As Mikel Arteta hands Thomas Partey his first Premier League start, the inept Gunners fall to defeat.
Thomas Partey had a decent enough outing on his full Premier League debut and showed that he is capable of anchoring a midfield three, however, Arsenal failed to put any modicum of chances together to impact the game and ultimately fall to a sharp Jamie Vardy header. That’s about it.
A poor defeat at a time when capitalising on our rivals’ slip-ups was so desperately needed, the manner of the 1-0 loss to the Foxes will be tough to swallow for a number of days.
Six Premier League matches so far this season: three wins, three losses.
What did we learn?
Central Defence Being the Most Creative Outlet?
Arsenal were largely awful tonight. We lacked midfield creativity, couldn’t control possession in areas that made much of a difference, and still seem to believe that our best creators are center-halves. If only we had someone that could unlock defenses for fun from our roster. Someone that played in an attacking midfield role, for instance.
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Aside from the first 20 minutes where we created several chances, the Foxes were the better team tonight. We were able to retain the ball 57% of the time, however didn’t really have any plans for what to do with it once we had it. The team looked dull and misplaced countless passes, some due to the pressure from Leicester, but most were just, well, poor attempts.
The forwards were largely isolated and the entire team seemed to prefer to pass the ball back to Gabriel Magalhaes or David Luiz for them to attempt to create something that resembled an attack. This left us hoping they would pull off a magical pass from 50 yards away, rather than try to pull Leicester out of position and create opportunities that way.
Granit Xhaka Didn’t Add Anything
Granit Xhaka for large stretches of the game tonight was slow on the ball and lacked anywhere near the sharpness needed. Toward the end of the game Kieran Tierney was replaced by Eddie Nketiah, which forced Xhaka back from a left midfield type slot into a left-back position, bizarrely taking off one of our main creative elements.
The goal we gave up just before this positional change came from Xhaka not being able to keep up with Cengiz Under when Leicester played a ball over the top. Watching Xhaka struggle in these types of ways has me wondering why he is still included in the starting lineup at all. He lacks the pace to cover runners like Under and recently has done nothing in an attacking sense.
While he didn’t gift the Foxes a goal tonight with an errant pass, as he has done for many other teams in the past, it was still a showing that should see him removed from the starting lineup for more intent in forward areas.
In the future we should consider Bukayo Saka, Partey and Dani Ceballos in our midfield three. Less onus on deep-lying passers of the ball and more of an eye on making an impact higher up the pitch.
Mikel Arteta Needs Much More Time
Watching this game made me think we hired Jose Mourinho instead of Mikel Arteta. Either that, or Arteta had far too much of David Moyes instilled in him and not enough of Arsene Wenger. The Gunners’ tactical setup was confusing at best.
Playing with a flat midfield three can work well when all three have the drive to push forward and create movement with the forward line. Tonight the Gunners seemed content to stand and watch the game unfold.
Very little movement was created from the rigid midfield line, with the team watching on as Luiz kicked the ball past the middle of the park directly up to the forwards or overlapping full-backs. Once he came off little else was created.
Going into half-time it felt like we had a hold on the game. We created 11 shots at that point and only managed to get two on target. That didn’t last. In the following 45 minutes we were only able to create one more shot. Even after falling behind, we never really looked like we were interested in winning the game or even attempting to.
All in all, I have to say this is one of the poorest displays I have seen from Arsenal since Arteta took over. I felt the same about the Rapid Vienna game last during the week where we were saved by Aubameyang and Luiz. No such luck tonight, though, as Leicester had the quality Rapid did not to see the game out.