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Gunner Thoughts

ARS-LEI Standouts and Worries: Worries

Arsenal beat Leicester City 4-2 for their second win, but a few worries to address moving forward.

The start of Arsenal’s season has been one that fans should find tough to complain about. Two wins in two, six points on the board, one of only two teams with two wins (Manchester City), and clear signs of growth. If you’re a believe in “begin as you mean to go on” believer, you have to be please to have been treated to a stout defensive performance away from home and and electric attacking performance this weekend against a decent Leicester City side.

Having said that, Arteta will undoubtedly still be looking for ways to put it all together and see this team make leaps to the next level in terms of both results and consistency. To do that, it takes a complete side hitting good form together, and that means addressing aspects that might be a little more worrisome. Let’s take a look at two players I labeled as ‘worries’.

Worries

Bukayo Saka

Saka was by no means the worst player on the pitch, even from an Arsenal perspective, a few other may have had, arguably, quieter games, but the expectations surrounding Bukayo Saka’s growth have risen and he will need to rise with it.

Although I didn’t write a blog about it, Saka was also on my list of ‘worries’ after the Crystal Palace and what is tricky about this is it’s not a matter of him making mistakes or errors, the worry is coming more from his lack of involvement. The right side of Arsenal’s attack has been off the mark these first two matches — Ødegaard involved in that concern as well — especially when compared to the thriving, fast-paced, humming left side.

Interestingly, Saka has created dangerous moments when he gets himself on the ball, including Crystal Palace’s own goal and a Xhaka header off the the post against Leicester, which gives confidence but these moments feel too few and far between for a player that touted the most goal involvements for the club (19 G/A). While it has been absolutely fantastic to watch Martinelli start with a bang and Gabriel Jesus settle flawlessly, if Arsenal are going to climb toward Mikel’s goal of tallying 90-100 goals in a Premier League season, Saka has to play a major contributing role.

From a touches perspective, Saka wasn’t far off Martinelli, a player that made the “Standouts” list (43 vs 47 respectively), but his touches are coming deeper than Martinelli’s, wider, and further from dangerous areas as seen be his heat map (below).

Bukayo Saka Heatmap: Leicester – Home. Source: SofaScore

Additionally, his involvement in the pressing high up the field in order to create turnovers in dangerous areas was the lowest of Arsenal’s front four. Whether his support of the press is designed to support Jesus and Ødegaard in a fashion that sees him as more of a trap-man could be up for debate, but as a viewer it feels more like he isn’t seeing the opportunities to apply the pressure and create turnovers.

To end this, it’s important to reinforce a statement made earlier: his placement on this list is tricky. To suggest he was bad is far too harsh, but as fans look to see him grow, and he himself continues to try to take the next leap in class, things are going to have to change. When the ball is at his feet, the decision needs to be quick. Touch, pass, move or settle and run at a defender to create as we have seen in the past.

After struggling more than many will have predicted, a question comes to mind: is he being hindered by too much playing time and no competition for his place to bring the best out of him?

And if he is, does the competition come from a new signing or Fabio Vieira?

Ramsdale

With Bernd Leno off this window and Mat Turner comfortably being the backup, Aaron Ramsdale will need to keep himself focused without a lot of pressure from a skilled number two. Additionally, after Ramsdale started his time at Arsenal in incredible form, he finished last season looking shaky and inconsistent, meaning he has plenty to prove to fans trying to read the tea leaves and assess where is ceiling lies.

Against Crystal Palace, Ramsdale had a quiet night but made his two saves and distributed to the ball well to help build out of the back or spur on transitions. Against Leicester City, his distribution was quite good, including an incredible full-field ball that almost assisted Jesus’ third goal of the evening.

However, his goalkeeping play felt erratic, inconsistent, and poor for the standards Arsenal have come to expect from him and the club. He came out to challenge for a ball and nearly clattered through Vardy. It wasn’t a penalty, and VAR got the call correct, but it wasn’t exactly textbook keeping either. Additionally, it seems harsh to lay the blame on him for Arsenal’s own goal, as he has been asked to play a high line and needed to be in a position to make a play on Vardy should Saliba not have been able to get up and intervene. But, again, some will scrutinize his positioning and thought process to handle the danger.

Finally, we have to hold him accountable for the second goal. Maddison strikes the ball really well, but its a tight angle and Ramsdale is actually in position to make the save, he simply doesn’t come up with it. And while that may be reason to believe it was more of a fluke, when compiled alongside a handful of other shaky moments, it leave him with plenty to prove moving forward.

Arsenal fans will be very keen to see him make a few amends after we conceded two softer goals as well as put together a nice run of form closer to start of last season’s quality. For now though, he ends up on the worry list.

Also a part of this series: ARS-LEI Standouts and Worries: Standouts

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