ARSENAL have a week to solve their problem on the left of the defence or they risk North London derby humiliation.
Unai Emery has spent the past two months since Nacho Monreal was injured trying to plug the gaping hole in his side – and against Bournemouth his latest idea was quickly picked apart.
AFP4 Unai Emery needs to fix his left-side of defence problem quickly
Going with a three-man defence is one thing when you have quality defenders and wing-backs who are at the top of their game.
But it is quite another to gamble of the combined talents of Rob Holding and Sead Kolasinac to make it work against one of the most impressive attacking units in the top flight.
It hardly helps when seconds before the game kick-off, Kolasinac was frantically calling to the touchline asking what tactics Arsenal were being asked to play – he genuinely didn’t know at that late stage his team were going with three at the back.
The early stages of quickly showed Emery had got it wrong as Callum Wilson and Josh King both took advantage of the wide open spaces in between Kolasinac and Holding to mount dangerous attacks.
PA:Press Association4 Arsenal have struggled to replace Nacho Monreal since his injury
This is the Premier League – the best in world football, we are told.
So why, then, did Emery and his backroom team effectively spend the whole of the first half effectively instructing one of their players how to play the game.
Holding was the particular rabbit in the headlights, struggling to adjust from his basic instincts of playing in the centre of a four-man defensive line.
Every single time play got anywhere near him, up jumped his manager gesticulating, barking out orders, telling him where to stand, when to run, when to hold.
Reuters4 Sead Kolasinac started on the wide-left-hand side of the defence
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We were being treated to the Spaniard using a fully-charged league game basically as a coaching session, and poor old Holding didn’t appear to know whether he was coming or going.
At least, though, he could pretty much be relied upon to stay in his position – unlike Kolasinac playing as the left wing-back in front of him.
When Bournemouth broke to score the equaliser just before the break, when King ran freely in that channel on the right, Kolasinac was nowhere to be seen.
In fact, when the Cherries were busy celebrating, Kolasinac was still only making his way back out of the Bournemouth half.
Only striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was further away from defensive responsibilities.
In fairness to the Bosnian, he did make a key impact on this game in attack – whipping in the cross which led to Jefferson Lerma volleying into his own goal for the opener.
Reuters4 Rob Holding started on the left-side of the centre-backs at Bournemouth
And he was at it again driving in a low ball for Aubameyang to touch Arsenal back into the lead.
But next week, Tottenham have the players to ruthlessly expose the weak link of Holding and Kolasinac defensively.
They have just destroyed a Chelsea defence which had been unbeaten this season – and they are much more advanced in terms of quality than this Arsenal side.
Spurs have the players to rip into Arsenal’s left flank and cause chaos. Emery knows it, Arsenal know it and so do the fans.
The trouble is, with Monreal still a fortnight away from fitness, just what can they do about it other than pray?
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