The Emirates Stadium Has Become a Playground, Not a Fortress

Arsenal have sunk to their lowest under Mikel Arteta.

Despite it spelling the end of last season’s European venture, I’d quite comfortably categorise what we saw against Aston Villa as worse than that night against Olympiacos. Arsenal are entrenched in a rut as we speak, and the next two weeks will require coaching and tactical analysis beyond anything Mikel Arteta and his staff have delved into thus far.

Analytically, the answer isn’t so elusive. This team, with the personnel that started, will not score goals in the current attacking blueprint. Any side, no matter how littered with talent, would come unstuck in the format that has become the status quo for this Arsenal side.

The issue is prevalent everywhere, but nowhere is it more evident than at the Emirates Stadium.

In four games on home soil this season, Arsenal have scraped past an unlucky West Ham, narrowly beaten a woeful Sheffield United, lost to Leicester and been embarrassed against Aston Villa. Statistically, that’s scored four, conceded six; having 38 shots in total and facing 41.

Arsenal are in disarray, and any side seeing the Emirates Stadium on the fixture list will be salivating at the thought. No side fears going to play Arsenal. Nor should they.

Arteta wants his side to dominate the ball and work the opponent. You can count on the Gunners to do one of those elements. Crab-like probing in the opposition half with no standout options to distribute the ball is easy for the visitors to set up against. They needn’t shift away from their formation. Their low-block is impenetrable, regardless of how watertight it may be.

Away from home, Arsenal can marginally get away with their attacking ineptitude given the onus isn’t solely on them to pile forward. Yet, at home, other teams are soaking up ‘pressure’ like it’s a routine training drill against their youth sides.

Unthreatened, they can disperse their energy where it matters, in the form of interchangeable, fluid attacking motions that are delivered with pace and poise. Arsenal can’t cope.

Villa, for example, will have gone into the match with two mindsets. The defenders prepare for manageable meandering in their half, while the forwards eagerly await for their offensive moves where they can use the turf like a playground. Freedom to express and experiment without apprehension of being sucker-punched.

It’s too easy. Nobody fears going to Arsenal.