Arsenal fell to a 2-0 loss at home to Manchester City, and Unai Emery will not be happy with how the team performed, although there is plenty of scope for improvement.
Arsenal were handed a tricky opening fixture to start their 2018-19 season, and not many would have been left surprised by the way Manchester City gave them a defeat at the Emirates. City cruised to a 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva in either half, but there is plenty of scope for improvement for the Gunners in the coming weeks.
For much of the build-up to this game, Unai Emery had gotten the Arsenal fan base excited with the ideas of a fresh defensive approach and a new pressing style of play. All of that was somewhat visible but entirely went without bearing any fruits, as Arsenal looked more like the team of the old when it came to defending.
But, there sure were plenty of positives to take from the game, as well as a possible change in the strategy and personnel in the starting lineup in the next match. For now, Arsenal fans should be positive despite the defeat, as this is a team under construction and indeed a work in progress post the Arsene Wenger era.
Here’s how we rated the Arsenal players during their defeat at the hands of the reigning Premier League champions, Manchester City.
Petr Cech: 7/10
Perhaps Arsenal’s man of the match, despite a few obvious moments to forget. Firstly concerns were raised when new signing Bernd Leno was named on the bench. But, Cech was on hand to keep his team in the game plenty of times.
The Arsenal skipper first made a fantastic save from a Raheem Sterling shot from close range, before a double stop off a free-kick by Riyad Mahrez. He finally denied Aguero in a one-on-one situation. Each of the situations said a lot about Cech and his renewed energy under Emery, even though he could and perhaps, should have stopped Sterling from scoring his goal.
Hector Bellerin: 5.5/10
A decent game for Bellerin, wherein he did not make many mistakes, although he should have done better to kill off the space for Sterling for Manchester City’s first goal. Otherwise, it was a decent first competitive outing in the Unai Emery era and he could improve further with the right coaching going forward.
Not a great debut for the Greek defender. His positioning was decent, as was his reading of the game for the most part. However, the major problem lies in what he does with the ball at his feet, and on Sunday all he did was pass to the nearest full-back when such a situation came. He needs to be better at playing from the back.
Shkodran Mustafi: 6/10
The best of Arsenal’s defenders. Despite his initial lapse when Sterling scored Manchester City’s first goal, he made up for it with some brilliant plays, clearances and his new tendency to play the ball forward from defence. Still needs plenty of work to be done to understand his new defensive partner, Sokratis.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 4/10
It’s something like a curse at Arsenal currently with their left-back situation. Maitland-Niles was deployed as one because each of the other left-backs were injured. Much to the dismay of Emery and Arsenal fans alike though, the youngster went out of the game with an injury as well, when he was playing decently.
Matteo Guendouzi: 7/10
A more than decent debut for the 19-year-old who was last seen playing competitive football in the French second division. Guendouzi was tidy on the ball and pressed City very well, although he did make a few mistakes. The decision to keep him on the pitch throughout the game showed that Emery trusts him very much.
Granit Xhaka: 4/10
Xhaka’s substitution was also a reason for keeping Guendouzi on the pitch, and there was a reason why the Swiss was taken off. When Arsenal needed to attack and score goals, Xhaka was not helping; instead, he was only making safe, conservative passes to his teammates. Losing possession in essential areas as well as other factors clearly shows he is not yet in sync with Emery’s ways, yet.
Aaron Ramsey: 5/10
The no. 10 was a very strange position to start the game for Ramsey, opposed to his usual deeper role. He tried a few things but mostly failed at it. The Welshman did not look sharp, perhaps due to the muscle injury he shrugged off for Sunday.
But, overall, he needs to sharpen his game and preferably start next match from central midfield, than the advanced position he started against Manchester City.
Mesut Ozil: 4.5/10
Ozil wasn’t anonymous during the game, but somewhat wayward in his play. The Arsenal star let Mendy dominate him for the whole game, and the Manchester City full-back did not let him have a sniff in the final third. When Ozil did have the chance to make something happen, he showed a surprising lack of efficiency, with his passes, decision making and finishing.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 4/10
Quite easily Arsenal’s poorest player on the pitch on Sunday. The word to define Mkhitaryan’s performance would be anonymous, and much like Ozil, he let Walker dominate him all throughout the game. Needs to make massive improvement, with the Armenian failing to provide any sort of outlet from the left flank, just like Ozil on the right.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 4/10
Playing on the peripheries is his style of play, but that also includes a burst of pace and suddenly coming to life with goals. But, Aubameyang was kept quiet for the most part, and he disappeared from the game altogether at times. He needs to show up during big games like these and make something happen for Arsenal if the team has to progress to the next level.
Stephan Lichtsteiner: 6.5/10
After coming on for Maitland-Niles, Lichtsteiner showed veteran instincts to deny Mahrez. Despite the unfamiliar position, he brought in some much-needed aggression and provided a decent outlet from the left flank. Needs to start more games to bring the steel required in this Arsenal side.
Alexandre Lacazette: 6.5/10
Provided a more potent threat than Aubameyang as the central striker. He has the physical presence to hold up play and let others come in. Upon his introduction, the Frenchman became something of a focal point, which is exactly what Arsenal needed from the get-go. Another possible starter for Arsenal against Chelsea.
Lucas Torreira: 6/10
When he was brought on, Arsenal were already 2-0 down and needed goals to make something happen. Bringing on a defensive midfielder was for nothing but to probably give him a taste of English football. Was decent in whatever he did.