Arsenal spent £70m ($91m) on new players over the summer in what many expected to be an overhaul of the current playing squad. Key positions were strengthened from goalkeeper Bernd Leno coming in to defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira signing after an impressive World Cup with Uruguay.
Added to that, experienced defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos bolstered a weak looking backline which only had Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos as the options at centre back.
The only new addition who didn’t have a full pre-season was Torreira due to his excursions in Russia, yet 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute for Matteo Guendouzi the combative 22-year-old provided a perfect assist for Alexandre Lacazette to secure a hard fought win at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Petr Cech’s attempted transformation into a ‘modern’ goalkeeper shows no sign of improving as the Czech shot stopper played a nervy pass minutes in the opening few minutes. The former Chelsea man continues to look shaky when called into action on the floor and head coach Unai Emery faces a decision whether to give Leno his first opportunity in an Arsenal shirt. Granit Xhaka provided an excellent assist for Shkodran Mustafi to head in the Gunners opener but his lack of concentration on the stroke of half time resulted in a misplaced pass and Cardiff scoring from the resulting attack. While the Swiss international cannot be blamed entirely for the Bluebirds’ equaliser, his inconsistency throughout last season resulted in a number of errors leading into goals – and they have yet to be ironed out.
At one point Greek defender Sokratis could be seen telling Cech to waste time with his goal kicks – a facet of play which the experienced players know all about. The ex-Dortmund defender was quoted as saying last week that Arsenal need to more clever with their defending and make professional fouls when required. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s excellent curled strike means he has now scored 11 goals since his Premier League debut in February, with only Mohamed Salah scoring more goals in the competition (15) than the Gabon star.
There are still too many naïve defensive mistakes happening in each game for Arsenal, although the equaliser from Victor Camarasa to make it 2-2 can go down as a fortunate bit of play for Neil Warnock’s men, with Harry Arter appearing to dive to win the free-kick. However, Lacazette justified Emery’s decision to play him in the same team as Aubameyang after striking into the roof of the net from Torreira’s deft assist.
Emery’s men secured the three points despite several nervy moments throughout the second half but it is surely only a matter of time before Torreira and Leno start in the Premier League. An away win before the international break is just the tonic for a side who only managed one victory on the road in the second half of last season.