5 Things We Learned: Huddersfield v Arsenal

If there ever was a game that best describes how it’s been like to watch Arsenal this season, this 2-1 win against Huddersfield might just be the poster boy for how 2018/19 has felt like. While results have mostly been improved under Unai Emery, they have been a grind and not often pleasant to watch.

Here are 5 things we noticed as Arsenal ground out a win against the relegation strugglers.

A Conservative Formation?

Did we really need to play three central defenders against a team that has scored just 13 goals all season? I get that a 3-4-3 formation could also be an offensive setup with the full backs bombing forward and the central defenders stepping in to midfield to start the play. The performance showed otherwise.

Defence has never been Arsenal’s strong point this season so I would have preferred the team lean towards their superior attack against the weakest team in the league. Despite the injuries, we could still have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Lacazette up top with Iwobi, Mhkitaryan and Maitland-Niles behind him. Torreira and Guendouzi could anchor the midfield while we stick to a back four.

The midfield duo was also swamped by the three men in patrolling Huddersfield’s central area. The home team’s side used their numerical advantage and high tempo passing to keep possession and pile on the pressure on Arsenal. 


The Gunners only mastered an average of 45% possession the entire game and were inferior with their attempts on goal too. All this against the league’s bottom side. If we are to be “protagonists” as Emery first described his style, we need to find a style that has the team dominating the games.

Poor Individual Performance in Defence

The irony about the defensive setup was that our defenders has a poor game bar Koscielny and a moderately passable Monreal. 

One of Mustafi’s strong points (there aren’t many) is his ability to play out of the back but he only completed 75% of his passes – a poor rate for a centre back. His tackles and clearances were also half hearted and often ended with the ball returning to the opposition in a dangerous area.

And then we have the wing backs. Both of them created the goals but stuttered in other areas of their game.


I was amazed at how technically competent Maitland-Niles was, especially when he had the ball at feet. His cross for the goal was excellent too. However, his lapses in concentration caused Arsenal to lose possession deep in our half with stray passes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sunday League game.

Kolasinac was no better, clocking in a measly 55% pass completion rate. This system was built around getting the wide players involved and a big part of the team’s poor control of the game was due to the wing backs’ poor decisions with the ball.

The Return of the Single Striker

It feels like quite a while since we played with a lone striker up top. With Aubemeyang’s illness and Mhkitaryan’s return, Emery was able to redeploy a tactic he favoured earlier in the season – getting two interior attacking midfielders to support the lead striker. 

This tactic worked a treat, especially in the first half. For Huddersfield’s defensive midfield screen, Jonathan Hogg, it was like playing a game of whack-a-mole. Whenever he looked to clamp down on Iwobi, Mhkitaryan popped up on his other side to receive the ball, and vice versa. Both attacking midfielders dominated the half spaces and created a lot of good opportunities on the counter attack. Players like Suarez and Ramsey would also do well in this dual no. 10 role and fill in as we head into the business end of the season. Besides being an effective tactic, this formation also allows Emery to rest one striker on the bench as the games pile up with matches in the Europa League.

Mhki You’re So Fine

The Armenian had a decent run out considering that this was his first competitive game since his 2 month injury lay off and it wasn’t a surprise that he tired towards the end. His performances and productivity haven’t always matched his ginormous wages but his style is crucial to how Emery wants his midfielders to play.

Emery likes all-rounders in the middle of the part and Mkhitaryan ticks a lot of boxes. He works hard, links up play and is capable of sticking to the manager’s tactical plan. It’s quite telling too that Emery pursued Denis Suarez, a player who seems to be in a similar mould. 

There are a lot of reasons for Arsenal’s indifferent form the last couple of months but I feel some of that would have been mitigated with a player like Mhki who could knit the play in the final third. 

Iwobi Didn’t Deserve The Jeers

I don’t understand fans who would jeer our own players in the stadium. Sure, we gripe about them from time to time (this column is such an example) but booing them in person won’t help them improve. 

By and large, Iwobi didn’t have that bad a game at all. He scored a slightly fortuitous goal and could have scored a couple more if not for poor finishing and an offside call. Maybe he’s being targeted because we’re comparing him to other players in his age group like Martial and Mbappe.


The truth is, he’s not them but he’s an Arsenal player who’s been with us since he was 8. He’s Arsenal through and through and deserves our support to make it good. Comparisons aren’t healthy and the only benchmark he can set is to do better than last season. For the most part, I believe Iwobi’s showed that he’s a better player this season. He’s still developing at the age of 22 and perhaps, through no fault of his own, has been overplayed by the manager.

With Suarez bedding in, Mhkitaryan coming back from injury and Ramsey being phased out, expect to see more of Iwobi whether fans like it or not. The only way he can improve if he gets our support.

