Arsenal 1-0 Watford – Player Ratings

Photo via: @Arsenal (Twitter)

After a physical battle over the 90 minutes, Arsenal triumphed over Watford, claiming all three points thanks to Emile Smith Rowe’s third goal in three league games. Let’s take a look at my player ratings from the victory…

GK – Aaron Ramsdale – 7 – Had an easy time until the closing 15 minutes. Made one mistake going to sweep up but was solid aside of that. Another clean sheet in the bag.

LB – Nuno Tavares – 8 – Though Tierney was back in the matchday squad today, it was good to see Nuno keep his place. Another solid showing. His energy, pace and power is exceptional. Did well against tricky wingers.

CB – Gabriel Maghalaes – 8 – Denied by a great Foster stop from a corner. Defensively secure as always and impressive on the ball; he’s come on leaps and bounds with his distribution.

CB – Ben White – 9 – Though Sky Sports gave Man of the Match to Maitland-Niles, I’d say White was the best player on the pitch today. Great on the ball, strong in the air, made several dribbles to break the lines; including in the build-up to Smith Rowe’s goal. Roles Royce centre back.

RB – Takehiro Tomiyasu – 8 – Came up against a set of tricky wingers who knew they had him for pace, but he coped well. Kept Sarr and Dennis quiet for most of the game.

LM – Emile Smith Rowe – 8 – I didn’t actually think Emile was at his best today, but he still found a way to score; that is the mark of a top player. Three goals in his last three games simply cannot be overlooked. A decent display, not his best, and a goal to give us the win.

CM – Sambi Lokonga – 7 – Made a few loose passes but was alright aside from those. It’s hard to know what to say for Sambi- he’s a solid player with lots to improve on, he probably doesn’t make our best lineup with everyone fit, and yet he’s not done much wrong.

CM – Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 8 – Close to a nine. Came in for the injured Thomas Partey, played well, and left with the Man of the Match award. Very happy for him to be back in and around the lineups at Arsenal.

RM – Bukayo Saka – 8 – Constantly looked a threat. Ran Danny Rose absolutely ragged. Unlucky to have his goal ruled offside by VAR, but a good performance nonetheless.

ST – Alex Lacazette – 7 – Once again, he did his job. Lacazette makes writing match reviews rather easy; you know what you get with him- hard work, link-up play, someone who will occupy the centre halves. Nothing special today, but a nice showing.

ST – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 4 – For a neutral, I can imagine our captain’s performance today would have been rather comical. Worked his hardest throughout, that much was evident, but he cost us three goals today. His poor touch meant Saka was the one who put the ball in the net early on, the penalty miss, and his offside touch on Odegaard’s shot stopped us doubling our lead.

Substitutes:

AM – Martin Odegaard – 7 – Pressed relentlessly and should have been on the score sheet if it wasn’t for Aubameyang. Bringing Odegaard on for Lacazette in any given half feels like a luxury substitution to make. I like it.

CM – Mohammed Elneny – 5 – Came on to see the game out and did just that. Nothing more to say.

RW – Gabriel Martinelli – N/A- Came on in the 93rd minute. Would have liked to see him a bit earlier, maybe for Aubameyang around the 75 minute mark.

Another win, and another clean sheet. It could, and probably should, have been a much healthier score line today, but we got the win; which is ultimately what counts.

Leicester 0-2 Arsenal – What it means for Arsenal’s season

(Image via @Arsenal twitter)

by @GP1886 (twitter)

As of the time I’m writing this, Arsenal sit 6th in the Premier League on 17 points, equal with Man United and 3 points behind West Ham who sit 5th and 4th respectively. Imagine saying 7 games ago that we’d be unbeaten for 7 games in the league. Seems like everything has flipped on its head since then, with a few bumps here and there, but this new look Arsenal are starting to take shape.

No doubt about it, this game was big. Our run up to this game had been impressive, although the teams we played are teams you’d expect us to beat comfortably on paper. Saturday, however, proved to most of us the level that this Arsenal team are playing at right now isn’t an anomaly of any sort. This is a huge victory, away from home to a possible rival for a European spot, and a statement win above all, because it tells us exactly what we should expect for the rest of the season.

Our season had been a bit here and there. Some good performances; mixed in with some terrible ones, so it was hard to gauge what THE Arsenal looked like this season. What’s the average performance from this team? What should we expect over the course of the season? Are games like Tottenham and Villa anomalous performances or are they a constant throughout the season? I think after the Leicester game, we’re finally beginning to get an answer, and it’s one that spells out a very good season for the Gunners if true, especially as teams like Tottenham and Man United are currently in disarray, it’s vital that as a team we capitalised and showed serious promise for the weeks to come. 

