English Premiership

Emery finds it hard to put case for Gunners defence

2019-01-01 22:06
Unai Emery
Unai Emery (Getty Images)

London - Arsenal manager Unai Emery was happy with his team's attacking play after Tuesday's 4-1 victory over Fulham but admitted their defending has plenty of room for improvement.

The score suggests a straightforward win against a Fulham team who performed as poorly on the road as they usually do but it was exactly what Emery's men needed to restore confidence after their 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool.

But Emery knew the score did not tell the whole story.

Ryan Sessegnon missed two good chances to give the visitors the lead in the first 20 minutes and had either gone in, Arsenal's resolve would have been sorely tested.

Instead, typically slack Fulham defending allowed the unmarked Granit Xhaka to score from Alex Iwobi's measured cross after 25 minutes, and Arsenal were rarely troubled after that.

"Our challenge now is to improve defensively," Emery admitted. "Today was the first time we could play with Sokratis, (Skhodran) Mustafi and (Laurent) Koscielny.

"We are very happy with the attacking players, scoring lots of goals like today.

"But we need more balance defensively, we need to work, to prepare for the second half of the season and we need to do better tactically and we are going to."

His three-man defence, though, was disrupted by a hamstring injury that forced Mustafi off the field at half-time.

Rather than replace him with Stephan Lichtsteiner, Emery changed formation and went to a back four, which suggests the search for balance is both tactical and one of personnel.

Emery hinted signings are possible this month as the transfer window reopens.

"It's not easy to improve our team in the market but the club is working. Maybe we can sign one or two players," said the 47-year-old Spaniard.

The scale of Arsenal's defensive difficulties is illustrated by their failure to keep a clean sheet since beating Huddersfield Town at the Emirates Stadium on December 8, but a second victory in six matches was welcome.

"We needed to win today," added Emery whose decision to take off goalscorer Alexandre Lacazette in the second-half sparked a chorus of boos.

However, it was a moved which proved fruitful when his replacement Aaron Ramsey scored soon afterwards.

"We are behind the first four teams in the table but we want to stay close and in the near future there can be opportunities to be in the top four," said Emery.

Swiss midfielder Xhaka set Arsenal on their way with his fourth goal of the season. Lacazette added the second after 55 minutes with their momentum temporarily halted as Aboubakar Kamara pulled one back after 69 minutes.

However, Ramsey came off the bench to make it 3-1 eleven minutes from time and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a fourth.

Fulham remain in 19th place but their Italian manager Claudio Ranieri saw reasons to be positive that a side, which enjoyed a 100 million investment in the summer, can stay up.

"The first 30 minutes we played so well and created two great chances and their fans weren't happy," he said.

"And at 2-1 we created two more chances. We had to stay more concentrated in every circumstance.

"But the skill of the Arsenal players is amazing and you have to shut up and say: 'Well done.' Now we have to stay together. Every match is crucial for us."

 

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Saturday, 19 January 2019
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City, Molineux Stadium 14:30
Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Anfield 17:00
Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion, Old Trafford 17:00
Newcastle United v Cardiff City, St. James' Park 17:00
Southampton v Everton, St. Mary's Stadium 17:00
Watford v Burnley, Vicarage Road Stadium 17:00
AFC Bournemouth v West Ham United, Vitality Stadium 17:00
Arsenal v Chelsea, Emirates Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 20 January 2019
Huddersfield Town v Manchester City, The John Smith's Stadium 15:30
Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur, Craven Cottage 18:00
Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Fulham v Brighton & Hove Albion, Craven Cottage 21:45
Arsenal v Cardiff City, Emirates Stadium 21:45
Wolverhampton Wanderers v West Ham United, Molineux Stadium 21:45
Huddersfield Town v Everton, The John Smith's Stadium 21:45
Manchester United v Burnley, Old Trafford 22:00
Newcastle United v Manchester City, St. James' Park 22:00
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