‘Typical Arsenal’ is how I would describe our last three results. Impressive displays against two elite teams in Europe followed by a game, where we fail to deliver when the emphasis is on us to impose our game. What the result against Aston Villa does is it continues to provide a gentle reminder that the current squad is incapable of providing the consistency required to finish in the top four.
Whilst games against the so called ‘big four/five’ are crucial in understanding where you currently stand against the elite sides within the division, they are not the games that determine your top four destiny. Under the latter stages of Wenger’s reign, barring the last two years, our ability to pick up three points regularly against teams we were expected to beat enabled us to finish consistently in the top four. Obviously we picked up points, particularly at home, against the ‘big teams’ occasionally but our performances and results against the ‘smaller teams’ were the major reasons as to why we achieved Champions League football.
We have only done the double, both home and away, against Newcastle and West Ham this season! This is the problem. This is a crucial aspect that we must address and improve on significantly next season under Arteta. Chelsea, who sit third, have lost 11 games this season! Had we converted a few draws into wins, we would have been right in the mix. I believe our biggest problem as to why we struggle to beat the ‘lesser sides ‘is because of our lack of creativity in between the lines.
Under Arteta, defensively as a unit we have improved significantly, picking up 11 clean sheets in 26 games. Obviously I’m fully aware that we are desperately in need of a commanding, physical, ball playing CB that will enable us to play Arteta’s favoured four at the back system. But there is a clear difference in approach adopted and type of performance needed when playing against different teams.
To beat the big teams, particularly away from home, our defensive display is the key in achieving the desired result. Examples are our last two big results against Manchester City and Liverpool. Organisation, discipline, concentration and defensive structure out of possession, followed by being ruthless when chances arrived was how we were able to win these two games.
But against the smaller sides, the onus is on us to impose our game as the opposition are more likely to sit deep, remain compact and look to nullify spaces. Palace away, Burnley away and Villa away are games where we have lacked a player who can drift in between the lines, and provide key passes to our attackers and create chances. Ozil was able to do it previously but now isn’t able to provide the consistency required. If we don’t address this area of the squad, achieving top four will be extremely difficult next season. Especially when you know Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves Leicester e.c.t are all going to strengthen key areas of their squads and go again next season.
Arteta knows this. When asked about the need for more goal involvements from midfield, Mikel replied ‘Absolutely. If we talk about playing with two attacking midfielders, even more’. Reading between the lines here clearly suggests he is looking to implement a system reminiscent to Pep’s 4-3-3, with two advanced 8’s providing the connections to the front three. Similarly to the way KDB and Silva do at City.
Now there are strong rumours surfacing around the potential arrival of Philippe Coutinho. I think the connections we have with Kia Joorabchian, means that there could be truth in this deal. But what I will say is that he would be PERFECT! Vision, creativity, intelligence, decision making in the final third, weight of pass, trickery which enables him to go past players and provides a goal threat. These are few of his many attributes that we lack in midfield. He would help substantially in providing a link to our front three.
At 28 years old, he would be arriving at his peak. 9 goals and 8 assists for Bayern this season as well. We haven’t provided half the amount of goals he has scored from our midfield! Guendouzi swap, loan deal, permanent deal are all rumoured. But we must do this deal in my opinion, providing wages are not ridiculous. He’s one of my number one choices along with Emilliano Buendia, who is younger, but is also able to play effectively in between the lines and provide creativity. But whether its Coutinho, Buendia or someone else, we have to bring in an advanced/creative midfielder as it will allow us to unlock stubborn defences which will enable our attacking stars to flourish.
What has been Manchester United’s biggest problem earlier on in the season? Their inability to break teams down who play low block. Their fluid front three in Greenwood, Martial and Rashford have tremendous quality but lacked supply lines, which prevented them from being at their best. The signing of Bruno changed the whole dynamic. His influence and creativity has provided the front three with more goal scoring opportunities. We need that type of signing and Coutinho could provide that in my opinion. A player of this quality will help solve to some extent our lack of creativity. Let’s say we sign Ceballos on for next season. A trio of Xhaka, Ceballos and Coutinho would definitely help provide a better link to the front three and give them more goal-scoring opportunities. This would in turn, give us a better chance of beating the ‘teams we are expected to beat.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.