I was sceptical about this game initially, our away tests so far this season with the new, young starting 11 haven’t told us much. A resolute performance vs Burnley at Turf Moor coupled with a poor showing at the Amex following the win against Tottenham meant that I didn’t know what to expect with this Arsenal side at a tough away ground. Away games aren’t like home games, you don’t have the crowd spurring you on to give you that extra 10%, in fact you have the exact opposite. Mentality and atmosphere is everything in football, and considering the age of our squad I feared that this could be too much for them to cope with.

But after 20 minutes any worries I had were put to bed. 2-0 up and from then on we managed the game perfectly, some may say Leicester dominated us, but we perfectly took the sting out of them early in the second half and cut Leicester out of the game entirely by the 60th minute. That’s exactly how you should manage big away games. These are 6 pointers, taking points off your rivals whilst gaining points on them, and sometimes it’s not pretty, but as an aspiring top 4 team not everything has to be liquid; if we want to take that next step we have to be dirty and we have to like it.

Of course, we rode our luck at some points in the game but what stood out to me, and what makes me so sure that we will have a great season, top 4 or not, was that there was never a clear and obvious moment where I felt like Leicester were going to score. Our defensive security this season means that even if we do concede various shots, they’re rarely of a high enough quality to worry us, and that the midfield pairing can always push up without fearing the worst. The team is well drilled, it’s refreshing, and it puts us in a good place to seriously build as a team in the next few years.

We’ve shown great flexibility so far. We know when to press high and then drop off when necessary to conserve energy. Whilst I do think there are a lot of standout individuals in this team, Man of the Match Ramsdale being one of them, it does truly feel like, for the first time in a long time, the structure and the balance of the team itself is winning us games, and not just one or two players. Everything feels balanced, and that’s where Arteta deserves credit, he has built this side very well, we know what to expect every week now, we know what role each player is going to play and we know that the way we place, when done right, will win us a lot of football matches.

Arsenal 2-0 Leicester – Player Ratings

(Photo via: @Arsenal Twitter)

Much like my faith in Arsenal’s back line, I am back. Arsenal travelled to Leicester to commence the new game week in the early Saturday kick off; a tough test against a good side heading into the encounter on some decent form domestically and in Europe. Surprisingly, Mikel Arteta’s side took the three points in a convincing display, winning 2-0 in front of the Arsenal away fans. Let’s take a look at player ratings from that masterclass…

GK – Aaron Ramsdale – 10 – Wow. Just wow. Incredible. For all the excellent performances he’s put in since he joined Arsenal, today was still Ramsdale’s best. Eight saves, including one spectacular stop from a James Maddison freekick destined for the top corner, as well as some brilliant distribution and footwork. We could have lost this game were Ramsdale not playing so well. Man of the Match.

LB – Nuno Tavares – 7 – A solid performance from Kieran Tierney’s understudy, he seems to be fulfilling exactly the job we required from him when he signed in the summer. He’s raw and has room to improve, but he was good again today.

CB – Gabriel Maghalaes – 9 – Rose well to put us ahead within four minutes, and was defensively superb throughout. Unlucky not to win Man of the Match.

CB – Ben White – 8 – Equally as defensively secure as his partner. White looks settled now in this Arsenal back line. Him and Gabriel compliment each other superbly.

RB – Takehiro Tomiyasu – 8 – Another one of these solid performances we become accustomed to since his arrival. Tomiyasu is, simply put, a really good defender. Made one crucial interception to deny Vardy going through one-on-one, and performed well throughout.

LM – Emile Smith Rowe – 9 – One of the best players on the pitch today. Took his goal well and proved a great threat to Leicester within the first half. Very impressive one again.

CM – Sambi Lokonga – 7 – Coped well against a good Leicester midfield but ultimately didn’t have too tough of an afternoon. Solid. Nothing more, nothing less.

CM – Thomas Partey – 8 – Probably the better of the two central midfielders. Made some excellent defensive contributions and played a lovely switch ball in the build-up to the second goal.

RM – Bukayo Saka – 8 – Got his goal involvement just four minutes in with a lovely corner, and provided a threat from set pieces throughout; something it is clear he has improved on from last season. Linked up well and looked a threat whenever he was driving towards the Leicester defence.

ST – Alex Lacazette – 7 – Did exactly what he was asked and worked his socks off to lead the press. Looked absolutely knackered when he came off. I’m loving seeing him up top with Aubameyang in this 4-4-2.

