Arsenal traveled to John Smith’s Stadium to take on Huddersfield Saturday, in the 26th day of Premier League action. With Tottenham and United fixtures coming at the beginning of March, February has to be a successful month for the Gunners.
When the match lineups were released today, there were a few surprises on the team sheet. Firstly, Aubameyang and Ozil [yes, again] were scratched from the team with illness. This led the attack at the top of the formation to consist of Iwobi, Lacazette, and Mkhitaryan. Ramsey and Xhaka were scratched from the team as well, however those lineup scratches were attributed to physical injuries.
The 3-4-3 formation Emery went with included Ainsley Maitland-Niles at the right wing back position. AMN and Sead Kolasinac were tasked with creating most of the offense moving forward with a lack of attacking-oriented midfielders. Denis Suarez still has to await his starting debut for the Gunners as he started on the bench.
It took about ten minutes for Arsenal to break into the Huddersfield third of the pitch, but once they did it proved to be effective. 16 minutes into the game Sead Kolasinac did his favorite run forward down the left hand side and sent a high arching pass to Iwobi on the right side of the box. Alex has not been great with his finishing recently, but he did well to get a deflected volley past Hamer to get Arsenal up 1-0.
Huddersfield responded admirably however, and never stopped driving forward the entire first half. Diakhaby and Mooy looked particularly bright for the Terriers in the first 45 minutes of football, and that kind of effort leaves your wondering how they’ve only collected 11 points on the season. While they are in the middle of the table for possession and hold the ball quite well, the problem for them has always been in the final third.
On the stroke of half time Arsenal were able to make another break through. Iwobi made an incisive pass to Mkhitaryan got Arsenal in a dangerous position moving forward. Schindler did well to thwart the initial attack, but Mkhitaryan recovered the ball well and found Maitland-Niles out on the right side. The young Englishman whipped a sublime cross to Alex Lacazette who didn’t have to do a whole lot to double the Arsenal lead.
Alex Iwobi had one hell of a half, and if he shows that performance with some more consistency then he will be impossible to scratch from the starting XI. However, the performances also need to be against teams higher up the table than Huddersfield. An inspiring half from the Nigerian by any account.
The second half was full of dull moments with the occasional decent chance intermittently. The highlight of the half for Arsenal was a huge opportunity missed from Iwobi to take the Gunners up 3-0. Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, and Iwobi led a 3-2 attack at the Huddersfield defense who were completely overrun. Mkhitaryan played an inch perfect pass to Iwobi who shot it right at the goalkeeper Hamer. Iwobi had a fantastic day, but that would’ve been the cherry on top.
I have harped a lot of the issues with Huddersfield’s attack, but they performed admirably. A team with a lack of scoring ability continued to test the Arsenal defense. Leno was a subtle standout for the Gunners, but Huddersfield were eventually rewarded for their effort. For the first time in under their manager [and in ten hours of football] they got it in the back of the net. While it was an own goal, they won’t care. Sloppy play from the Arsenal defense [again] led to the ball rolling across the goal mouth. Kolasinac had a cool and composed finish into his own net to bring the Terriers back in injury time. Still no clean sheet away from home for Arsenal.
IWOBI 16' | Arsenal 1 - 0 Huddersfield— Ali (@AFCAIi1) February 9, 2019
Great work from Kolasinac on the left flank and stroke of luck for the deflection and we're 1 up! pic.twitter.com/Sp9an0IQLI
The only good part of this own goal was that it rolled across at almost the final whistle, and it was too late for Huddersfield to mount a comeback. Three important, but expected points against the 20th team in the table.
For Arsenal moving forward, the focus needs to be set on getting results. The Europa League match at midweek against BATE and games in the Premier League against Southampton/Bournemouth will be three must wins for the club before their tough start to March.
See the match ratings on WhoScored here.