Five problems Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta needs to fix immediately
OPINION By Mirror | November 10th 2020
Just as Arsenal looked to have taken a step forward with victory over Manchester United last weekend, they took a giant leap back with a dismal showing at the Emirates on Sunday.
The Gunners were out-fought, out-thought and inferior in every aspect against a rampant Aston Villa, and the final 3-0 scoreline could have been even worse.
The result leaves Mikel Arteta's side down in 11th position going into the international break, and all the early season optimism appears to be evaporating before their eyes.
Arteta will have a lot of thinking to do before the game against Leeds on November 22, and here are five of the most pressing things he needs to sort out as soon as possible...
1) Get forwards firing
While Arteta has rightly been lauded for improving Arsenal's defence, things have gone completely the other way at the opposite end of the pitch.
Sunday's defeat means the Gunners have now scored just once in their last four Premier League games, and only five sides have found the net fewer times in the division so far this season.
It is simply not good enough.
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The decline of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette from one of the most feared strike partnerships around to a duo that has managed just five goals between them in the league is hugely worrying, especially given the fanfare around the latter's long-awaited lucrative new contract.
Whether motivation is an issue or whether this is simply a bad run of form is up for debate, but one thing is clear: Unless both players up their games considerably, Arsenal will continue to struggle for goals for the foreseeable future.
2) Unleash some creativity
In Aubameyang and Lacazette's defence, however, they have not exactly been presented with a vast amount of goalscoring opportunities.
Arsenal's build-up play has been so slow and predictable in recent weeks, and it was almost embarrassing to contrast with Villa's vibrant, exciting style on Sunday.
With Nicolas Pepe blowing hot and cold and Willian's bright start now nothing but a distant memory, they really seem to be lacking someone who can take a defence on with a bit of pace or thread through a defence-splitting pass.
If only someone like Mesut Ozil was available, eh?
However, that leads us nicely onto the next point...
3) Put more trust in the youngsters
Ozil's legacy may be over, but there are a whole host of talented young players at the club who Arteta could surely make better use of.
Twenty one-year-old midfielder Joe Willock was arguably the best player on the pitch in the Europa League wins against Dundalk and Molde, yet wasn't even involved in the squad against United or Villa.
Eddie Nketiah has also played a bit-part role but has still scored as many goals as Aubameyang in all competitions, while Reiss Nelson is surely also due more opportunities.
If the senior players aren't producing in the Premier League, maybe it is time Arteta freshens it up and gives the kids a chance to potentially make a spot their own in the same way Bukayo Saka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have done recently.
And as for William Saliba... how a player can be signed for £27m and loaned out for a season, only to return and not play a minute of football is a mystery even for Arsenal standards.
4) Settle on favoured formation
Arteta has tended to switch between a 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 set-up so far, but has had mixed success with both.
The back three of Rob Holding, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney were torn apart by Villa on Sunday, but were much more impressive in the win against United.
A back four has generally been favoured in the Europa League, however, while it was also deployed in the Premier League defeat to Manchester City last month.
While Arteta is well within his rights to tinker as he sees fit, critics would argue he himself is still unsure which of the two formations most suits his team.
He will likely be tossing and turning deciding what to opt for against Marcelo Bielsa's dangerous Leeds outfit in the coming couple of weeks.
5) Play to Partey's strengths
We have already seen glimpses of why Arsenal splashed out £52m on Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid on transfer deadline day - but not enough.
The 27-year-old is still settling in north London, but was Man of the Match in the win against United, putting in a number of key tackles and also completing the most dribbles and possessing the best passing accuracy.
This was not replicated against Villa, however, and he and Arsenal were dealt a blow when the Ghanaian midfielder was taken off injured at half-time.
It is unclear how long Partey will be out for, but when he returns it is clear that Arteta must find a way to bring the best out of arguably the most talented player in his team.
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