ST – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 8 – Was unlucky not to grab his goal, after Schmeichel pulled off an incredible goal-line stop to deny him. Led from the front and had some moments of quality- with one particular volley across the box coming to mind. He’s been really good of late.

Substitutes:

AM – Martin Odegaard – 7 – Came on after 55 minutes for Lacazette and did a job. Took the venom out of the game and slowed the tempo with his control. Pressed well. A decent showing.

RM – Nicolas Pepe – 5 – Didn’t have an awful amount of time to influence the game. Standard five.

LB – Sead Kolasinac – 5 – Came on in the 90th minute. Nothing more to say.

I said before the game that I hoped Mikel Arteta would stick with the 4-4-2 we saw in our previous game, and that he did. A really impressive victory today, extending our unbeaten streak to nine games.

Why keeping Alexandre Lacazette at Arsenal next season may not be such a bad idea

(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

In his time at Arsenal, Alexandre Lacazette has faced copious amounts of (somewhat unwarranted and overly harsh) criticism regarding his lack of goals or athleticism. In the summer of 2017, the Frenchman joined the club for a fee around the £45,000,000 mark. The hype was vast amongst Arsenal fans, following a history of excellent seasons at Lyon- he had smashed 20 domestic goals in each of his last three campaigns. In fact, the Lyon fan-favourite joined Arsenal as statistically the most clinical finisher across Europe’s top five leagues; he scored a remarkable 28 goals and claimed 3 assists in Ligue 1 despite only starting 30 games. Alex Lacazette signed for Arsenal expecting to be the main man in ArseneWenger’s side, finally the clinical striker fans had been desperately calling for. 

Even as a big supporter of the player myself, I think it is fair to say the signing of Alex Lacazette has not quite worked out how we fans would have hoped or expected. The statistics speak for themselves; in his four seasons at the club so far, his highest domestic goal tally over one campaign is just 14. But what is the cause for the drop in goal output for Lacazette?

I think it would be ignorant and unjust to suggest one singular cause for the change in the Frenchman’s fortunes. The one glaringly obvious argument is simply that Lacazette has not adapted well to the Premier League. His clear demise in goal output between Ligue 1 and the Premier League supports that the physicality and play style of the league do not suit the player- he is not particularly tall or fast, which is a clear setback in the English divisions.

Alternatively, I would also suggest that part of the reason for Lacazette’s declining goal tally is due to a revolution in his personal play style. At Lyon he was the focal attacking point, and predominantly stayed in and around the area, poaching goals and finishing inside the area. Alternatively, at Arsenal he has developed to become more of an all-round playmaking number 9, who is less of a box player and more involved with the build up play. The lack of a stable and influential attacking midfielder has meant Lacazette has often lacked service, so consequently has dropped deeper to become the player combining and allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to adopt threatening areas higher up. Essentially, whilst Lacazette evidently has not scored as much as he would want, I don’t think we can pin this entirely on his own failure, and there is actually a lot of good attributes the Frenchman holds.

With just 12 months remaining on his current deal, and now he has reached the age of 30, it is decision time for Alex Lacazette’s future. The options are limited; either we sell up now and try to reclaim as much money as possible, or we extend his contract (most likely for 12 months) to ensure we have his services next season without his contract expiring. I believe, given the circumstances I’ll mention below, giving the player the year extension on his deal would not be as bad of an idea as most Arsenal fans seem to suggest it is.

Firstly, we cannot overlook that come the end of the 2020/21 season, Lacazette finished as Arsenal’s top scorer, both in the Premier League and in all competitions. Whilst this is not overly impressive due to the squad’s overall underperformance (especially that of club captain and usual goal scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), the statistics cannot be denied. He was Arsenal’s best finisher and number nine this previous season, so unless we replace him with a clear upgrade signing, it would not seem logical to sell. 

Another key factor to this situation is Arsenal’s budget. If we have yet another limited budget this summer, I find it unlikely that we will bring in a striker this summer, given some of the more pressing issues within the squad right now. Keeping Lacazette for another year would allow us time to revisit forward options in the summer of 2022, and properly invest in a new long-term goal scorer. Furthermore, if we are realistic, for a player of Lacazette’s age and contractual situation, it is unlikely we will get any more than £20,000,000 if we are to sell the player- and it seems very unlikely we will be able to sign a better, long-term striker for less than that. 

Running into the season without Lacazette, meaning our striking options are just Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabriel Martinelli and the inexperienced Folarin Balogun, is another option that has been widely discussed by fans. This would, in the opinion of yours truly, be a rookie error. Especially given the poor performances of Aubameyang last season and Mikel Arteta’s apparent reluctance to play youngsters Martinelli and Balogun, it seems a steep risk to enter the new season with this lack of depth. Having Lacazette as a starter or rotation player for a further year would increase depth and add competition to the squad- which can only be a good thing.

