Following a run of awful results, the pressure is on Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal team to provide the fans with a win in the Premier League. Arsenal sit at 15th in the table, and haven’t won a Premier League game since the November 1st victory at Old Trafford, many fans are calling for the sacking of Arteta. But is it that simple?
Personally I think there is a lot more that can be changed without resulting in the sacking of the manager (who has barely been at the club for a year yet), but Arsenal fans will want to see changes sooner rather than later.
Solution 1: Switch the team up!
Week after week Arsenal fans are forced to watch Willian cross the ball into the box over and over again with no luck. The player was brought in as a free transfer over the summer but has had little impact in games aside from two assists in the first game of the season.
With Arsenal trying to play more fluid, attacking football, why does Mikel Arteta keep playing someone who can’t keep the ball at their feet for more than 2 seconds and looks to pass back before even lifting his head up to see what’s on ahead of him.
Dropping Willian is the first personnel change I would make if I was Arteta, replacing him with either Nicolas Pepe or Reiss Nelson. Both players look to take a man on and drive into the box to create or finish goals, with both of them having great success in doing this in the Europa League this season.
Pepe, who is now available after his 3 game suspension following his red card against Leeds, gives Arteta both pace and power and can play as a second striker, finding most of his goal involvements further in field than on the right wing. Reiss Nelson is the more creative option, he can play centrally as an almost makeshift number 10, but also is great in confined spaces as a touchline winger.
I would like to see some more stability and consistency in midfield. With Granit Xhaka suspended and Thomas Partey injured for the foreseeable future, I believe the most consistent performers in midfield this season have been Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock.
If Arteta is to keep pursuing a midfield 3 in a 4-3-3 formation, I would like to see either of these youngsters fill in alongside Dani Ceballos. You could also play all three in the same midfield, with Willock being the more creative attacking option.
Ideally I would like to see Arsenal line up with a quality attacking midfielder who specialises in breaking down defences with their line breaking passes, enter Emile Smith Rowe. I believe he has proved his quality in the Europa League this season, and is ready to take the step up to start in the Premier League.
Finally, personnel wise, I would like to see changes to the right hand side of defence. Most of the goals conceded by Arsenal this season have come down this right hand side. Hector Bellerin is usually caught out up the pitch and no longer has the same level of pace to get back quick enough, which leaves Rob Holding stranded. Holding is also fairly rash in challenges which is where the problem arises.
In regard to the right back position, Ainsley Maitland-Niles would do a fantastic job. Not only can he deliver a good cross into the box, he had one of the highest tackle success rates last season playing in this position, leaving the right hand side less open. Should he be unavailable, by playing in midfield, Cedric will be able to hold his own until Bellerin’s suspension is over. Even when Bellerin is available though, I believe Maitland-Niles is the better option.
Now I mentioned Rob Holding before, as much as he is a lovely guy, he is a very average centre back. I think it is time to see William Saliba play his first senior game for the gunners. The 19 year old is very composed on the ball, and from what I have seen from his time in France and the games that he has played for the U23 side, he is more aware of his positioning on the pitch when making challenges than Holding.
Solution 2: Go with what you know.
It is well known that Arteta favours a 4-3-3 formation, and has been trying to use this setup for the past couple of games. Until Arsenal have a creative attacking midfielder (who is in favour of the club), there is not anyone at the club who can fill this void. This leads to a lack of creativity, and Arsenal rank in the bottom three in terms of both chances created and shots per game.
Arsenal had a fairly successful string of games last season using a 3-4-3. They used this formation for most games following the national lockdown in the UK which saw all professional sporting events cancelled for a good 3 months.
The main positive of this formation, which Mikel Arteta used to his advantage in many games, was how flexible the setup could be in the transition between attack and defence. It might not have been the prettiest way of playing football, but at least Arsenal were winning games using this formation.
Solution 3: Return of the (assist) King?
The ongoing saga between Mesut Ozil and Arsenal has hardly been a secret, with many people believing him speaking out against the treatment of the Uighur Muslims being the reason he has been ostracised by Arteta. There have now been rumours that there has been unrest within the Arsenal dressing room since the Premier League squad was announced, with many senior players being upset with how Ozil and Sokratis have been treated.
Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy are sticking with the story that the German playmaker has been left out due to ‘footballing reasons’ but surely, with Arsenal creating such a small amount of chances in their games this season, and Ozil being an expert in this area, it would be time to give him a chance.
Despite only being rumours, the unrest within the squad due to Ozil and Sokratis being left out could potentially be true, as Arsenal were performing well in the league before the full squad list was announced without the two senior players. In my opinion, it might be time for Ozil to depart the club, with lucrative offers from Turkey and the MLS being thrown his way.
Trust in Arteta.
Many Arsenal fans will want Arteta gone, and they have the right to feel that way; this is the club’s worst start ever in the Premier League. Fans have been comparing the Spaniard to his predecessor, Unai Emery, who was sacked after a similar run of awful results. But I believe that you can see a system under Arteta, he just does not have the quality of players to pull it off week in, week out.
Arteta has publicly come out and said that he feels the board back him, and we saw glimpses of this in the summer, with club owners KSE shelling out some money (for the first time ever) to help fund a marquee signing. Back Arteta again in the January transfer window and get him the creative midfielder he desires and I can guarantee Arsenal will be back on track within no time.
Despite top 4 looking almost impossible this season for the Gunners, they will hope to continue their impressive form in the Europa League and go all the way to winning their first major European trophy this season. Do this and we could see Arsenal playing Champions League football next season for the first time since 2016.
How would you fix Arsenal Football Club? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!
By James Bousfield
Twitter – @jamesbousfi3ld