The energy coming from the boss and his players does not exude positivity, yet they remain in touching distance. Hanging in there just as they hung on here. Huddersfield should have left with at least a point on a heavy afternoon for the club Jan Siewert affectionately referred to as ‘Arsenal of London’.
Perhaps the clearest indication of where Unai Emery believes Arsenal currently stand was when Alexandre Lacazette put this game to bed a minute before half-time.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Huddersfield (4-3-3): Hamer 5.5; Smith 6, Jorgensen 6, Schindler 6, Kongolo 6 (Durm 56, 7); Bacuna 6, Hogg 6, Mooy 6; Diakhaby 7, Puncheon 7 (Depoitre 66, 7), Kachunga 5.5 (Grant 82)
Subs not used: Coleman, Billing, Pritchard, Stankovic
Goal: Kolasinac og 90
Booked: Schindler, Kongolo, Diakhaby
Manager: Jan Siewert 7
Arsenal (3-4-2-1): Leno 7; Mustafi 6, Koscielny 6, Monreal 6; Maitland-Niles 7, Torreira 6.5 (Elneny 59, 6), Guendouzi 6.5, Kolasinac 6; Mkhitaryan 6.5 (Suarez 76), Iwobi 7.5 (Willock 87); Lacazette 7
Subs not used: Cech, Lichtsteiner, Mavropanos, Nketiah
Goals: Iwobi 16, Lacazette 44
Manager: Unai Emery 6.5
Ref: Jon Moss 5
There came a double punch of the air, an uncharacteristic roar, but such is Emery’s frustration at the stodginess of his first season here – and the lack of control they exert in matches – that any celebrations were swift. Recent defeats have stung.
He beckoned Nacho Monreal, the left-sided central defender, and heatedly reinforced what was expected of Arsenal’s back three. Emery’s anxiety was self-evident all afternoon, even at the Premier League’s most welcoming venue.
‘It’s very important, the points, to be closer to the top four,’ Emery said. ‘Our target is this. Today can give us confidence to continue with our target.
‘If we ask “is it difficult for us?” then yes, I think it’s difficult. But we can. We are on our way.’
The Spaniard is one of the game’s great wincers – eyes narrowed, raised cheekbones, stress lines clear – and it offers transparency into his mind. He clearly did not think this was very polished, despite the end result. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil left in London, both ill. Ozil has played just three league games since mid-November.
Huddersfield possess this annoying habit of competing – actually seeming the better side – before throwing goals away and simply choosing wrong options going forward. It seems to be the same most weeks, particularly at the John Smith’s Stadium. They are now 14 points from safety.
There is a sense of resignation that relegation is a matter of when, with the dynamic new manager Siewert using these months to plan for the future. Publicly he will not say that.
‘We created so many chances,’ Siewert said. ‘I always tell the lads that the fight comes first and then the luck comes back. I will fight until the end for these lads and for this club to stay in the Premier League. The way we played makes me so proud.’
It should not really be this cut and dried so early, before we reach mid-February, and Siewert was on the wrong end of a quite astonishing refereeing decision when Arsenal were only a goal ahead as evidence that luck is out.
It came after 25 minutes, Jason Puncheon screeching a half-volley towards Bernd Leno. Laurent Koscielny was the barrier, hurtling out to stop the shot but did so with his right arm dangling away from his body.
Jon Moss moved whistle towards lips – the handball was obvious – but changed his mind. Arsenal were off the hook and this might have been a different game altogether had Moss followed through with his initial conviction.