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Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria Guimaraes: Is this the game that unleashes Pepe?

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Our record signing Nicolas Pepe got the win here, with two wonderfully executed free-kicks at the death. But overall, it was another limp performance. Yes, we won, and we should be happy with that. And Vitoria Guimaraes was not here to lie down or be the accessory. They pressed us well and passed well through our midfield. However, they like English sides apiece, isolated our weaknesses well and took the game to us.

This is how MOST sides play us, seemingly, whether domestically or in Europe.

If people wonder why a growing number are now “Emery Out” (including myself I must add…) then this is why. I won’t tear into the team nor the head coach here, as we did win. But there are some pressing concerns all the same.

Midfield

Vitoria evidently isolated our midfield as an issue. And how they passed and moved here was akin to the Villa and Bournemouth league games.

The balance, on paper, was fine. Maitland-Niles, Torreira, and Willock, all are a mix of energy, passing ability, ball-carrying, and tenacity. But Torreira is still playing in an advanced role, and the overall shape is poor. Other sides don’t have to think to overcome our weaknesses, and this is what happened in this game.

This isn’t to take anything away from Vitoria Guimaraes – however, we often add to our faults, which in turn other teams exploit.

Torreira may not even be an orthodox number ten. Though he is best in a deeper role, and his strengths aren’t being creative. It could be that he is being an upper-pitch presser, but this leaves our deeper areas exposed.

Defence

It was good to see Tierney back, but then overall the defensive structure was weak – as normal.

It’s things like this that cause us to get under pressure – and bring pressure onto the head coach.

Like the midfield, Vitoria isolated us and their game plan worked. Before their first goal, they had an excellent chance which was due to poor tracking, marking and challenging.

Their second goal too resulted from this – and it was an irony that an ex-Spurs player scored against us.

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Pepe

Is this the time of his true Arsenal arrival? His game at Sheffield United was good, though he got the two free-kicks tonight to secure the victory.

I’m not angsty towards Pepe, as I still feel he needs time. I do believe he can get 10-15 goals this season in all competitions, which is a sound total overall for a player of his position.

 

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But he may need time to adjust still, and in some capacities, we’re not playing to his strengths. He needs through balls and the capacity to run at players, and we’re not providing this. He is akin to Salah and Mane at Liverpool, or Son with that lot, in their games are pretty similar. Salah, Mane, and Son are world-class wide forwards. Pepe has done well over the past few seasons, and CAN be at that level. He’s not there yet in my view but has that potential to be there.

However, I feel this can be a seminal point for him, and the Palace game to come is another prime point for him to progress.

Emery?

I’m not sure what to think of him now. Actually, I think he should go. Tonight, he made the changes needed, such as bringing on Pepe to score the winners.

But then we’re not seeing much progress in our side. He’s been here for 18 months now – and we’re still the same as under the latter Wenger period.

We may change formation more than under Wenger. But it’s pretty much that our defence is crap still, and that we’re still easily identified by opposition sides.

We did win this game – but it doesn’t mean that our overall shape can be questioned.

And there is only one man – el jefe – who is responsible for this, ultimately.

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El jefe is under pressure – and rightly so.

I’m happy that we won this game. It’s three more points to the next stage – and potentially even facing Spurs in the latter Europa League. But then we’re still seeing the same issues apparent and a lack of will or ability to solve them cost Emery’s predecessor.

And Wenger had a lot more credit in the bank than Emery has…..

Positives?

What were the positives today?

Martinelli took his goal well, and Smith-Rowe had a good chance after Martinelli scored.

Tierney got another assist, as his crossing and delivery are top-rate.

And we did well to come back, after a poor initial start.

It doesn’t mean though that the negatives cannot be overlooked.

 

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Guendouzi gave this boy a positive he’ll remember forever.

 

Player ratings

Martinez 6

Chambers 5

Mustafi 5

Holding 5

Tierney 6

Maitland-Niles 4

Torreira 5

Willock 6

Lacazette 5

Martinelli 7

Smith-Rowe 6

Pepe 7

Ceballos 5

Guendouzi 7

Man of the match

Nicolas Pepe

 

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Two Ronaldo/Messi-esque free-kicks to get the win here.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria Guimaraes: Is this the game that unleashes Pepe?

  1. chris October 25, 2019 at 8:28 am #

    Chambers did well to get a rating. he did not even play.

  2. Victor Thompson October 25, 2019 at 10:19 am #

    I am making more or less an add-on to Chris`s comment. I am sure that you have already discovered your error in rating Chambers as a 5, when in fact he did not play.

    My reason for mentioning it is that I am currently selecting Chambers as our most consistent defender. He has played well in every game that he has been selected for. I have suggested that he and Holding should be our regular CB pairing. Holding blotted his copy book last night as he was awful. I am prepared to accept that it must be hard to recover from such a long spell of injury and perhaps a few games as a substitute may be the answer.

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