Is Mikel Arteta onto something at Arsenal?
Arsenal have creative issues bordering on a crisis. The Gunners have failed to register a Premier League goal from open play for almost two months(!) and managed just one goal of any description in the competition during the month of November.
Bizarrely, the picture could hardly be more different in the Europa League where, against admittedly weaker opposition, we have recorded 12 goals, including three in Thursday night’s win against Molde. The victory provided the boost our season needed, but one of the most intriguing aspects of the performance was the role assigned to Alexandre Lacazette.
Mikel Arteta’s preference for defensive stability this term has come at the expense of our trademark attacking prowess, placing increased pressure on the forwards to be clinical.
Lacazette’s failure to do so has badly affected his confidence and he is a shadow of the player who deservedly claimed Arsenal’s Player of the Year award in 2018/19. Although his form has dipped, Arteta has continued to show great faith and even gave the forward a new proposition for our European trip to Norway.
There was a consensus on Thursday night that Arteta had opted for a 4-4-2 formation, with Joe Willock operating in attacking midfield and Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah leading the line together. However, as the action unfolded, it was instead the former Lyon man who found himself behind the striker, finding pockets of space and trying to bring others into play.
Disappointingly, Lacazette had a quiet evening in spite of the role change, struggling to impose himself on proceedings and spurning a number of good opportunities. However, to see the boss taking such drastic action to address our problems was very encouraging and it may provide him with some food for thought in future games.
This latest tweak was an interesting development in Arteta’s tactical development. Our number nine encompasses much of what the boss demands from the squad, such as a willingness to both track back and press defenders and to hold the ball up in tight situations. These qualities could greatly benefit the team in the absence of a world-class creative midfielder (ahem!), and with the January transfer window still a few weeks away, fielding Lacazette in the middle may be a viable short-term solution.
Now, before anyone thinks I’m losing my marbles, I understand that Lacazette is no Mesut Ozil, and perhaps it is too late for him to reinvent himself as a playmaker. However, this central role (while it may have simply been a one-off) allows us to shoehorn more attacking talent into the side, maintains the desired industry in midfield and enables the Frenchman to play to his strengths.
The Premier League goal drought must end soon, and this could be one way to do it.