A losing start for Steve Bruce at St James’ Park, with an avoidable second half goal from Aubameyang being the difference of two halves.
The high press worked well early on and we were in control of the game, but we ran out of steam as time went on and I’m still not sure what Bruce’s tactics were in the second half.
It’s only the first game, Arsenal are quality, and it isn’t season defining by any means but let’s be honest, even the most cynical of us quietly expected more than that in the second half.
Defensively we were solid enough other than the mistake for the goal, but there was an all to familiar huff and puff about our play in the final third. I liked bits of what I saw in the first half, but there was an element of throw on your best players and hope for the best in the second half.
That said, Almiron was very bright in the first half and caused havoc at times, but we struggled to get the ball into Joelinton in good areas.
I was impressed with our pressing early on – something that seemed to stifle Arsenal and totally limit their ability to play out from the back – but our second half showing suggested we had nothing left in the tank after a high-energy first half.
The likes of Hayden, Longstaff and Shelvey were struggling to get the ball into dangerous areas, meaning Almiron was dropping deep the whole game to get the ball out of frustration – which in turn left Joelinton isolated.
They didn’t look any great shakes, but Arsenal are simply a better team and showed it in the key moments today, although our sloppy second half and needless mistake (a mix up between Dummett and Willems) has cost us in the end. It’s a new formation with several new signings in attack, but I did hope we’d cause a weakened Arsenal side more problems.
Today also showed how important Lejeune is to the team. We cannot get him back quick enough. If this 3 at the back is going to work, then Schar and Lejeune are essential, as Dummett, while a good defender is so limited on the ball. We were so exposed down our left side all game, and to me Matt Ritchie didn’t look fit, looking as though he had to hold himself back a little when it came to bombing on and supporting attacks.
No overreaction is needed, though. Yes we didn’t look like scoring in the second half – which is a concern – but we generally contained Arsenal and looked promising in the first half. Don’t get me wrong though, our tactics, game management and goal-threat must improve, but it’s early days.
Onto Norwich, who looked brave and bold against Liverpool going forward and will not be easy.
It’s obviously not a must win at this stage, but Bruce needs a result – and I think we’ll get one.
Onwards and upwards.