Breakthrough duo prove they can give Mikel Arteta balance to unlock Arsenal’s struggling attack – Chris Davison


How times change.

If there was one weak spot within the Arsenal team over the years, nine times out of ten we would point our fingers at the defence. Conceding silly goals or too many for that matter was an almost repetitive occurrence!

It still has its problems today, but now the attack is an area that we should be concerned about more than anything.

Arsenal have kept three clean sheets in the last four league games whilst only scoring five goals during that period, three of which came in the North London Derby two weeks ago.

Despite encouraging signs during that win against Tottenham, the attack has often been below par and not at the levels it should be. After a diabolical start, we’ve started winning games and that’s great, but there will be times when one goal isn’t enough to get us over the line.

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Casting our minds back to the Norwich and Burnley games in particular, the team created a good amount of chances but lacked the final product on so many occasions. Getting into dangerous positions and creating opportunities is only one part of the job, but then they need to be put away in order to kill the game off.

The Spurs clash was a perfect example of what I want to see more often. Energy, confidence and that deadly instinct in front of goal. I remember watching the match and thinking, ‘Where has this been?’. It was as if the players were finally on the same page, from Odegaard to Saka to Smith Rowe and then Aubameyang up top, they all just seemed to click, exploding into life.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t replicate it against Brighton in what was a rather dull performance and it again highlighted the frustrations many of us have had so far this season.

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The attacking quality Mikel Arteta has at his disposal is exciting, talented and dangerous. But it hasn’t been showing that danger on a consistent basis. It can be very hot and cold, and that’s understandably been a big concern. If it wasn’t for the excellent displays from Aaron Ramsdale and his backline, the Gunners may have been looking at another defeat against the seagulls. Despite having some good chances, albeit limited, Arsenal’s forwards were not clinical enough and couldn’t take advantage.

It’s certainly a learning curve for the players and something I’m sure Arteta and his coaches are actively trying to work on. The potential is there, now it’s about making it function at the levels we know it can.

Aubameyang struggled in attack during Arsenal's goalless draw against Brighton.
Aubameyang looked like he was getting back to his best against Spurs but then struggled at the Amex and was quiet throughout.

Now, I’m not a fan of international breaks, as is the case with the majority of supporters. However, the most recent one could have been exactly what our forwards needed. 8 Arsenal players scored or provided assists for their respective countries, 4 of which were attackers.

Smith Rowe scored 1 for the England U21’s and received Man of the Match, Saka scored 1 for England’s senior team, Pepe scored 1 for Ivory Coast whilst Aubameyang scored 1 and also provided an assist for Gabon. Even Thomas Partey scored twice, is there any chance he can wear a Ghana shirt whilst playing for us?

In all seriousness though, these impressive performances from several key players will hopefully now bring the best out of them for club as well as country. When you are not scoring goals or at least making contributions, your confidence can drop, and I think that’s been the case for quite a few individuals within the squad, especially the likes of Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe.

The October international break is over and all eyes are back on the Premier League, with Arsenal having two fixtures in five days. First up is Crystal Palace at home on Monday next week, followed by another home clash against Aston Villa that Friday. Neither match will be straightforward and as we know, Arsenal very rarely like to do things the easy way.

Despite this, it’s still two games with the Emirates crowd behind the team and they are perfect opportunities to return to winning ways. The line-ups Arteta opts for will obviously play a key role in the potential outcome of either fixture, and there is plenty to think about for the Spaniard.

Does he go with a 4-2-3-1 as we saw against Brighton or return to a 4-3-3? I’m personally leaning towards the latter at the moment. Goalkeeper and defence can stay the same, but I would have Partey operating as the sole midfield pivot with Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard the two No 8’s in front. Saka should stay out on the right as that’s where he is at his best, then I would freshen things up a little by bringing Gabriel Martinelli in on the left with Aubameyang as the main striker.

With that setup, there is plenty of attacking quality whilst also having enough energy in midfield and out wide to help defensively as well. Martinelli has endured a difficult time of late and his minutes have been limited, but with his work rate, pace and creative nature, will have the ability to make things happen and offer something a bit different.

It is still early days, but the defence is finally starting to look organised and strong, with the additions of Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ben White proving to be shrewd business so far. The return of Gabriel has also been instrumental in the change in form. But now it’s time to get things ticking going forward, and if that balance can be found, Arsenal are more than capable of having a very good season.

Over to you, lads.

How would you like Arteta to set up the team vs Crystal Palace? Follow our new Arsenal Fan Brands Writer Chris Davison on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Source by Football London

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