Arsenal have an exciting attack but defensive mistakes threaten to stop them Football news

Peter Smith

Comment and analysis @ p_smith86

Cardiff was leveled twice before the Gunners won 3-2

Last update: 02/09/18 17.19 hours

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have the conditions for an important partnership for Arsenal

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have the conditions for an important partnership for Arsenal

In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal has one of the most exciting front lines in the Premier League – but they have to eliminate the defensive mistakes if they want to fight against the very best, writes Peter Smith.

Progress is being made at Arsenal as Unai Emery begins to shape the team in his way of playing. But the best and worst of what he had inherited at the club were in a dramatic victory of 3-2 on Cardiff on Sunday.

At the attack, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who started together for the first time under the Spaniard, showed the terrifying firepower they possess and their potential to form one of the best strike partnerships in the league.

But in defense, hesitation, carelessness and the disconnection of the players, Arsenal almost did not do the good work on the front foot. It is a well-known story for Arsenal supporters.

Danny Ward took advantage of some loose points to score for Cardiff

Danny Ward took advantage of some loose points to score for Cardiff

First, the positive aspects of that attack.

Aubameyang has made a silent brilliant start in the Premier League, which has raced to 10 goals from start 13, but in Wales, together with his colleague Lacazette, he proved that the pair could be even more effective if played together.

Emery was reluctant to start Lacazette in the first weeks of the season, despite some impressive cameo's from the bank, but the Frenchman seized his chance with a man-of-the-match display combined with his off-road field pal Aubameyang.

Since his Premier League debut in February, only Mohamed Salah (15) from Liverpool scored more Premier League goals than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11).

Lacazette had a shot against the right wing in the first half before he became match-winner for the Gunners after the break. He switched off a flash-off for Aubameyang – who had begun to the left of a supporting three – to crawl in before hitting Arsenal's third level in the net with less than 10 minutes to play.

Those goals take the count of the couple to seven of the four starts together and will certainly convince Emery. This must be his selection in the future, making Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and the Henrikh Mkhitaryan placed on the bench battle for the two remaining attacking slots.

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette was directly involved in seven goals in his last five starts of the Premier League (5 goals, 2 assists).

"At the end of the day you want to get your best players on the field," said the former English striker Jermain Defoe in the Sky Sports studio. "They are two great players, they are sharp, they make things happen, they score goals.

"The goal of Aubameyang was brilliant – that Thierry Henry closed – and the movement of Lacazette in and around the box is really sharp, he stays high, as we saw with his winning goal."

We were always under control, said Unai Emery after the 3-2 victory of Arsenal in Cardiff

We were always under control, said Unai Emery after the 3-2 victory of Arsenal in Cardiff

It would have been so frustrating if their good play had not been rewarded with three points. And bad mistakes at the back almost made it.

Cardiff had failed to score in the Premier League this season, but they had just met Arsenal twice and scored 14 shots, only one less than the visitors.

Petr Cech once again lived dangerously with daring passes to his defenders and he should have been punished by Harry Arter who emerged after a simple interception – but there were plenty of others who were guilty of Cardiff's first.

View highlights of Cardiff 2-3 Arsenal

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Granit Xhaka's all too casual pass was easily intercepted, Hector Bellerin allowed space to cross Joe Bennett, the middle halves of Arsenal failed to win the air fight and Victor Camarasa reacted fastest on the loose ball to go inside carry.

A free kick was undoing Arsenal's second time, eliminating Nacho Monreal and losing Danny Ward, who wanted to go home unmarked to win Cardiff level for a second time.

They were the culmination of elementary, avoidable mistakes – but they seem to come back too often for the Gunners. Last season, Arsenal made more mistakes leading to goals than any other team in the Premier League. Emery must find a way to end giving gifts.

Mistakes leading to goals – Premier League 2017/18

Team Mistakes that lead to goals
Arsenal 15
Southampton 11
Bournemouth 11
Huddersfield 10
Tottenham 9

"What Arsenal has to look at is that the problems they faced today were caused by themselves," said Graeme Souness. "You have to give Cardiff the honor, they played well, created some opportunities, but in the end it was the two players in front for Arsenal who decided the match: a few special goals from them, quality goals."

On this occasion, the attacking superiority of Arsenal – net – and the traveling supporters have been able to enjoy the feeling of a victory that became too rare last season.

But for this team that consistently delivers points on the road and at home, they have to find the balance between attacking thrust and defensive security.

The improvement continues – but Emery still has a lot of work to do.

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