What’s Gone Wrong with Arsenal?

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The worst ever start to a Premier League season for Arsenal leaves them in 15th place.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta watches his team from the sidelines

Arsenal fans weren’t expecting much in the build-up to the London derby, tactically outmatched and lacking in real quality meant they suffered a painful 2-0 defeat to a typically disciplined Mourinho outfit. The ‘Gooners’ have very little to be excited about with only 10 goals scored in their worst start to a Premier League season. 

Vented frustrations in an abbreviated social media style need only a target to aim at, whether it be Mikel Arteta, the board, or in the eyes of Arsenal Fan TVs Mr DT, Hector Bellerin. Let’s break it down. 

Lacking Creativity

The relationship between the midfield and the attack is estranged, not helped by Arteta’s decision to leave Ozil out, which in my opinion was a mistake. However, maybe Arteta didn’t get the players he needed in the summer, we can only speculate. Asking Xhaka and Partey to provide what Ozil once did is asking too much. 

Take a look at the Spurs game: 3-4-3 is the formation, giving Saka the space to push up the flank and Aubemeyang the ability to move centrally. Now Tierney either feeds Saka to put in a cross or overlaps himself to deliver to Aubameyang and Lacazette, vice-versa with Bellerin and Willian. 

They avoided playing through the middle all day because they lacked creativity, making it predictable and easy for Spurs to manage. 

When Spurs prevented Arsenals advances up the wing, Xhaka would occupy Tierney’s position at left centre-back, to provide more support. 

Arsenal midfielder Xhaka dejected after his team was beaten by Spurs.

Herein lies the problem, Xhaka played to his strengths, making the most tackles (4), was good in the air and at holding possession but he cannot be expected to unlock the defence. He made 107 passes (1st) and 34 of them in the final third and what did that lead to?  

Xhaka is not that kind of player and cannot be blamed. 

With Spurs, for example, Kane that drops into a deeper position, he has 10 assists in the Premier League so far; Firminio is used in a similar way offloading to Mane and Salah. Man City can play through the middle and the wings, they have the likes of Sterling who plays as a number 10 and Kevin De Bruyne who is just class, while Man Utd have Bruno Fernandes. 

So maybe it is a question of quality. 

Crisis of Confidence

Why can’t Willian drop deeper, cut inside and create as we have seen him do at Chelsea? Or Aubameyang take players on from the left-hand side where he has been so successful in the past? Is this just the mangers instructions, or are we seeing a lack of confidence?

I totally agree with Ian Wright when he says it’s a massive show of confidence “if you can receive the ball on the half-turn”, Arsenal “didn’t take any risks” against Spurs. 

When you start to play side to side football because forwards aren’t making any runs, you know they’re lacking in confidence; equally when you don’t see any give and go’s. We saw it at Man Utd until Bruno came in, but again, Arsenal don’t have a Bruno or a De Bruyne. 

Struggling to Manage the Situation

So, Arteta is left to adapt to his situation, avoid playing through the middle and put crosses into the box, but Aubameyang isn’t notorious for scoring headers. Arsenal put over 40 crosses into the Tottenham box on Sunday leading to a return of precisely zilch. 

But in a rather odd interview Arteta insisted that more crosses would lead to more goals, “it’s maths, pure maths and it will happen.” I’m sure Arteta would like to invest in the players he wants, whether he is able to do so we shall see.

So, to me, he is managing a situation, the aimless crossing is not a style of football. 

Roy Keane says the “players are not good enough”, which is his go-to, ‘poor mentality’ type comments etc. Yes, there is some of that, but it is the manager’s job to inspire his players. 

Nevertheless, teams like Man City are much more adaptable to various game situations because of their abundance in quality and depth of squad. 

So Roy has a point, they require some players, but the players in that team are not throwaways and need to find something pronto, or this could get ugly.  

Matt takes inspiration from anything sport-related. Growing up (and still) playing Football, Tennis, Golf and Rugby, he developed a keen interest in the competitive nature of high-level sport. That said, Matt’s main focus is on football as it’s where his passion lies.

2 Responses

  1. The spat of losses and poor performance for arsenal is attributed to loss of confidence and quality from players emanating from Arsene Wenger and the same players who played under Unai Emery and now currently Arteta.
    These players are Xhaka, Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi etc.
    Arsenal team needs a new revamp of new players and get rid of the old underperforming players.

    1. Fair points Mark. Based on Arsenal’s winning performance against Chelsea at the weekend it might be time for Arteta to lean more on the young guns like Bukayo Saka.

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