Result: Arsenal 1 – 0 Huddersfield
Competition: Premier League
Date: 8th December 2018
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Torreira, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Cech, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah
Arsenal kept their unbeaten run going to 21 games in a row with a 1-0 win over Huddersfield and a first clean sheet in the league since the game against Watford in September.
The game was marred by poor refereeing decisions, rotational fouls by the visitors and suspensions for an already bare Arsenal back line. However, Arsenal found a way through late on through Torreira in the 83rd minute to show some mettle in what is surely one of the Gunner’s most frustrating matches this season.
Unai Emery continued to surprise with his tactics as he attempted a 3-5-2 formation against Huddersfield. Not one to be dissuaded by the injuries sustained against United, Emery risked both his fit first team strikers and his match fit centre backs while cramming Lichtsteiner into the back line.
There was also a sliver of good news on the injury front as captain Laurent Koscielny made the bench with the reliable Nacho Monreal.
Huddersfield didn’t make it easy for Arsenal to start the game as they sought to press the Gunners high up the pitch to deny them to build up play. Passes from Arsenal either went astray or were forced back due to pressure from the visitors.
The best chance of the first 15 minutes was a counter attack by Arsenal as Hector Bellerin was put through by Lacazette as he cut through the middle of defence. Bellerin’s cutback for Aubameyang was blocked off by a Huddersfield defender.
Quite unfairly, Xhaka was booked on the 24th minute for what we can assume was simulation – this despite looking like he got clipped by Mooy while dribbling the ball. A ridiculous decision considering that Huddersfield were consistently making rotational fouls on the Arsenal players up to this point. That’s 9 fouls against Arsenal’s 1.
The first big chance of the game came not long after when Xhaka curled a low pass into the box with his weaker right foot into the path of Aubameyang whose first time shot goes just wide of the far post. Another big chance went begging for Lacazette a minute later who lost his footing when striking the ball after controlling it well from a deft pass from Guendouzi.
Arsenal’s frustrations increased as Lacazette’s goal was wrongly chalked off for offside. He was in an offside position when the pass towards him was made but it was Jorgensen who intercepted and gained control of the ball. The Huddersfield defender then made a horrible error to underhit a pass back to his goalkeeper that was pounced on by Lacazette who slotted in comfortably before the referee called for offside.
The pace of the game improved right at the end with Pritchard shooting just over and Torreira’s top corner strike was palmed away by Lossl.
The half ended sourly with 4 yellow cards for the Gunners and 3 for Huddersfield due to inconsistent decisions by the referee. Sokratis and Mustafi’s yellows also meant that both defenders will be ruled out of the next game against Southampton having collected 5 yellow cards each in the league this season.
Emery switched tactics in the second half with substitutions – Mkhitaryan and Iwobi coming on for Lacazette and Lichtsteiner. Arsenal reverted to a 4-3-3 formation to attack the wide areas and Mkhitaryan was quickly involved from the start, cutting in from the right and striking just wide.
However, the game was marred by more underhanded play by Huddersfield – adding time wasting to their fouling.
On the 62nd minute, Aubameyang had the chance to turn the tide but missed when he nodded wide from an in-swinging Xhaka corner.
The Arsenal defence was left with another blow as Mustafi pulled his right hamstring, leaving Emery to make his last substitution and bring on Monreal to take on the left sided centre back berth on the 66th minute.
The final ball continued to elude the Arsenal team as the players lacked the sharpness to make that decisive attempt on goal.
Arsenal’s third yellow card for simulation was handed to Guendouzi who was clipped inside the box – a poor day out for the referee.
Alas, Arsenal made their breakthrough on 83 minutes. Guendouzi pinged a tantalizing ball from deep for Aubameyang who controlled it well in the box. His shot was blocked but he looped the rebound back into the six yard box for Torreira to finish with a spectacular overhead kick. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
7 minutes of extra time made up for the many stoppages in the game as Arsenal saw out a tough game at home.
The game does plunge the backline into crisis as Sokratis (suspended) and Mustafi (injured and suspended) will not be available in the next match. For now, the Gunners live to fight another day as they prepare for a heavy December schedule.