On Tuesday night, Arsenal travelled to Aston Villa needing to win to keep their Europa League hopes alive. Here are five things we learned from the 1-0 loss.
Well, in a wonderful illustration of Arsenal’s infuriating 2019/20 season, the Gunners, following two victories against the two best teams in world football, fell to Aston Villa, who were fighting for their Premier League lives at the bottom of the table.
Not once did the Gunners look vaguely threatening as they lacked any semblance of intensity or purpose. Mikel Arteta got his system wrong, the players were absent-minded, to say the least, and the team now has just one game to define their season, next weekend’s FA Cup final.
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Here are five things we learned from the dreadful 1-0 defeat.
5. Torreira struggled, but he wasn’t helped
It is never a ringing endorsement when you are hauled off at half-time. And, sadly for Lucas Torreira, who was making just his second start since the restart, he was deservingly brought off after a poor first-half performance.
Starting in place of Granit Xhaka in central midfield, Torreira failed to provide the same progressive distribution. Safe and conservative, he rarely helped move Arsenal up the pitch. More concerningly, though, his defensive contributions were poor, too. When he pressed, he was easily bypassed. He was often a step slow to reach loose balls and was yellow carded for his late tackles.
While Torreira’s performance was poor, however, he also was not helped by those around him. Having three centre-forwards in the front three offered few options to play the ball into. The movement off the ball was dreadful and Rob Holding rarely stepped up from right centre-back, the position that often has more time to do so in a back three.
Torreira was also played out of position. His limitations restrict him to being a sole holding midfielder in a three-man midfield. Asking him to play in a pair in a two-way role does not put him in positive positions. So yes, Torreira played poorly, but Mikel Arteta and his teammates did not help him.