As the Premier League prepares to return for the remainder of the season, here are three areas Mikel Arteta must improve his Arsenal team to gain Champions League qualification.
The Premier League is set to return in mid-June. And despite enduring a dreadful season in which they slipped into the bottom half at points, Arsenal still have an outside shot at rescuing Champions League qualification. That is largely due to the influence of new head coach Mikel Arteta, who has improved the team no end since his arrival in late-December. However, there is still work to be done.
Here are three areas that Arteta must further improve his team if they are to do what seemed impossible just a few matches ago.
3. Creativity and incision
Initially, Arteta set about fixing the defence. Primarily, he did this in two ways: re-instigating the high press that has slipped in intensity and focus as Unai Emery’s tenure entered its more disastrous final months; using a high defensive line to compact the pitch and aid the pressing work of the attacking players. However, while this improved Arsenal’s defensive record, it left them struggling to create and score goals.
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Arteta built the team around Mesut Ozil, who plays in a free-roaming attacking midfield position that should be perfect for him. The German has been much-improved, playing smoothly in possession and, surprisingly, working hard without the ball. However, he has not been the same creative force as in previous years.
This is not just Ozil’s fault, of course, but he has not been a solution to the problem either. On the whole, Arsenal have lacked incision in their attacking play. They build out from the back neatly, they control possession well, but they lack that penetration in the final third to unlock defences. Arteta will need to find it, and it likely rests on Ozil finding his best form.