It is not the sort of admission with which a member of the goalkeepers’ union ought to be comfortable. In the throes of a discussion about Arsenal’s identity, Bernd Leno was asked whether his team were the sort who backed themselves to outscore all comers. “Yes, I think so,” Leno said.
The comment was intended as praise for the forwards and, from the evidence of Sunday’s 2-2 home draw with Tottenham, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the new signing Nicolas Pépé, who started together for the first time, they look primed to wreak havoc. But implicit in the question was a point concerning Arsenal’s openness at the back, their condition to errors and the sense that good teams such as Spurs and Liverpool the previous weekend will be ready to produce lots of openings against them. Leno cannot ignore it. Nobody can.
There was an instant early within the Spurs game, with Arsenal 1-0 down, when Son Heung-min was played clear up the inside-left channel and David Luiz was the nearest defender. Everybody expected him to have interaction Son however with David Luiz it’s typically best to expect the surprising. He turned and hared back towards the middle, leaving his central defensive partner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, to come across to look after Son and the Arsenal support, almost as one, to ask: “What’s he doing?” There was a collective roar of alarm. Son cut inside Papastathopoulos and bent a shot for the far, top corner that was brilliantly saved by Leno. Arsenal got away with it.
They had not got away with the sequence of mistakes made for the opening goal, that started with Papastathopoulos’s decision to step up to contest a header with Harry Kane. He lost out, leaving a gap that was compounded by David Luiz gambling on trying to nick the ball from Son. David Luiz went the wrong way, allowing Son to move away from him easily. The Brazilian was eager to place Arsenal back on the front foot however he would have been better advised to try to contain his opponent.
David Luiz has previous in failing to read Son. Remember last season, when he was at Chelsea and hared into a challenge on Son and kept on haring? Son cut in on goal and scored in Spurs’s 3-1 win at Wembley. On Sunday the ultimate botch of the piece belonged to Leno, whose weak push-out from Érik Lamela’s shot gave Christian Eriksen a tap-in. According to Opta, Arsenal has made 13 errors leading to goals in the Premier League since the start of last season, when Unai Emery took over – the most of any club. Leno, with six, has more than anyone else during the period.
There are mistakes in the concession of most goals and also the Opta data point merely attracts on those who are clear and obvious, to use the buzz phrase. Emery was an image of frustration when Eriksen scored and he may wonder how he can legislate for such individual aberrations. There was a shocker from Granit Xhaka for Tottenham’s second goal – a ludicrously rash challenge that gave away a penalty, which Kane converted.
But the broader picture concerns how Arsenal set up, with the full-backs pressed high, David Luiz eager to spark attacking transitions and questions over the configuration of the midfield. The upshot is that groups can find space behind the Arsenal defence and between the lines – particularly on counterattacks when the game is stretched.
What is plain is that Emery’s team will be fun to watch. The old chant about it being “one-nil to the Arsenal” may need an update.