 1 key pass. The one positive to take away from Ozil’s performance versus Watford was his increased creativity with his passing (attempting 3 through balls for the match).
CAM: Ramsey (1/10)
It was a dreadful performance by Ramsey, who showed no goal scoring initiative (0 shots), no desire to penetrate Watford’s rear-guard via the dribble (0 successful dribbles), and no creativity with his passing (0 key passes and 0 attempted through passes).
LCAM: Aubameyang (2/10)
It was another poor performance by the Gabonese striker, who showed a limited desire to penetrate Watford’s rear-guard via the dribble (1 successful dribble), no goal scoring intent, minimal creativity with his passing (1 key pass and 0 attempted through passes).
Emery’s ongoing decision to deploy a world class striker, like Aubameyang, out of position, and his refusal to adopt a formation that would allow Aubameyang and Lacazette to act as a striking duo, and in turn play to their goal scoring strengths, is bordering on negligent. The sooner Arsenal switch to a system that allows Lacazette and Aubameyang to operate as a striking duo, with Ozil or Mkhitaryan in the central attacking midfield role, the better.
CF: Lacazette (6/10)
It was another trying but underwhelming performance by the Frenchman, who had 4 shots for the match, albeit none of those shots were on target. While the probability of Lacazette’s scoring from the minimal opportunities created for him was low, thanks largely to the derisory performances of Ozil, Ramsey and Aubameyang, Lacazette was guilty of missing one particular goal scoring opportunity in the first half, where he was one on one with Watford’s goalkeeper, after the Frenchman had robbed is primary opponent, Kabasele, of the ball. Aerially, Lacazette once again showed his battling qualities, equalling his taller and more physically imposing opponent, Kabasele, with 3 successful aerial duels a piece.
As has been the theme of Arsenal’s recent run of victories, Arsenal once again dominated possession versus Watford but failed to create high probability goal scoring opportunities. This was again due to the lack of attacking initiative shown by the chosen attacking midfielders (Ozil, Ramsey and Aubameyang). Looking at the positives, credit once again needs to go to Xhaka for the volume of accurate long-range transitional passes he was able to produce, and to Lacazette for his trying display, despite a lack of service.
Defensively, while Monreal and Bellerin were again terribly unproductive in their performances, and Mustafi, Holding, Torreira and Xhaka underwhelmed in terms of their production, that central quartet of Mustafi, Holding, Torreira and Xhaka showed some improvements. That said, but for Cech, and then Leno’s, excellent shot stopping efforts and their dominance in claiming crosses, Arsenal would have been easily beaten by the Hornets.
At a minimum, Emery meeds to adopt a formation and tactical approach, that accentuates the strengths of Arsenal’s elite attackers (Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil), and reinforces Arsenal’s central midfield with an additional body to protect the defence. A narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation would seem to accomodate those three players, as well as Torreira’s central defensive midfield strengths.
While that change in formation won’t solve all of Arsenal’s productivity issues, given the high number of underperforming and/or consistently unproductive players in Arsenal’s first team squad, it should help improve Arsenal’s offensive and defensive productivity to some degree. And it is a problem Emery needs to quickly address, as the fortunate run of victories Arsenal have manufactured against West Ham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton and now Watford, won’t last.
The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.