Lacazette has also been reported to have been key in the development and progression of several young Arsenal players, such as Smith Rowe who suggest that the Frenchman was the main player who helped him settle with the first team:

I think Lacazette. Obviously playing together with him up top, I feel like he’s helped me so much on and off the pitch. He gives me so much confidence. As we link-up and play together, he talks to me a lot. I’d probably say he’s spoken to me the most off the pitch.

His ability to influence and aid the younger players on and off the pitch make him one of the most valuable figures in the Arsenal dressing room, and therefore keeping Lacazette at the club for a further 12 months would allow him to continue supporting the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka- but also tutor the upcoming strikers Gabriel Martinelli and Folarin Balogun. This kind of nurture that Lacazette provides younger players is an invaluable asset, and one that is often overlooked by fans as it is not there to see in plain sight.

Overall, I think Lacazette’s skills and personality both on and off the pitch make him a valuable player for this Arsenal squad, and one that I would personally love to see stay with the club in the 2021/22 season. He is by no means perfect but, given our financial constraints, renewing Alexandre Lacazette’s contract at Arsenal for a further year seems to me to be smart and worthwhile business.

Why selling Joe Willock would be a HUGE mistake from Arsenal

Base photo via: (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Hale End is known by most fans of the Premier League as one of the best youth academies in the country, along with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. When we think of Hale End, ideas of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and even Ainsley Maitland Niles come to mind. But one man who has been consistently overlooked in recent years as he has grown from an academy talent to first team squad player is Joseph George Willock.

On April 15th 2018, an 18-year-old Joe Willock made his Premier League debut in a 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United. Despite the loss, we learnt a lot from the 68 minutes the youngster was on the pitch; he was raw, yet hungry… relentless. Full of energy. It was just a start, but the Arsenal fans got to see a glimmer of the player to come. At the beginning of the 2018/19 season, following the appointment of new manager Unai Emery, fans were excited to see Willock integrated with the first team- after playing just 417 minutes the season prior. Come the end of the campaign, his minutes stood at 526- with 6 goals scored in that time- a rather impressive goal to minute ratio for such a young player.

The 2019/20 season allowed Willock to more than triple his minutes in the first team. He made 44 appearances in all competitions, including 29 in the Premier League. Scoring five times and assisting once, the Hale Ender continued to show signs of a player with potential- but one who was raw and in desperate need of more minutes to build up his decision making and general play. After several potential loans fell through before the start of the 2020/21 season, it looked as if he was going to spend another campaign as a rotation player- getting minutes in cup games, and maybe a few displays off the bench in the Premier League.

This is largely how it played out up until Christmas on 2020- the Englishman was arguably Arsenal’s star player in the early stages of the Europa League, after he scored and assisted three times each over the course of just 344 minutes to ensure qualification into the knockout rounds. However, come January, having made just one start in the league, Arsenal agreed a deal with Newcastle United to acquire the services of Willock for the second segment of the season.

Life at Newcastle got off to a flying start for the 21-year-old, who scored just 16 minutes into his debut- helping to secure a 3-2 victory over Southampton. Willock then went on a 6-game streak of consecutive starts but failed to register a goal involvement. His next goal, in fact, came from his first game on the bench; in true Arsenal fashion, he came on with 11 minutes remaining to score a late equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur. This goal signalled the start of an excellent run-in to the end of the season for Joe Willock; he became the youngest ever player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances. He also showed a capability to score against top teams, with Liverpool, Leicester and Manchester City joining Tottenham as the top clubs unable to keep the youngster out. Willock’s final appearance for the Toon came on the closing day against Fulham, where he scored the seventh goal of his consecutive streak as a send-off to the Newcastle fans who welcomed him so openly.

Following such a successful loan, it seems obvious that Newcastle, as well as a plethora of other clubs, will be interested in acquiring Joe Willock on a permanent basis- and thus rumours of a potential switch back to the Magpies have been rife in the media over the past month or so. It became clear that Newcastle want the player permanently, after Steve Bruce suggested the club would “see over the summer if we [Newcastle] can test their [Arsenal’s] resolve.” However, Arsenal and Mikel Arteta have remained resolute in their belief that he will not be leaving Arsenal, the manager stated, “I am really happy things have gone so well for him because of the potential Joe has. It was great for him to go away and have a different experience. He has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way, and he will be back with us. We will have those conversations with him and plan the next few years with him.”

