Sunday, April 14

What’s gone wrong at Arsenal?

A year ago Arsenal sacked Unai Emery because of his poor tactics and underperformance from a decent squad.

Emery’s tactics saw large gaps in midfield and toothless attacks in the last matches at Arsenal. He gave the impression of a manager who simply does not know how to fix the problems.

The Spaniard used players out of position e.g Xhaka at LCB, Torreira as CAM/CM. He used the same tactics in every game and was so vulnerable that even teams that were bottom in the league dominated Arsenal and gave hard times. But now he is enjoying his reign at Villareal.

Times have changed and the scenario at Arsenal too. Staff redundancy, player bust-ups, Covid-19, new major signings, Ozil’s exclusion have all happened in these last 8 months or so. But if he looks how and why Arsenal have been so poor in the league, he’ll find the same things like the last few months of his reign.

Against Wolves, 31 crosses were put in by Arsenal, including 23 in the second half. But they only managed 2 shots on target the whole game. Against Tottenham, they put in 44 crosses, only 9 reached their players. They haven’t scored from open play in the last 7 PL matches. These stats look horrible especially when you have 2-time golden boot winner Aubameyang and club-record signing Nicolas Pepe in the squad.

It’s not just the stats that are not good enough, Arsenal players fail the eye test too. They only look threatening once or twice the whole match, except these times they look like a bunch of high school boys.

Tactics

Arteta has shifted his good looking 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 since the arrival of Thomas Partey. Even though they look 4-3-3 on the sheet while defending and starting a counter they tend to shift to 3-4-3. Arteta has tried the midfield axis of Xhaka-Ceballos, Xhaka-Elneny, Elneny- Partey, Partey-Xhaka already but all of them have failed miserably.

The only good thing that had happened to Arteta is the Holding-Gabriel defensive partnership. The duo looks solid but as they don’t have much cover from midfield, they have been exploited time and again. They have been playing through the wings for a few matches now putting in crosses. They have excelled at that already as time and time again on the wings they have made space.

But every time the cross has been so dreadful. It only reaches the opponents and the attackers miss few occasions that a delivery that reaches them. Arteta has been attempting to shift towards a less conservative style of play over the last few weeks.

Arteta has used Aubameyang as the central striker and Joe Willock at no.10 when he has one of the finest no.10s in world football sitting at home. The worst thing that can be said about this season is that there are moments when they looked like Unai Emery’s side again.

Arsenal’s players seemed to go back in time like so called Arteta’s reign-the solidity in defence, the structure in midfield and attacking front 3 have gone missing in recent performances in the Premier League.

Arsenal started a new project under Arteta when they convinced him to come to Arsenal at midnight in his home. In fact, it seems that he is “the Project”. Fans need to believe it will take time and this is the darkest period in their resurrection. He isn’t under pressure as well as the board has and will back him this at least 1 more year.

Post Arteta Conundrum

Arteta has said this time and again that Arsenal needs few more windows before they will start to look like a top team again. Arsenal are currently 15th in the league with 13 points, lowest since 1981.

Arsenal now needs an in-form Lacazette and Aubameyang, cover those large gaps in midfield, and play players that are in good shape. Youngsters who have been playing very well in Europa like Nelson, Willock, Nketiah do not get much chance in the league. Maybe Arteta needs to look to this side as well.

Everything looks not working for Arteta but he knows he did sign up for this. But it’s not that he hasn’t done anything good after he joined Arsenal. He has restored the faith in players, fans, and the whole Arsenal community around the world. He has won matches that really mattered last season.

This looks to be the darkest period of his career but he has fixed minor problems that were giving Gunners a hard time after he joined Arsenal. They looked really good after the restart clinching wins against the top 4 teams, winning the FA Cup and the community shield.

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