Toothlessness in Aston Villa Defeat Shows Need for Mikel Arteta to Sharpen Arsenal's Attack

Nov 9, 2020, 5:30 PM GMT
Mikel Arteta is left frustrated with Arsenal's attack after defeat to Aston Villa
Mikel Arteta is left frustrated with Arsenal's attack after defeat to Aston Villa | Pool/Getty Images
facebooktwitterreddit

Sunday's Premier League clash at home to Aston Villa presented an ideal opportunity for Arsenal to showcase their attacking potential under Mikel Arteta.

The Gunners had the chance to improve upon a disciplined and determined win at Old Trafford by turning on the style against Villa.

Instead, Arsenal took one step back in what was a deserved 3-0 defeat. While the Villans' dynamic trio of Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley constantly caused Arsenal problems, the hosts' attack was stagnant and static.

The lack of a goalscoring threat is becoming a worryingly consistent theme of Arteta's Arsenal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who played the full 90 minutes, failed to register a single shot on goal, the first time he has done so in a home Premier League match.

Going down by three goals to nil means that Arsenal currently have the sixth worst goalscoring record in the division.

In part, this is down to Arteta's desire to make Arsenal a tougher side to beat. His post-lockdown preference for a structurally solid 3-4-3 has seen his side become a tougher nut to crack than the peanut brittle it resembled at the end of Unai Emery's ill-fated reign.

The Gunners have struggled for goals so far this season
The Gunners have struggled for goals so far this season | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Herein lies the problem with Arsenal's current attacking set-up: the players are so intent on keeping their shape that any attacking fluidity and unpredictability has gone.

Failing to score against Villa extended Arsenal's run without a goal from open play to an incredible six hours and 26 minutes. Nine goals scored in eight league games is the fewest the Gunners have scored at this stage of a campaign since 1998/99.

So, where does Arteta go from here?

In an effort to re-kindle his team's attacking flame, the Spaniard could look to the two Europa League games Arsenal have played at home so far this season. Undoubtedly, Dundalk and Molde are not at the level of Villa or Leicester.

Joe Willock has been impressive in the Europa League
Joe Willock has been impressive in the Europa League | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

However, Arteta has taken the approach in Europe of pushing opponents back by dictating play with the likes of Joe Willock darting into the box from midfield to create an overload. Against Premier League sides who are willing to be more adventurous, this tactic could serve as a blueprint to increase Arsenal's chance creation.

After such a one-sided defeat, Arteta's player selection must also come into question.

The acquisition of Willian on a free transfer from Chelsea was made with the thought that he would not need time to settle in the Premier League. However, he is yet to hit his stride in north London. Aside from a decent debut performance at Fulham, the Brazilian has failed to impress, while £72m signing Nicolas Pepe has been consigned to the bench for the last three league games.

Pepe has not started in the Premier League since 17 October
Pepe has not started in the Premier League since 17 October | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Alexandre Lacazette has struggled to rediscover his goalscoring form of two seasons ago. The Frenchman seemingly misses a golden chance every week. In an attempt to maximise the skillset of his best player, Arteta has to consider moving Aubameyang into a more central role and starting Bukayo Saka. Although the youngster scored an own goal against Villa, he has continued to show signs of promise from the left flank, notably in the defeat at Manchester City.

The aforementioned Willock is yet to appear in a Premier League game this season but, if the Hale End graduate continues to impress in Europe, his opportunity will come sooner rather than later. The case for the 21-year-old to feature more regularly is boosted by the lack of players Arsenal have with comparable qualities.

Arteta must turn his attention to attack if Arsenal are to challenge for the top four
Arteta must turn his attention to attack if Arsenal are to challenge for the top four | Julian Finney/Getty Images

The lack of creative talent at Arsenal is holding Arteta back from making clear and decisive progress. For the most part, Sunday's defeat aside, he has created a team that is tough to beat.

The next step in his rebuilding job as Arsenal manager is to transform the attack into a ruthless firing squad because, at the moment, they are shooting blanks.

facebooktwitterreddit