Unconvincing but effective - Arsenal's Bournemouth win sums up Emery era

David Luiz Arsenal 2019-20
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A David Luiz goal earned the Gunners a 1-0 win at the Emirates to move up to third in the Premier League

It was a game that summed up Arsenal’s start to the season. Patchy and unconvincing, but they got the job done.

There were flashes of quality as Unai Emery’s side beat Bournemouth 1-0 at the Emirates - Dani Ceballos was excellent at times in the middle of the park and Nicolas Pepe looked brighter than he has in recent weeks, but it was still a performance that left you wondering what the exact nature of this Arsenal side really is.

They were dominant in the first half and deservedly led at the break thanks to David Luiz’s first goal for the club, a neat glancing header from Pepe’s corner.

But they failed to build on that early lead and were left hanging on after the interval. The control they enjoyed in the first half disappeared, with the counterattack their only potential route to success.

It was not what the Emirates crowd had come to see but it’s where Arsenal seem to be right now under Emery.

The Spaniard once again went with his hugely unpopular 4-3-3 formation, with Granit Xhaka at the base of midfield. But, unlike at Old Trafford on Monday night, Ceballos was brought in to add more of a link to the attacking trio of Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

And the 23-year-old, on loan from Real Madrid, was the stand out player in the first half. He was bright, got on the ball in good areas and always looked to get Arsenal moving forward.

David Luiz Arsenal 2019-20

The home side dominated the opening 45 minutes, with Aubameyang and Pepe both going close with fine efforts either side of Luiz’s goal. There was a control to Arsenal’s play that hasn’t really been evident since the start of the campaign.

But that all changed after the interval as Bournemouth - who had been beaten on all four of their previous visits here in the Premier League - took the shackles off.

Arsenal suddenly looked scared, void of attacking ideas, as they have done for the majority of the season. And this time there wasn’t a moment of individual magic from Aubameyang to settle the nerves.

Instead they had to see things through themselves. They did that, just, thanks largely to a wonderful clearance inside his own six-yard box from Matteo Guendouzi late on. Bournemouth will be heading back to the south coast, however, feeling like they should have got something at the Emirates for the very first time.

The visitors had seven efforts on goal in the second half, Arsenal had just four. This was a performance that was a far cry from the vibrant display that Emery’s second string produced to beat Standard Liege 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday night.

Unai Emery Arsenal 2019-20

That team, with Lucas Torreira in the midfield holding role, had a clear style of play. They looked like a proper unit, one that was full of pace and urgency. The team that we are seeing in the Premier League right now couldn’t be more different.

But, saying all that, Arsenal have now played 11 games in all competitions this season and they have won seven times - losing just once, at runaway leaders Liverpool.

And they go into the international break sitting third in the Premier League, just one point behind champions Manchester City. That’s having played Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs in their opening eight games

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They may be unconvincing, but they are getting the job done. The problem for Emery is that the football is far from pretty.

Arsenal are a team known around the world for their style of play but what they are producing under the Spaniard is tough to watch at times.

As long as they are getting results, that can be justified. But if the results start drying up, then familiar questions will be asked - especially while Mesut Ozil continues to be left watching from the stands.