We’ve hit the mid-season mark under the new Unai Emery regime. Here at the Arsenal Vision Podcast, we will be looking to rate the Arsenal players based on their performances so far.
In this piece, we’ll be assessing the forwards and the new manager, Unai Emery.
Danny Welbeck – 6.5/10
Poor Danny. Just when he was getting into the groove of things, he suffered a major injury in the Europa League that ended his season early.
Emery integrated Welbeck into the team slowly due to his commitments in the World Cup, bringing him on as a substitute in league games and starting him in the cups. His versatility, physical power and diligence in following instructions were a plus as the manager has shuffled his team through a series of formations and tactics.
Welbeck clocked in a respectable 5 goals and 1 assist in all competitions despite being moved between a supporting and lead striking position. He’s a major team player and always puts in the hard yards for his teammates. If he’s leaving at the end of the season, which looks quite likely, Arsenal would be hard pressed to find a back up forward with his experience, ability and professionalism.
Alexandre Lacazette – 7.5/10
Lacazette’s value to the team was evident in the first couple of games when Arsenal’s forward line struggled to find any rhythm without the Frenchman. Lacazette has since become indispensable to the team as his hold up play, clinical finishing and a willingness to put in a defensive shift high up the pitch has endeared him to Emery and the fans.
9 goals and 6 assists in all competitions shows that he’s not just a good goalscorer but a selfless provider for his teammates. He’s on course to better his goals scored in 2017/18 and has already surpassed the number of assists from the entirety of last season.
Much has been made of his moody demeanour when being substituted but he’s managed to show a more positive disposition in the recent Fulham game – providing another assist for his team from the sidelines.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 8/10
A player that I feel doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Aubameyang’s 14 goals in the league puts him at the head of the goalscoring charts but not much has been made of his supremacy in front of goal. This is probably because, for the casual viewer, he’s not an all action player like Lacazette.
Aubameyang operates in the periphery of the game and his skills are more cerebral. His game is based on finding pockets of space to exploit and his speed helps him gain an extra yard of space to pounce on the tiniest opportunity in the box.
He does miss his fair share of chances but he averages close to 3 shots per game and that is enough to get him a goal in most of the games he plays.
Aubemeyang also deserves credit for playing a big chunk of the season out of position on the left of midfield but has played on diligently. Scintillating shots from outside the box, something he rarely did at Dortmund, and improved pressing from the front since the North London Derby shows that Aubameyang is expanding his repertoire as a forward.
Aubameyang looks the elite striker we have been crying out for since the departure of Robin Van Persie and Thierry Henry and we should appreciate his talents while we can.
Manager: Unai Emery – 7/10
Emery had a tough task of replacing a legacy manager but said all the right things at the start about working harder. Under his guidance, the team does look fitter and stronger which may explain Arsenal’s second half dominance as the Gunner tend to overrun tired opposition legs. Despite losing the first 2 games of the season, there is a resilience in the team now that has been missing in the last few seasons under Wenger.
Emery has improved individual players like Iwobi, Holding and Bellerin who stagnated under the previous regime. A focus on the collective is also to be applauded but that has come with its set of problems.
The new manager has found it hard to integrate Ramsey and Ozil into his plans – 2 high profile players who have previously been given free creative reign under Wenger. In the case of Ozil, that means dropping the club’s biggest earner and most creative player due to poor form. That is a political minefield that has complicated matters for Emery but he seems to have that under control for the time being.
While the results have mostly been positive, fans have been right to call out Emery on a lack of “philosophy” and a coherent plan. He changes formations very often and has not been able to improve the defence. The half time substitutions were refreshing at the start but it’s hard to see what the team is building towards. Tactical flexibility is always welcomed but it has to be anchored in a clear blueprint.
Still, I believe he deserves more time and the hierarchy needs to back him with more players during the current transfer window, especially in defence and on the wings.
Emery has been tasked to get back into the Champions League through a top 4 finish and/or via the Europa League. To attain his goals, he has to tighten up the defence, have a consistent plan for the players to adopt and bring out the best of Ozil in the second half of the season.
Hatta is a Singapore-based Gooner, a purveyor of the latest football boots and kits and founder of BOOTHYPE.com. You can also find him on Twitter at @chatwithhat.