Result: Huddersfield Town 1-2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 9th February 2019
Venue: John Smith’s Stadium
Starting XI: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Guendouzi, Torreira, Iwobi, Kolasinac, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette
Subs: Cech, Elneny, Lichsteiner, Suarez, Mavropanos, Willock, Nketiah
Arsenal beat Huddersfield Town 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium to record their first Premier League away win since November.
Goals from Alex Iwobi and Alex Lacazette put the Gunners in charge at the break and while we were comfortable for much of the second period, Sead Kolasinac’s stoppage-time own goal ensured there was a nervy ending to proceedings.
There were two changes to the lineup that started against Manchester City last weekend with Ainsley Maitland-Niles replacing Stephan Lichtsteiner and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, back from six weeks out with a broken metatarsal, replacing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabon international and Mesut Ozil both missed out with an illness that had been doing the rounds at London Colney. To add to Emery’s headache both Aaron Ramsey (slight knee problem) and Granit Xhaka (groin) were also missing. It meant we set up with a 3-4-3 shape, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira asked to play box-to-box roles and Lacazette pushed into a central position up front.
In very windy conditions, we made a bright start. Tackles were won, our passing triangles were neat and attacks were launched at pace. Both Iwobi and Lacazette had early chances to find the net, but neither tested the keeper.
When the breakthrough came on 16 minutes, it was fully deserved. Kolasinac, charging down the left wing, delivered a pinpoint cross to Iwobi bounding into the box at the back post and the Nigerian did well to control a first-time volley on the angle down into the ground. Keeper Ben Hamer seemed to have it covered but a slight nick off Kongolo, who’d turned his back, left him wrong-footed. Iwobi and Maitland-Niles toasted their luck by indulging in a celebratory dance. (1-0)
Against a side as poor as Huddersfield, we really should have turned the screw but instead, we gradually let the home side back into the game. They probed the channels, tried long balls, penned us in, made fouls – one by Kachunga on Kolasinac was worthy of a red – and forced errors in possession. Leno got pulses racing chasing after a high free-kick and Koscielny was lucky to avoid being penalised for a shot he blocked in the area with the help of his arm.
For all that, Huddersfield still looked like a side with only five goals to their name all season. They had no real cutting edge. What’s more, every time they pushed forward they left themselves open to the counter-attack.
Lacazette, Mkhitaryan and Iwobi were all a handful for the home side’s backline, despite being ponderous occasionally, and Maitland-Niles’ pace gave us an attacking dimension we’ve missed when forced to field Lichtsteiner.
A minute before half time, Lacazette doubled the lead. It looked as though Mkhitaryan had made a mess of things when a first through ball was cut out, but the Armenian did well to retrieve possession and then to feed Maitland-Niles on the overlap. With players lining up to score, he fizzed a ball across the six-yard box for Lacazette to tap home. (2-0)
With nothing to lose, the Terriers were menacing in the opening stages of the second half. Leno did well to stop a low shot by Adama Diakhaby, Juninho Bacuna dragged wide and Diakhaby failed to convert Jason Puncheon’s shot with the goal gaping.
In between, Elneny, on for Lucas Torreira on 58 minutes, had a chance to make an immediate impact but headed a Kolasinac cross wide. Having climbed over Lacazette to get to the ball, he got an earful from the Frenchman who was probably better placed to score.
For the most part, we were happy to sit deep and soak up pressure before pushing hard on the break. Iwobi had a great chance to kill the game, but having been put through one-on-one by Mkhitaryan he couldn’t squeeze his effort past Hamer. When the Armenian had a chance of his own, he fell over. A flurry of end-to-end action climaxed with Koscielny bailing out Leno who’d spilt a Diakhaby shot.
Substitute Depoitre flashed just wide and Monreal was forced to hack a clearance off the goal line as more chances came and went for the home side in the final ten minutes. It looked like we might be on course to record our first clean sheet on the road all season, but right at the death, Kolasinac put through his own net. (2-1)
Huddersfield finished the game with six more efforts on goal (15-9), including two more on target (6-4), and having made 20 more crosses and 86 more passes. This is a side who have lost 12 and drawn one of their last 13 games.
On the plus side, the result takes us to 50 points, level with Chelsea who have a game in hand, however, after United’s win against Fulham, we’re still sixth in the table. Attention now turns to a Europa League double-header with BATE Borisov before we return to league action against Southampton and Bournemouth.