Sometimes, it takes a heavy defeat to highlight the overall problems of a team and in case of Arsenal, Aston Villa obliged with an emphatic thumping at the Emirates, yet it was the nature of the defeat that was so unpalatable.
Arsenal never turned up for a fight or showed any resolve when things went against them. They simply gave up and rolled over. Over the last few days, I’ve been analysing that defeat and the direction in which, I think we need to head.
Arsenal’s recent trophy wins in the early stages of Arteta’s revolution have been misleading for many reasons and it’s given the impression, to some at least, that there’s less work to do. There’s still a massive amount of work ahead and on the evidence of recent performances, more new faces are required.
However, there are a few things that could be changed at Arsenal immediately that would solve some problems and have a positive impact on the side until Arteta can buy reinforcements.
1. Playing Luiz Further Forward:
It’s recognised that the Brazilian has a great touch and vision. He is probably the only player at present capable of providing a quality ball over distance and into space. Ceballos hasn’t shown himself as that player, while Xhaka and Elneny are not capable of providing that type of incisive killer pass. So, it makes sense to push Luiz slightly forward to take up residency with Thomas Partey.
The defender lacks pace but can provide some additional cover as a defensive/creative midfielder. I’m surprised Arteta hasn’t tried this yet because a huge number of fans have been thinking along these lines since the end of last season.
In the Arsenal vs Leicester game, it was Luiz who was causing the main problems for the visitors, by popping balls forward and looking to open up the Foxes’ defence. It needs to happen urgently and he needs to be less troubled by his defensive duties.
2. The Inclusion of Saliba or Return of Mari:
Arteta needs to think hard about the balance of his defence because it’s clear that Rob Holding is not capable of delivering consistently at the highest level. Mustafi and Sokratis are even worse and Chambers is also clearly no more than average. Either Mari or Saliba needs to be drafted into the side as soon as possible.
Let’s also consider Konstantinos Mavropanos, who was surprisingly placed on loan to Stuttgart. He is still awaiting his chance and could well be another long term option in the Arsenal defence.
3. The Automatic Return of Martinelli:
With Lacazette struggling and Nketiah less than convincing, it may be time to promote the exciting Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli. Martinelli could go on the left flank or in a central role. Personally, I’d put him out wide left and bring Aubameyang in to reboot the Arsenal attack.
Arsenal can’t create goals or face problems scoring them when presented with opportunities and therefore, urgent measures need to be taken and fans would be thrilled to see the regular inclusion of the young striker when fully fit. The player has physically developed in his absence, clearly putting in the hours at the gym, so that when he returns, he can add another dimension to his attacking game.
As much as I like the considerable work that Lacazette does on the field, his role is as a striker. Arteta needs to wield the axe before the Gunners embark on a prolonged slump into the wrong end of the table.
4. Aubameyang in Central Role:
Fans have been calling for Aubameyang to replace Lacazette as Arsenal’s main striker because it’s generally felt that the service to him out wide makes him almost redundant. I’d go as far as saying there’s no point including him in his current role. A role that includes non-existent service from the likes of the underperforming Pepe and Willian.
Lacazette’s failure to convert chances has ensured that he will be benched shortly or sold in January. Arsenal need goals, they need a natural striker who can make limited opportunities count, but the Frenchman has shown that he can only score around one in six chances.
Top-flight football gives few seconds chances and in games with the best teams in the world, they become fewer. In a final, I have serious doubts that Lacazette can deliver at the crucial moment of a contest.
5. Reiss Nelson to Replace Pepe and Willian:
As obvious as it is that Martinelli and Aubameyang need to trade roles in the attack, it’s becoming clear that Reiss Nelson should replace Pepe and Willian because both have lacked consistency and quality. Arteta has tried to persevere with both in the hope that one or both would find their form, but the Arsenal coach now has to find answers to problems that have remained unresolved since the first few games of the Premier League.
Nelson is quick, committed, and ambitious, he can score goals but he can also increase the supply into the dangerous areas. Nelson has steadily improved, impressing on his limited appearances. Perhaps, now is his time, he can’t be any less consistent than the other available options.
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