So, where does the future lie for Joe Willock? As far as I see it, Willock should be kept at Arsenal. There is no doubt in my mind. Whilst there is a valid argument that if we ‘cash in’ now, we could add a large chunk of money to our budget, I think the characteristics he has will make him more valuable for the team’s success in years to come than the reported £20,000,000 we could sell him for.

Joe Willock offers what most midfielders do not, and something unique to all the current midfielders at Arsenal. His movement from box to box, neat combination play and relentless third-man-runs are exactly what Arsenal have been missing since the departure of Aaron Ramsey. His ability to run beyond the striker and wingers and either collect the ball or draw out space for his teammates shows an excellent understanding and quality for a still relatively young player. If Mikel Arteta converts to the 4-3-3 formation, which has been heavily spoken about in his reign at the club, then Willock is an ideal player to play the advanced #8 mezzala role. When given chances at Arsenal, he always seemed to be played as a more advanced central creator which simply does not suit his play style, so to get the best out of him it would have to be in a midfield three where he has the freedom to express himself.

Another feature of Joe Willock’s play that I have been largely impressed with, especially during his time at Newcastle, is his dribbling. His ability to collect the ball and drive up the pitch with close control and tidy footwork is yet another attribute he could bring to Arsenal’s midfield- someone who instead of passing around low blocks looks to take a more direct and threatening route forward. This directness is exactly what we need at Arsenal- at times this season we have seemed to be toothless in attack and slow in build-up, so the addition of someone with the intentions of progressing the ball could be all too valuable.

For next season, I want to see Joe Willock heavily integrated with the first team. Keep him at the club as a rotation player, who will lead the team in cup games and provide a difference off the bench in the league- whilst also starting a handful of games. It is time that Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, with their limited budget, look within the club to answer their issues- and keeping Joe Willock could prove very helpful in developing this underperforming side.

LONDON IS RED! Arsenal 2-1 Spurs- Player Ratings

(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

After going 1-0 down due to an incredible Erik Lamela goal, it was looking as if Arsenal could lose yet another North London Derby. That wasn’t to be. An inspired comeback gave the Gunners the three points, defeating Tottenham 2-1 at the Emirates. Here’s my player ratings…

Starting XI:

Leno – 6 : Had a few shaky moments later on, but didn’t have too much to do. Couldn’t do any better for the Tottenham goal.

Cedric– 6 : Worked relentlessly up the right hand side and gave a very respectable performance. Does the basics well.

Luiz – 7: Didn’t have vast amounts to do, but what he did do, he did well. Kept one of the world’s best strikers quiet for 90 minutes.

Gabriel – 9 : Very close to winning Man of the Match for me. The way he was spraying some of his longer passes was just incredible. He locked down Harry Kane, and he gave that crucial header to stop a clear goal. Brick wall.

Tierney – 8 : Good as ever. Our main source of threat for large parts of the game. Absolutely destroyed Matt Doherty on the left hand side. Combined with Emile Smith Rowe incredibly.

Xhaka – 7 : Dominated the midfield. It is that simple. Controlled on the ball, and balanced well with Thomas Partey. Bar that one mistake against Burnley, he’s been very solid in recent months.

Partey – 7 : Incredible for the first 75 minutes, but clearly tired from then on and the level dropped. Very good on the ball and excellent against press. Showed Hojberg and Ndombele some serious levels.

Saka – 5 : Came off early, apparently due to injury. Hope he is okay.

Ødegaard – 8 : Easily his best performance since coming to the club. Set a standard that he’ll do well to maintain for the rest of the season. Really took control of the tempo today. Very promising. Got his goal, too.

Smith Rowe – 9 (MOTM) : Just incredible. 20 years of age and absolutely running the North London Derby. Created more chances (4) in his 77 minutes on the pitch than all the Tottenham players combined (2). Would have scored the perfect 10 had that shot found the back of the net.

Lacazette – 6: Missed a few chances, but scored the winner. Captained the team to victory in the North London Derby and securely converted his penalty.

Substitutes:

Pepe – 7 : Looked full of energy off the bench. Made the absolutely incredible pass into Lacazette leading up to the penalty. Very good impact.

Willian – 5 : Didn’t impact the game. Didn’t have much time to play and therefore cannot be judged to a great extent.

Elneny – N/A : Didn’t have enough time to gain a rating.

An excellent win. A huge humbling to Jose Mourinho. A reminder that North London will always be RED.

Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos – Player Ratings

(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal have taken the advantage in their Europa League round of 16 tie, defeating the Greek side 3-1 at the Karaiskakis Stadium. A result that, whilst on the outside looks impressive, was not particularly reflective of the game. As far as I see it, we played poorly. But, three away goals and a two goal advantage to take back for the second leg is very palatable. Here’s a look at my player ratings for the game.

