Sunday 20 October 2019

Arsenal extend unbeaten run to 21, but it comes at a cost

Arsenal 1 Huddersfield 0

Lucas Torreira celebrates after scoring the winner for Arsenal. Photo: AFP/Getty
Lucas Torreira celebrates after scoring the winner for Arsenal. Photo: AFP/Getty

Amy Lawrence

Arsenal were able to inhale the sweet taste of a late victory thanks to the inspirational force of Lucas Torreira.

The waspish presence who has breathed such life into Arsenal's midfield was the difference in breaking a tight, tense deadlock with an overhead kick. Huddersfield's unrelenting efforts meant Arsenal needed to extend themselves, to persevere, to keep plugging away to prise all three points out of this game.

The last time these two teams met was an occasion that marked the final curtain coming down on the Arsene Wenger era, and Unai Emery has proved himself a man unafraid to reshape the team, as he did again here, and eager to recharge the energy levels. In the seven minutes of stoppage time he was so engrossed in proceedings he wandered all the way across into David Wagner's technical area to beckon Sead Kolasinac over for a quick instruction.

Huddersfield, like all of Arsenal's Premier League opponents so far this season, got themselves safely to half-time. But a 0-0 scoreline at that point did not reflect the nature of an increasingly tense and complicated half.

Even though Huddersfield competed diligently, Arsenal should have been ahead. Two golden chances fell to their strikeforce in quick succession around the half-hour mark. First Granit Xhaka guided a cross towards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who chopped his shot just wide of the post. Then Matteo Guendouzi teed up Alexandre Lacazette, who took a touch to control the ball and promptly slipped over as he shot, and miscued.

The temperature of the game rose with a spate of bookings before half-time. Arsenal's emotions also ratcheted up three minutes before half-time as Lacazette latched on to a mistake from Mathias Jorgensen, pouncing on a loose backpass to skip past Jonas Lossl and slip the ball into the net. But he was aghast to be penalised for straying offside earlier in the move. It was a confusing interpretation of offside, and Emery spent a few minutes in deep discussion with his assistant about it.

Arsenal's Lucas Torreira scores. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters
Arsenal's Lucas Torreira scores. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters

There was still time before the interval for two more tempting chances at either end of the pitch. Alex Pritchard lifted a shot over the crossbar when Huddersfield managed to carve out some space in Arsenal's box, before Torreira's piledriver was parried by Lossl.

Emery wasted no time in shaking it up, with two half-time substitutions, as he did to spectacular effect in last weekend's north London derby. Huddersfield seemed the more emboldened, though, penning Arsenal back for a while.

In the crowd, suspended striker Steve Mounie took up position in the away end, soaking up the adulation, but how his team could have used a sharp focal point up front.

While Emery's instinct was to push for the breakthrough, there were growing concerns at the back. Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi both picked up their fifth bookings of the season and will now serve a suspension at a time when the squad is very short of match-fit centre-backs.

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire
Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire

To make matters worse, Mustafi then hobbled off injured. Laurent Koscielny's appearance on the bench after a seven-month absence was timely but Arsenal have to use him cautiously after such a bad injury, so Nacho Monreal came on instead. The defensive trio for the closing stages comprised Xhaka flanked by Monreal (nominally a left-back) and Sokratis.

Arsenal's increasing desperation showed as Guendouzi was booked for diving in search of a penalty. The teenager was more productive in the 83rd minute trying to prise Huddersfield open with a well-crafted ball for Aubameyang. The Gabonese showed persistence and imagination to find room to chip over a cross and Torreira was there to deliver another big moment for his new club. Now 21 games unbeaten, on they go.

Emery was thrilled with Torreira's goal and overall showing, saying: "He has quality; he is very fast in his mind and his ability; he can do very good work in defence, and he can get into the box and score."

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