Arsenal booked fresh three points on Saturday by beating Huddersfield Town 1-0 at the Emirates.
However, even though they’ve now taken their unbeaten run to 21 games in all competitions, the fact that Lucas Torreira needed to step up and produce a moment of brilliance seven minutes from time against an opponent like Huddersfield points to a few issues up front. Let’s take a look at what happened.
Manager Unai Emery started the game with both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the pitch, and Matteo Guendouzi nearest behind them. Torreira and Granit Xhaka provided the protection ahead of the back three, flanked by Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolašinac pushing up as wing-backs.
For all the media attempts at creating a story of a competition between them, the partnership of Lacazette and Aubameyang usually works well. Lacazette’s link-up play and relentless pressing make a fine balance to Aubameyang’s nose for runs in behind, which means the opposition defenders face threats of attackers playing both on and off the shoulder. That, coupled with the outstanding finishing ability that both of them possess, makes a formidable pair of strikers.
However, the key word here is – strikers. That’s what both of them are, and in order for the partnership to work properly, they need creative players behind and around them to help. With Mesut Ozil unavailable, Emery chose Guendouzi over Mkhitaryan and Iwobi to try and provide that spark.
It was an understandable decision given the incredibly hectic December fixture list. Rotation is certainly needed, just as young Guendouzi needs games to progress. However, the 19-year-old is primarily a central midfielder, and in this game he didn’t seem like he was used to playing so close to the attacking duo.
After halftime, Emery decided to sacrifice one of the strikers to accommodate for Mkhitaryan. That and the withdrawal of Stephan Lichtsteiner to make way for Iwobi a minute earlier made it possible to switch to a fluid formation that kept floating between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3. It brought results in terms of Arsenal looking more of a threat, but they still needed their most defence-minded midfielder in Torreira to provide the ultimate difference between the two teams.
Be that as it may, another three points are in the bag, and the Gunners in fifth place have stayed level on points with Chelsea in fourth as the Blues pulled a great result by beating champions Manchester City. Spurs are only two points ahead, and the battle for the Champions League places seems destined to be a tight one.