Match Preview: Huddersfield Town v Arsenal; A Must Win for the Gunners
Arsenal head into the weekend sitting 6th in the table, needing a win to stay in touch with their minimum mark of success – the top 4 and Champion’s League qualification. With Man United now above them as well as Chelsea, travelling to the John’s Smith Stadium and squaring off against Huddersfield Town, has turned into a must win match.
The play of Arsenal remains erratic at best. We have moments of brilliance followed by periods of frustration. With injuries mounting, Emery has opted to play a more pragmatic approach with this team, sitting back and inviting pressure to try and hit opposition the counter.
That approach of play hasn’t really been that successful and has resulted in a slew of disappointing results. The first real sign of this approach was in the home tie of this match. Emery opted to go conservative in his approach even though Huddersfield was a team languishing at the bottom of the table.
The Last Time We Met
In the 1-0 win back in early December, Emery opted for 3-5-2 without a lack of a creative presence in the midfield. This set up was likely in response to the result from the previous match when Arsenal drew 2-2 with Manchester United.
The set up had the desired defensive effect, as it denied Huddersfield a shot on goal the entire match. However, it had the residual effect by appearing to hamstring our attack without a creative presence to link the midfield to the attack.
That match started a trend of Emery taking a more pragmatic approach, especially as injuries mounted across the entirety of his defensive unit. Just like in the last tie against Huddersfield Town it also has resulted in an inability to create any meaningful attack.
Against Manchester City last week, with the match locked at 2-1 at half time, Arsenal failed to create a single chance due to this approach and in turn saw them lose the tie 3-1.
Huddersfield Town still sit at the bottom of the league. They haven’t won a match in 12 (1D 11L) and have 6 successive defeats at home. Add to that an inability to score at home right now and this is a prime target for Arsenal to set up to attack and attack.
This isn’t a story about Mesut t a story about Mesut Özil – that’s for another time and place – but Emery simply needs to find it within himself to put a creative outlet – be it Ramsey, Suarez, or Mkhi on the field.
The connectivity between the lines isn’t there and it’s making it easier to defend against Arsenal as they struggle to bring the ball forward from defence to attack.
When we last faced off against Huddersfield we had 62% possession with 14 (2) shots. As highlighted prior, an anemic performance by a team that should be doing more with the chances it has against a team of Huddersfield Town.
Go Back to What Worked
When Emery was hired, he came in saying that he wanted to be “protagonists” on and off the ball. He wanted the possession to be positive and when we didn’t have it, we wanted to hunt the ball down and win it up high.
It’s the basic tenet of football as articulated by Pep Guardiola, his whole system is all the units (defence, midfield and forwards) working together to move the ball through the thirds and exploit the spaces left for them.
It worked for Emery when he started here. It wasn’t fluid or fantastic yet, but it worked and with time it probably will get him and the to where they need to be.
The personnel in this squad across all parts of it aren’t a defensive minded squad. Having most of them been brought in under Wenger, these are players good on the ball and good going forward. Emery needs to see that as the strength of this team and leverage that.
It seems to me that a lack of understanding about the league has forced Emery to panic as the injuries mounted and things went pear-shaped. He’s altered his philosophy to his detriment.
Arsenal were scoring on average 2 goals a game prior to his adjustment and went on the improbable 22-match unbeaten (in all comps) run. Now since his continual tinkering his team is faltering more and hasn’t won a match in its last five away matches.
There are 13 matches left in the season. If Arsenal are going to reach their minimal target for the year, Emery needs to find the energy he tried to bring to this team early in the season.
Injuries and Suspensions
Arsenal: Holding (ACL), Welbeck (ankle), Bellerin (ACL), Sokratis (ankle)
Huddersfield Town: Mbenza (calf, Mar), Sabiri (collarbone, Mar), Williams (knee, Apr)
Form (Last 5)
Huddersfield Town: LDLLL
Arsenal League Record vs Opponent
3W 0L 0D
Goals Scored (average per game)
Arsenal: 1.92 (away)
Huddersfield Town: 0.38 (home)
Goals Conceded (average per game)
Arsenal: 2.08 (away)
Huddersfield Town: 1.54 (home)
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
These matches are difficult and they are playing for the possibility to continue in the Premier League. Their last results have not been good but with their new coach, I am sure that they are going to play with a big ambition and a big performance on Saturday. I think they have good players with a good organisation. They push a lot and I know it will be difficult. For us as well, away games have been a challenge and each match is a new challenge. Each match is also a very big opportunity for us to fight for the possibility to take three points and continue in our way better than how we are doing in away games now.
Referee: Jonathan Moss (18M 54Y 5R)
Assistants: Marc Perry, Andy Halliday
Fourth official: Andre Marriner
UK: Arsenal.com (audio only)/MOTD Highlights
US: CNBC 10:00 AM EST
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won all three Premier League meetings, scoring seven goals without conceding.
- Huddersfield’s last win over Arsenal was back in 1971, when they won 2-1 at the old Leeds Road ground.
- This fixture last season – which Arsenal won 1-0 – was Arsene Wenger’s 1,235th and final game as manager of the Gunners.
- Arsenal have lost four and drawn one of their last five away matches in the Premier League.
- Their last win away from home came at Bournemouth on 25 November.
- The Gunners are the only side yet to keep a Premier League clean sheet away from home this season.
- They have lost 12 of their past 20 away league games, with their sole clean sheet during this sequence coming in a 1-0 win at Huddersfield last May.
- Seven of Alexandre Lacazette’s nine Premier League goals this season have been winning goals – only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, with eight, can boast more.
Huddersfield Town: 0 – 2 Arsenal