Hatta is a Singapore-based Gooner, a purveyor of the latest football boots and kits and founder of You can also find him on Twitter at @chatwithhat.

5 Things We Learned: Arsenal v Huddersfield

It was 1-0 to the Arsenal but the game was far from a classic. Poor refereeing, sluggish play and a defensive crisis dominated a game where Arsenal showed some mettle to get the result right at the end.

Here are 5 things we observed in the match against Huddersfield.


Unai Emery is the new Tinkerman. It was Arsenal’s third game in seven days with a heavy schedule looming over the next four weeks but that didn’t dissuade the coach from playing both his strikers, all his three trusted central midfielders and a three-man backline despite having only two fit centre backs.

The formation did not work out as the flat midfield could not provide enough passing angles and lanes for the team to pass the ball out progressively from the back to front. Very often, players were made to pass sideways and backwards as Huddersfield cleverly pressed Arsenal to limit their play.

It is in these games where a natural number 10 like Ozil would have been perfect to find pockets of space in midfield to break the press and create more passing options for the team to move out of the back.

To his credit, Emery noticed this and switched the personnel and formation to a 4-3-3 shape – spreading out the play to the flanks. The change posed Huddersfield new problems, culminating in a goals for Arsenal in the 83rd minute.

Opposition Tactics

To the neutral eye, there was a lot to admire with Huddersfield’s approach. Their selective but well drilled pressing was effective in suffocating the game. Though they don’t have many household names, I thought their players were had decent technical ability to move the ball forward and generally kept their shape well to defend against the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette, especially in the first half.


Their rotational fouling of the Arsenal players also stifled the Gunners and impeded any chance of good passing moves progressing from the Arsenal backline. Emery has to start thinking of ways to tackle such a tactic in the future as teams may take a leaf out of Huddersfield’s book to nullify the Gunners.

Though, this wouldn’t be such a problem if the referee controlled the game better. Which brings me to…..

Poor Refereeing Decisions

By the 20 minute mark, Huddersfield were guilty of 9 fouls versus 1 by Arsenal. The referee should have stepped in and cautioned players to deter Huddersfield against such cynical tactics. Instead, he let it go and it became a free for all in the latter stages of the first half. He then started to overcompensate by booking every Tom, Dick and Harry, with the worst of the lot the three yellow cards issued to Arsenal players for simulation.


Xhaka was tripped on the half way line and the cards for Guendouzi and Mustafi were borderline at best. Most referees would have waved play on and demanded the player get up if such an incident occurred.

While VAR can’t come soon enough, technology is not a solution for such levels of ineptitude.

Defensive Crisis

Mustafi, who’s had a decent run in a three man backline, picked up his fifth yellow for diving though his suspension is inconsequential considering the hamstring injury he picked up that should rule him out for the rest of December.

Sokratis, who only recently came back from injury, will be suspended for the Southampton game and will then have to play back to back matches every 3-4 days in December as the only fit senior centre back. Arsenal’s other options are Laurent Koscielny, who needs to be reintegrated very slowly considering his age and the awful Achilles injury he picked up. It was quite telling that Emery chose against putting him on for the last 20 minutes as Mustafi’s replacement.


Monreal and Lichtsteiner look like they can do a temporary job in the centre of defence due to their defensive nous and experience but their best position would still be at full back. Their availability would also be dependent on rotating minutes with incumbent fullbacks, Kolasinac and Bellerin, who would need a rest at some point.

Elneny has played there in the past as part of a three man backline.

More natural solutions would be Mavropanos who looked decent last season in the few games he started but hasn’t convinced Emery this season as he hasn’t played at all this campaign. The youngster also is recovering from injury.

Youngsters from the academy may be needed to fill the gap for the Europa League and Carabao Cup games alongside cult hero, Carl Jenkinson. There are no easy solutions and the Gunners would need to dig deep to come out of December with results.

Terrific Torreira

Easily the signing of the season and one of the most important ones we’ve made in recent years. Not only has he been excellent defensively, he’s shown to have a good instinct for attack. His passing is much more progressive than traditional defensive midfielders (see: Kante and Casemiro), he isn’t afraid to shoot and he seems to have gotten a knack for goal scoring too. A defensive midfielder who can attack? Arsene would be proud of such a signing.


Torreira will be susceptible to burnout and injuries considering his intense playing style and the hectic festive schedule. Emery needs to hold a little more faith in Elneny and Maitland-Niles who could step in to do a job for the team in the cup games and the occasional substitute appearances in the league.

A fit and firing Torreira is key to Arsenal’s chase for a top 4 finish.

Hatta is a Singapore-based Gooner, a purveyor of the latest football boots and kits and founder of You can also find him on Twitter at @chatwithhat.