Leeds vs Arsenal

There will always be undulating moments for every manager when they land a new job. For a manager like Mikel Arteta who obviously is in his first job, the Gunners fraternity should’ve prepared for trying times like this before now, rather than get carried away with impressive performances that didn’t last long at the initial stages of the season.

Arteta’s men were in action against Premier League newsboys, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, last night at Elland Road and yet again, were far from their best in the barren draw that was characterized by Nicolas Pepe’s childish headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski.

The draw at Leeds means Arsenal are now on a run of only one win in their past five Premier League games, and they’ve only scored once in that spell, too. 

What then could be the cause of this early decline?

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Arteta has clearly succeeded in making Arsenal very difficult to beat since his appointment. On another hand, it’s quite worrisome that Arsenal’s goal-scoring prowess has diminished. And generally, they’ve stalled or simply put, retrogressed from where they were some months ago under the Spaniard. 

After the ninth game of the 2019-20 season under previous boss, Unai Emery, Arsenal had garnered 15 points and were fifth in the table. They had also scored four more goals than the nine so far this campaign and had conceded 12, two more than this season.

Recall the show of ignominy against Aston Villa at the Emirates before the international break, and seeing an unchanged Arsenal side against Leeds last night who created little chances and making their overall play really disappointing.

This has brought about questions on the tactics of the man at the helm – Arteta.

Although, injuries haven’t helped Arteta and we’ve also seen a few other performances this weekend where teams were not quite up to their normal level – which is understandable due to stress from the international break. 

This may be a sterile and unacceptable excuse for Arsenal and the fans. Hence they (fans) sooner or later would become more impatient and call for the head of the manager.

What then, Are Those Things Arteta Needs To Sort Out?

Arsenal’s Attacking Problem

Arsenal have failed to find attacking spark this season. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

It’s apparent that Mikel Arteta has an attacking problem which can no longer be ignored. Where the real concern lies is the attacking numbers; they reflect exactly what we are seeing on the pitch. 

It’s not as if Arsenal are a mediocre attacking team, but a poor setup lacking real attacking quality, incapable of grinding out the match winning formula. 

Gunners’ talisman upfront, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, has stopped scoring as well as other attackers like Alexandre Lacazette whose few goals have now dried up.

The 31-year-old has scored just two Premier League goals this season, and he failed to register a shot on target in Arsenal’s defeat to Villa. In fact, he has registered just 10 shots on target so far this season.

It’s high time Arteta deployed the Gabonese in the centre forward role. As we’ve seen countless times under Arteta, Aubameyang has played on the left-wing, however, he returned to his favourite position at Leeds and was ineffectual once again.

Following Willian’s fantabulous display for the Gunners on the opening day against Fulham, there were questions as to why Chelsea let go of the Brazilian and talk of how the Gunners had pulled off the signing of the season.

But the last couple of months have shown that Willian’s opening day masterclass is a thing of the past. Indeed, Willian’s struggles have perfectly exposed Arsenal’s lack of cutting edge in the final third. 

He’s definitely not going to rack up a high number of goals for Arsenal. However, he hasn’t scored a goal since his switch from Chelsea nor added to his opening day assists. 

It’s not the kind of return Arteta and the Gooners would have hoped for from the 32-year-old.

For the £72million signing, Pepe has also struggled a whole lot since his arrival; not for goals, but for more playing time. His overall delivery is definitely not the type that Arsenal fans would cheer about.

Nicolas Pepe gets sent off for Arsenal
Pepe’s dismissal extinguished what little threat in Arsenal’s attack. (Kevin Quigley/ The Daily Mail)

After expressing frustration about his lack of playing minutes during the International window, the Ivorian was given a start at Leeds and ultimately sealed the fate of a blurred attacking performance with his needless 51st minute sending off.

He’s shown for a couple of times that he could be responsible, but his inconsistency has been a major worry for the manager. Therefore, it’s agreeable that the Spanish gaffer is unconvinced with the Ivorian who has only started twice in the Premier League this season.

Now, he will face a three-game domestic suspension pondering how to pick up the pieces.

Pertinently, the loss of Pepe and the injured Bukayo Saka throws up the apparent lack of squad depth in Arsenal’s attacking ranks. Arteta is left with only Willian and Reiss Nelson as his senior wingers.

Amidst the palpable lack of quality or ideas at the moment, perhaps the club should bury the hatchet with Mesut Özil and give him a recall? 

Arsenal have long deviated from their traditionally vibrant forward play, whereas their best creative talent won’t even be allowed to earn his wages.

Babajide Adewunmi-EverBlazin
November 23, 2020
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