In a clash of two redesigned London teams, Chelsea came out victorious on Saturday, beating Arsenal 3-2 and giving an early reality check to Unai Emery in his first Premier League season.
As expected, the Gunners were poor defensively, conceding two before finally managing to unleash some of their offensive potential.
For Chelsea fans, there were more positives than negatives. But negatives there were still. With six points to their name after two games, though, these negatives will inevitably go beneath the radar.
With the start of the Premier League proving difficult for the new Arsenal manager, here are the winners and losers from the game against Chelsea.
This kid is special. The 19-year-old Frenchman’s passing abilities, vision and technique are sublime for his age and, although he might not always execute his defensive duties to the required degree, this responsibility should soon be transferred to Lucas Torreira once Uruguayan is fully fit.
To distinguish yourself on the pitch against both Manchester City and Chelsea is no mean feat. Guendouzi did just this, though.
What’s more, the Frenchman fared much better than more experienced Granit Xhaka, who was playing alongside him. If there is one holding midfielder Unai Emery might drop ahead of the next game, bets are on the Swiss.
Mustafi’s Arsenal career seems to have always been ill-fated.
After the initial excitement over his centre back partnership with Laurent Koscielny, Mustafi quickly became a target for mockery from Arsenal fans following his increasingly bad performances in an Arsenal shirt.
Saturday’s performance was no better. Slow, indecisive, weak one-on-one – it’s not surprising that rumours about his potential exit have been around since his first Premier League season.
Mustafi’s flaws are only more visible in the light of Koscielny’s absence, which is ominous for the team considering the French defender could be sidelined for a while.
Within the first 20 minutes of the game, Mkhitaryan made a preliminarily case to be slotted into the ‘Loser’ category following another bleak performance marked with a horrible miss.
The miss, though, seemed to motivate the ex-Manchester United man who subsequently went on to inspire some sort of Arsenal comeback, however short-lived.
When another chance arrived, Mkhitaryan didn’t repeat his earlier mistake and fired it home, having been found unmarked just outside the box by Alex Iwobi.
Minutes later, he returned the favour and served the Nigerian a similar pass that he converted, restoring parity between the two London clubs.
The Armenian eventually started to take some of the weight off Mesut Ozil in the build-up and looked confident, as though he enjoyed having the ball at his feet.
Maybe Mkhitaryan and Ozil can play together after all?
There can be little doubt Aubameyang is a clinical finisher.
Two seasons ago, he beat Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski to the Bundesliga Golden Boot trophy two seasons ago. He also had the best conversion rate amongst Premier League’s strikers following his arrival in January. The Gabon international also looked red-hot in preseason scoring six goals, including a classic hat-trick against Borehamwood.
It is baffling, then, that he’s been so quiet so far this season. Failing to make much of an impact against City, his miss at Stamford Bridge that could have thrust Arsenal back into the game much earlier, was horrible — so uncharacteristic for Aubameyang.
The striker was called out by Emery to fight for the top scorer award this season and he certainly is capable of achieving that. However, he has to step up his game quickly if he is to have any real chance.
Any pacy player facing Arsenal
Last week it was Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker. This week, Marcos Alonso, Pedro and Willian. All five found Arsenal an enjoyable opposition, able to showcase their skills freely against a slow and inept defensive line.
With no significant improvements to their back four, Arsenal will offer a great chance to the Premier League’s pacy and skilful wingers this season.
They can count on Hector Bellerin to be caught out of position; the Arsenal centre backs to lose position and open up space for runs leading to a one-on-one with a goalkeeper; or all of the above, as happened at Stamford Bridge.
Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min will surely rub their hands in anticipation of facing the Gunners this season.
Anyone listening to Emery’s post-game interviews
Emery has been an improvement on Arsene Wenger in terms of team management.
Dropping an average Aaron Ramsey after the City game, substituting Mesut Ozil, making changes early in the second half when necessary: you rarely saw this with Wenger at the helm.
It would be interesting to listen to the reasoning behind Emery’s decisions. Unfortunately, his English is still too poor for the Spaniard’s post-game press conferences to offer much of an insight.
Importantly, Emery is trying and no doubt he will improve soon. For now, though, it seems to be a hell of a job for the reporters to get anything meaningful out of the Arsenal coach.
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