Arsenal Brush Past Youthful WBA: What We Learned
By Rob Worthington (Deputy Editor)
Arsenal finally recorded their first goals and win of the season last night as an experienced Gunners side swept past a much-changed West From. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring and went onto bag a hat-trick while Nicolas Pépé, Bukayo Saka and Alex Lacazette were also on the scoresheet in the 6-0 win.
Not only was it a crucial win after a horrid to the season for Mikel Arteta’s men, but it was also a very important team performance. Going in 3-0 up at the break, it would’ve been easy for Arsenal to take their foot of the gas in the second half, but Arteta’s men continued to show maximum commitment to add a further three deserved goals.
Every positive taken from yesterday’s game must of course be caveated by the fact Arsenal were only playing against an extremely youthful West Brom team. However, after such a difficult start to the season for The Gunners, it was brilliant to see smiles on both fans’ and players’ faces once again.
Another pleasant sight was full debuts for Aaron Ramsdale and Nuno Tavares. Furthermore, Martin Ødegaard marked his return by controlling things for Arsenal in the attacking third and recording an audacious first assist of the season by sending Bukayo Saka through with a brilliant back-heel flick.
Here’s what we learned from last nights emphatic victory.
Aubameyang is still capable
After a poor 20/21 campaign, it felt almost strange to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang strutting around The Hawthorns last night with so much confidence. His body language notably improved, his runs in behind were causing West Brom’s young defenders headaches all evening and his quality in front of goal was as good as it has been for a long time.
The Arsenal captain looked like his old self. Arsenal fans saw a version of Aubameyang last night which many thought no longer existed. It was a talismanic performance. The kind of performance Arsenal hoped he would be delivering consistently upon the extension of his contract last Summer.
Such an outing bodes well for Arsenal ahead of what is a pivotal season for Arteta’s project. Arsenal have been linked with a number of strikers this Summer, namely Lautaro Martinez and Roma recruit Tammy Abraham, with many doubting Auba’s suitability to the #9 role within Arteta’s team. However, a striker of whom scores goals can fit into any system.
It should come with no surprise that Aubameyang’s return to form has correlated with Martin Ødegaard’s return to Arsenal. The Norweigan’s security in possession and constant desire to receive the football at his feet diminishes the necessity for Arsenal’s striker to drop deep, meaning Aubameyang can focus on what he does best, scoring.
If Aubameyang can replicate such a performance in the league this season on numerous occasions, Arsenal will be in with a much better chance of resurrecting their hopes of recording a successful 21/22 PL season finish. It is of course a rather big ‘if’, but the Gabonese striker looked to have his mojo back last night. A timely return to his old ways.
Ramsdale offers something different
Much has been made of Ramsdale’s debut following Arsenal’s 6-0 victory in the Midlands. In short, all aspects of his game were fantastic. He made a few smart stops and distributed the ball very nicely indeed which comes as something of a surprise.
Last season with Sheffield United, Ramsdale kicked the ball long more than any other goalkeeper in the league. It was difficult to see how such a style would fit into a possession-oriented side. Nonetheless, there were promising signs in that regard last night.
He was comfortable shifting the ball wide to his centre-backs and full-backs, also playing the ball through the lines into the likes of Ødegaard in midfield and then going long when necessary. Welcome variety in comparison to Leno’s often one-dimensional approach in terms of going long.
Leno will likely keep his place against Man City this weekend, but Ramsdale’s seemingly superior distribution will cause Arteta selection headaches as the season progresses. Having a goalkeeper who is confident with the ball at his feet can be a hugely beneficial weapon for a possession-based side, so Ramsdale could prove difficult to ignore with regard to selection in the coming weeks.
Nuno Tavares is the roughest of diamonds
It is easy to look at the signing of Nuno Tavares favourably. His raw talent is obvious. That said, it is clear that he’s not a complete player just yet. His ball security is a significant weakness in his game, with the young Portuguese often loose with his passes and his first touch.
Nevertheless, Tavares’s athleticism and tenacity are hugely attractive assets. He never shirks a physical dual and his attacking threat is consistent. It looks like he won’t be the finished product any time soon, but his current ability is indicative of a player who is worth working on.
He is yet to start a Premier League for Arsenal, and that is probably for the best. It would appear he’s not quite ready for that just yet. But, the Carabao Cup and FA Cup will provide good platforms for the left-back to progress on and his profile already offers enough to cover for Kieran Tierney when required.
Tavares will doubtlessly be on the receiving end of some intense instruction from Arsenal’s coaches as he continues to progress, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad signing. This is what Arsenal were looking for in their left-back recruit. In Arsenal’s impressive 6-0 victory over West Brom, Nuno did his job, but there is clear room for improvement. The same can be said for the team as an entirety when faced with stronger opposition.