Arsenal have beaten Burnley by 3-1 in the 18th round of the 2018/19 Premier League season, courtesy of goals from Pierre-Emerick Auubameyang (14′, 48′), and Alex Iwobi (90′). The solitary strike for the visitors was the work of Ashley Barnes (63′). The Gunners are still in fifth place, but now they’ve equaled Chelsea’s point tally as the Blues suffered defeat at home to Leicester City.
But the result aside for a moment, there were some interesting things to take from this game. Let’s take a look.
The Greece international may have seemed out of his depth at the start of the season, but that’s certainly no longer the case. Against the odds, he has settled in well and has now become a proper Premier League centre-back. His positioning was immaculate throughout the game, and he showed real game-reading ability as he stepped out to intercept a pass, block a run or make a tackle, time and again. He was also acting like a proper defensive leader as he directed the movement of his partner Nacho Monreal.
But quite apart from that, the physicality and immense experience that he employed in his battles with Ashley Barnes was very pleasing to see. Barnes is among the strongest and most cynical strikers in the league, but Sokratis was obviously well prepared to meet him head on.
As mentioned above, the Spaniard got a lot of direction from Sokratis, but he showed great maturity in the way he received the former Borussia Dortmund player’s guidance and how he acted upon it.
Monreal’s performance was, as they say, solid but unspectacular, which is certainly enough considering that it’s not his natural position. You can expect no more from a player who is only stepping into a less familiar role to help the team and the manager in need.
Like Sokratis, Sead Kolašinac is turning into a real asset for Unai Emery. His constant marauding up and down that left flank is an inspiring sight, and his spirit and willingness to fight for every ball is hardly matched by anyone. His runs are very smart and well timed too, and his crosses extremely dangerous for the opposition defence.
Youngsters need time
On the other hand, the two youngest players in this game, Matteo Guendouzi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, have shown that their time perhaps hasn’t come yet. Both have an abundance of talent, nobody can dispute that, and both work very hard, but they have a tendency to make a wrong decision on the ball in potentially crucial moments.
This, let’s say deficiency, is quite understandable given their age. With time and minutes on the pitch, things will fall into place for them, no doubts there, but at this moment, the return of Hector Bellerin will be welcome, while Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira definitely make the best two-man midfield combination.