CARDIFF, United Kingdom, Sep 2 – Unai Emery praised Arsenal’s character after they gave a glimpse of their potential in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Cardiff on Sunday.
Emery was rewarded for a bold selection after partnering Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, his two main forwards, together from the start for the first time in the Premier League.
Both scored as Emery’s men collected the second victory of his reign.
The Spaniard saw his side make hard work of seeing off the newly-promoted Welsh club with old defensive failings twice allowing Cardiff to equalise.
But Emery was impressed with the way Arsenal responded to each of those setbacks.
“The reaction is very important. The reaction was very good. We were calm,” Emery said.
“The most important thing is to be calm and to continue working.
“We controlled the match for 70 percent of the 90 minutes.”
Emery got a crash course in both the strengths and weaknesses of the squad he inherited from Arsene Wenger.
His decision to field two forwards paid handsome dividends as first Aubameyang and then Lacazette scored excellent goals to finally kill off Cardiff.
The Bluebirds had equalised through Victor Camarasa and Danny Ward after Shkodran Mustafi headed the Gunners ahead.
“They are playing minutes each match and today they started (together),” said Emery of his strikers.
“We are continuing to work on the combinations. Today I think the two players scored goals and helped us. “We can continue to work to find the best performance with each player.”
There is, however, plenty for Emery to ponder during the international break after the familiar failings that dogged the end of Wenger’s reign reared their heads again.
After Mustafi’s powerful header from Granit Xhaka’s corner had put his visitors ahead in the Welsh capital, they failed to see the game out to half-time.
In stoppage-time a poor Xhaka pass was intercepted, Nacho Monreal failed to deal with a Joe Bennett cross and Camarasa fired home.
– Teething problems –
Then, after Aubameyang had bent home a superb shot to restore their lead after clever work from Mesut Ozil and Lacazette, the Gunners switched off again and allowed Ward a free header to equalise again.
“We need to continue improving on our defence,” admitted Emery, who also saw further teething problems for Petr Cech in the veteran goalkeeper’s efforts to play from the back.
Twice in the opening eight minutes Cech made a mess of dealing with back-passes and, on the second occasion, Harry Arter fired over when he should have opened the scoring.
“He has experience,” said Emery. “He is intelligent. He is doing what we want.
“It’s very important for me to continue doing this and to keep improving.
“We take a little risk, but when you break this risk and their pressing you can find space. We need to continue with this personality.”
There was a sighting, too, of Ozil, who played a decent hand in victory having missed last week’s win at West Ham amid rumours of a row on the training ground with his manager.
“Ozil with his quality, I think we need him to give us his moments in the match,” said Emery.
“I think today in the second half he played a good match, he worked every minute he was on the pitch.
“Maybe in the second half with his position on the pitch I think he feels better.”