Starting XI:

Leno – 5 : Shouldn’t have played the ball to Ceballos for the Olympiacos goal. Needs to learn to not just follow his instructions, but use his own decision making at times. Should have just kicked long.

Bellerin – 6 : Thought his work rate and engine throughout the game was impressive. Worked himself into good attacking positions but let down on the final ball at times. Not a bad display.

Luiz – 5 : Pretty standard performance. Wasn’t particularly tested but had a few worrying moments. Nothing more to say, really.

Gabriel – 8 (MOTM) : From a defensive perspective he was physically strong. Very secure. But when you score a goal like that at a time like that, you cannot give the player less than an 8. A glorious leap, and an amazing header. Clutch.

Tierney – 7 : Mr. Consistent was once again one of our best players. Worked relentlessly up his flank (much like Bellerin), but created several chances also. Has been robbed of something like 10 assists this season due to poor finishing. Good performance.

Xhaka – 7 : Not a bad display, and was one of the better players. Made a few mistakes on the ball but didn’t lead to any significant change in the game. Reacted well to last game’s mistake.

Partey – 6 : I don’t think this was the best version of Thomas Partey on display tonight, but he was solid. Can play a lot better, but overall did not have a day display. Was the first substitute off, and we could notice the difference without his security on the pitch.

Saka – 6 : Not too impactful today but a steady performance from the teenager. Did what he had to do, dribbled with the ball well and linked up nicely. Was once again the target of rotational fouling from the opposition.

Ødegaard – 6 : Here me out on this one… Yes he scored an excellent goal, but other than that one moment I thought he was very average today. Pleased to see him on the score sheet, but hope he can have a greater impact in overall play moving forward.

Willian – 7 : Was one of the few players who looked secure throughout. Worked hard on and off the ball, and got his reward with another assist- for Gabriel’s towering header. Another one to add to the string of good performances Willian has put together recently.

Aubameyang – 5 : Wasn’t involved at all today, unfortunately. Didn’t get much service in fairness, but he didn’t try to impose himself either. Should we have not won today, I imagine he’d have been subject to a fair bit of criticism.

Substitutes:

Ceballos – 3: He wasn’t helped by Leno’s pass, but he was too at fault for the Olympiacos goal just after he came on. I always feel slightly nervous when Dani is on the ball.

Elneny– 10 : Need I say anything? Came on, scored a stunner and made the result a whole lot better. The Europa League Pirlo had his shooting boots on tonight!

Pepe, Smith Rowe and Lacazette – N/A : Can be bunched together as they didn’t have enough time to gain a rating. The former two played the last eight minutes, whilst the latter came on for the last two.

Not our best performance, but a very solid result. A good lead to take into the home leg. We move on to the North London Derby!

Burnley 1-1 Arsenal: Player Ratings

(Photo by Peter Powell – Pool/Getty Images)

What a frustrating game. After an early Aubameyang goal and a bright start, it looked like Arsenal were in for a good afternoon at Turf Moor. However, a foolish mistake from Xhaka handed Burnley a route back into the game, and we were sloppy from then on. We should have won this game.

Starting XI:

Leno – 6 : I don’t really see how you can blame him for the goal. He’s clearly under clear managerial instruction to play short. Xhaka had enough time to deal with that. After the goal, I thought he was arguably our best player. Commanding in the box and made a great save to deny a speculative effort.

Chambers – 6: The biggest surprise on the line-up. I thought Calum was decent today. Did little wrong and all round was one of the best players in the Arsenal side.

Luiz – 5 : Made more than one key defensive action and most certainly wasn’t at fault for the goal. Nothing else to say on him really.

Mari – 5 : Similar to Luiz, he didn’t do anything drastically wrong. Wasn’t amazing, but wasn’t part of the reason we dropped points.

Tierney – 6 : An uninspiring performance from Kieran today. Don’t get me wrong, he was not bad… he just had a much lesser impact on the game to what we usually see from the Scotsman. Average today.

Xhaka – 3 : Whilst he wasn’t bad prior to the Burnley goal, I simply cannot overlook that mistake from Granit. It’s absolutely braindead. Just keep it simple and get the ball out of the danger area. Ultimately, his mistake cost us the three points.

Partey – 5 : Very much a game of two halves for Thomas Partey. Prior to the goal from Wood, he was running the game. The second half, he was sloppy at times. Not his finest performance.

Saka – 4 : Though he’s been our best player this season, the winger wasn’t on it today. Missed a clear chance and overall was well off the pace. I have no doubts he’ll be firing next game, though.

