Arsenal has conceded eight goals in nine matches under Mikel Arteta. In the nine matches, the Gunners have faced Chelsea twice and Manchester United while having players sent off in two of the games.
These numbers have meant that Arsenal has averagely conceded less under the current Spaniard than under Unai Emery. With improved defending has come fairly good results like a home win against Manchester United and a hard fought draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge after going a player down. It has also meant that Arteta has only lost once as Arsenal manager.
However, improvement in one aspect of the Arsenal game has brought a glaring deficiency in the other. Arsenal has found goals hard to come by both at home and on the road. At the Emirates, Arsenal has only managed to score two goals in a game once which was in the win against Manchester United. This has meant that Arsenal has only picked up four points out of a possible nine at home in the Premier League. On the road, the Gunners have managed four points in four games dropping eight points while scoring two goals in a game only once in the league.
The early signs of Arteta’s reign have been characterized with sustained spells of possession, compactness and purposeful passing. The Gunners have managed more possession than all but two of their premier league opponents under Mikel, which are Manchester United and Chelsea. However, there has been an observable drop in the chances the Gunners are creating and the goals they are scoring.
This inability to score has meant Arsenal has drawn one too many games, some from winning positions. Solitary goals have encouraged opponents who have found a way of nicking in a goal to salvage a draw. Quite simply put, Arsenal has failed to put games beyond their opponent’s reach even when they have been in control. This must be losing the Arsenal gaffer some much-needed sleep.
So what remedy can the Arsenal tactician instil to revitalize a badly ailing attack? First Mikel Arteta must be bold enough to put Alexandre Lacazette on the bench till his form improves. The Frenchman has painfully been underwhelming in his favorite centre forward role.
His involvement from the centre forward position has come at the expense of Arsenal’s talisman and topscorer Aubameyang and Brazilian hotshot Gabriel Martinelli. Arteta must draw the line between fruitful patience and performance related fielding when it comes to the former Lyon striker. Lacazette has struggled for goals so badly that he trails 19-year old Martinelli with half the teenager’s goal haul in nearly twice as many minutes played. If Arsenal has to win matches, its attacking potency has to be unleashed through their star forwards.
Arteta must also juggle between two holding midfielders when facing more fancied opponents and one when facing beatable teams particularly at home. Arsenal has predominantly played a 4-2-3-1 formation with Xhaka and Torreira at the midfield base.
Against teams lower than sixth Arsenal ought to take the game to the opponents by playing two advanced central midfielders other than a double pivot. This will ensure there are enough chances for the attackers to feed on.
On a good day, Martinelli has goals in his locker, Aubameyang has proved already that with good service he wins golden boots. Consistent and sustained service to these two and any of Pepe, Nelson, Lacazette and Nketiah should be enough to finish off teams lying at the wrong half of the table.
Ultimately, Arteta’s effectiveness will be assessed at the tail-end of the campaign but with quick fixes in midfield and in attack, he could get the results that have so far been elusive. He enjoys the board’s good will and fans support, his players also trust his methods and fight for him.
It is now time for him to make the most of this perfect micro-environment because as many coaches have learnt bitterly it does not last forever. It remains to be seen what changes he will effect against Newcastle who will lay low and attempt to disrupt the rhythm of the game.
Whichever choice he makes he must be wary of the fact that football situations are never permanent but the best make the most of a conducive environment.
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