Ødegaard – 4 : Did very little. Was not in the game at all. If we’re honest, this was a very disappointing display from the loanee. A very unmemorable performance from Ødegaard today, unfortunately.

Willian – 5 : Did well in his involvement with the Arsenal goal, getting an assist for the third game in a row. Had little to no impact on the game other than that moment though.

Aubameyang – 5 : Took his goal very well, but on the large part didn’t get too involved in the game today. Had another chance and, without having a proper chance to rewatch it yet, I feel he could have done better. Had little service today and took his biggest chance.

Substitutes:

Lacazette – 5: Did little after coming on. Couldn’t impact the game, and became a clear target of fouls from the opposition.

Pepe – 6 : The hardest player to rate today. He was very influential and bright when he came on, but didn’t take his chances. Had a simple cut back from 6 yards and completely missed the ball. His other shot was well blocked by the defender. Felt he should have scored today.

Ceballos – 5 : Not much to say about Dani today. Had very little impact on the game until the very last minute, where he was unlucky his shot hit the bar.

A frustrating game for Arsenal fans to watch. Four big chances missed. We dropped points today due to our own errors. It’s infuriating.

Arsenal 3-1 Leicester – Player Ratings

(Photo by Rui Vieira – Pool/Getty Images)

After conceding another early goal due to a defensive error, it looked like Arsenal could be in for another disappointing result against Leicester today. However, much to the delight of the fans, a controlling performance led to an impressive turn around- and all three points heading back to North London. Here’s my player ratings from today’s game…

Starting XI:

Leno – 6 : Another game for Leno where he had little to do, and yet could not have done anything to deny Tielemans’ early goal for Leicester. Did what he had to do, well.

Soares – 7 : I was pleased to see the Portuguese international in the lineup, what with Bellerin’s painfully average form of late. I thought Cedric did exactly what he had to do today. He was effective in combining with Pepe as swiftly as possible, a pleasant change from Bellerin’s seeming preference to slow it down and play in to midfield. Brought the best out of Pepe today. Will be interesting to see who Arteta favours in coming weeks.

Luiz – 8 : The Brazilian scored a very impressive header to bring us level, in what was a very positive individual performance from David Luiz. He was secure defensively, physically imposing and fulfilled everything we wanted of him. Solid.

Mari – 5 : Very much at fault for the Leicester goal. It is basic defensive knowledge that the first priority has to be the man on the ball, as opposed to focusing on runners. Should have pressed Tielemans. To be fair, his performance after that was solid, and crowned off with a clever recovery run to shut out Vardy late on.

Tierney – 8 : It seemed clear to me today that the Scotsman is back to full fitness. As always, he was electric up the left flank, combining well with Willian and offering great security on the ball. As we have come to expect from Tierney at Arsenal, this was another impressive performance.

Xhaka – 8 : Another great performance from Granit today, who has been on top form since he returned from his red card against Burnley. The midfielder had the most touches, passes, duels won, ball recoveries and tackles made today. While his slow style of play can frustrate when we are losing, he controlled the game well when we went ahead.

Elneny – 4 : The overriding feeling that I get when I watch him is that he is a painfully average footballer. Whilst Elneny is normally secure on the ball, it feels like most, if not all, of his passes are sideways or backwards. Frustrating to watch. He didn’t do much wrong, but didn’t give Arteta any reason to give him more game time going forward.

Pepe – 9 (MOTM) : For me, this was one of the best performances we’ve seen from Nicolas Pepe at Arsenal so far. He absolutely ran the Leicester left back ragged in the first half, forcing them into an early change. Won the penalty for Lacazette to convert, and topped off a positive outing with a neatly worked goal and simple finish. A sign of what he can do when he’s at his best.

Smith Rowe – 6 : Prior to his injury and substitution in the dying minutes of the first half, I thought Emile played well. His neat linkup play, clever movement and all-round creative influence was present throughout the half. Sad to see him go off.

Willian – 8 : Alongside Fulham on the opening day of the season, this was clearly his best performance in an Arsenal shirt. Added on a strong substitute performance on Thursday with another two assists- and a performance that looked much more like a player trying their very best. Need more games like today from Willian.

Lacazette – 8 : For me, this was another excellent performance from the striker- who has seemingly been on top form when started recently. The way he brings others in to the game with neat passes or by clearing space is incredible. Took his penalty emphatically.

Substitutes:

Ødegaard – 7: After coming on for the injured Smith Rowe just on the stroke of half time, the loanee had a very pleasant outing. Bar one stray pass, Ødegaard was secure on the ball- and showed his class by effectively creating the third goal. Top stuff.

Partey – 7 : The overriding feeling when Thomas steps on the pitch is that he really does ooze class. Dominated the midfield and kept everything secure. Great to have him back.

Aubameyang – 5 : Came on and didn’t really have much to do. Standard five, did nothing wrong but made no meaningful impact.

A controlling performance, and great result- but most importantly, the three points. We go on to the next one.

Arsenal 3-2 Benfica – Player Ratings

(Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Wow. What a game. A true rollercoaster of emotions. From the despair of going behind, to the hope brought on by Tierney’s goal and the pure relief when Aubameyang headed home the winner. It’s never an easy time for Arsenal, right?

Instead of having a look at what we learnt today, in what was an emotional affair, I’ll be giving my player ratings for the game…

Starting XI:

Leno – 6 : Standard game from Leno. Didn’t pull off any miraculous saves and couldn’t do much for the goals he conceded. Nothing more to say on the goalkeeper, really.

Bellerin – 4 : I’m not Bellerin’s biggest fan and I thought he wasn’t great today, but he wasn’t awful either. Wasn’t at fault for the goals conceded, but wasn’t at all productive going forward. Really needs to improve his chance creation and end product.

Luiz – 4 : Whilst his mistakes did not cost us today, I thought it was a lacklustre performance from the experienced centre back on the night. Miscommunication and a lack of sharpness on and off the ball led to a few shaky moments- but nothing too big. Not awful today, but certainly not up to standard.

Gabriel – 5 : Much like his centre back partner, Gabriel Maghalaes didn’t seem to be quite at his best today. Not a performance to be too disappointed with, but certainly not one to praise too highly. Had some good moments, and some more vulnerable ones. The better of the two centre backs today for me, and definitely the best at the club in that role.

Tierney – 7 : Despite his relentless efforts, I still thought Kieran Tierney looked like a player who wasn’t at 100% today. This was, of course, until he turned on attack mode, cut inside and blasted it far post to put us back level at 2-2. A moment of brilliance, from a player that consistently stands up to be accounted for.

Xhaka – 7 : Good game from Granit today. Nothing special, quietly did what he does every game. Steady and controlling in possession. Has his fair share of critics, but has been undeniably one of our best players recently.

Ceballos – 1 : Giving him one feels generous, but I feel I have to simply because he did some okay passing before his mistakes. Was sitting way too deep before the first goal, which caused him to rush up and make a stupid challenge. You simply cannot give away freekicks in those areas. He was at fault again for the second goal; zero awareness of the striker’s position… all he had to do was get distance on the header and he failed. Quite frankly a disasterclass from Dani, which is a real shame given his performances in the last few games.

Smith Rowe – 5 : Didn’t get into the game if we’re honest. Had some nice moments, but overall a very forgettable performance from Smith Rowe. I’d definitely say I prefer him in a more central role as opposed to on the left.

Ødegaard – 6 : Another player who didn’t grasp the game completely. Had good moments and played some lovely passes, but again- nothing to write home about in regards to Ødegaard output. Not bad at all, however- and he wasn’t without his good moments.

Saka – 9 (MOTM) : I’m running out of words to describe Bukayo Saka with, so I will keep it simple. Starboy. Nothing less. Once again Arsenal’s best player. His assist for Aubameyang’s first goal required incredible vision and an inch-perfect final ball, which he successfully delivered. The second assist proved just how crucial he is to us. Out of nothing, he played a divine cross for Aubameyang to nod home and win the game. Incredible player.

Aubameyang – 8 : After missing three chances of note in the first leg, all eyes were on the captain to deliver the goods when we needed it most. And, quite clearly, that is what he did. two goals, an opener and a last-minute winner. Just what the doctor ordered from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He’ll be pleased with that, for sure.

Substitutes:

Partey – 8 : After coming on for Ceballos 63 minutes in, Thomas changed the game. He just is an excellent player- even at half fitness. Simply class, can’t wait to have him fit to start. It’s that simple.

Willian – 7 : When Willian came on for Smith Rowe in the 63rd, I was understandably angry. A man who had done nothing all season coming on when we needed two goals?! Today, however, he proved me wrong. Nothing special, but made the correct pass to assist Tierney- and was secure on the ball throughout. Credit when it’s due.

Lacazette – 5 : Came on and didn’t really have much to do. Standard five, did nothing wrong but made no meaningful impact.

Chambers & Elneny – N/A : Came on at 90 minutes. Nothing to judge their games off.

A stressful, and overall poor, performance from the team today. At the end of the day, we’re through at that’s what counts. We’ll have to step it up next round though, because the performance against Benfica wasn’t good enough.