Arsenal slumped to another atrocious defeat against Wolves on Sunday.
What is there to say? How do you even begin to analyse a performance so bereft of enjoyment or life? Arsenal have nose-dived into a trend where every life raft in sight is riddled with holes.
From the get-go the players looked like shadows of their once decent selves. It was Wolves who came to the Emirates, but you might as well have just turned the clock back to Aston Villa.
The visitors went in front, deservedly, after some diabolical defending, with Gabriel’s header moments later papering over a crack that is engulfing this football club. Daniel Podence‘s strike was inevitable and yet another display of ineptitude.
Next up on the fixture list is a trip to the side top of the table on their own patch, and if there are confident supporters out there who genuinely believe a positive result is attainable, then please, get in touch. You may need to speak to someone.
Here we go then. Three things we learned from another defeat, one that leaves Arsenal 14th in the Premier League table after ten matches. Yes, you read that right.
Invest or Surrender
Mikel Arteta is trying to play a certain brand of football. Klaxon alert, he doesn’t have the right players.
Crafting a system that brought with it trophy-shaped success last season, the reasons behind the back three were clear: no defenders were capable of playing in another setup and the lack of creativity in the team was subsidised for counter-attacking football where pace could be utilised.
Arsenal still don’t have the creative tools they need but the formation has reverted to what it is. Nobody wants to see Arteta play three central defenders long-term, yet the squad are simply better suited to it.
January can’t come soon enough. The need for two creative midfielders, a No. 10 and a No. 8, are clear as day. Without such operators in this system Arsenal can’t pose sides any threat. If there is no investment in that department then we can throw the towel in for the Premier League season entirely.
It’s probably too late already.
Europa League Becomes Essential
Securing a top four berth was always going to pose obstacles, so too the Europa League. Just ten matches into the season and the Champions League places look beyond Arsenal.
Mathematically, they obviously aren’t. Realistically, they are.
The Europa League is an extremely grueling competition with top sides still left in it. Not even looking past England there are two teams stronger and more prepared to win it than the Gunners.
Arsenal are miles off finishing top of the pile. Being handed a kind draw while the other big sides are dealt cruel ties is now the best chance of lifting the title. How important it has become, however, goes beyond recognition.
With no upturn in league form in sight, the eggs are already finding their way into the Europa League basket. As supporters, it’s the only time we can draw fragments of happiness from watching the team. That is, against far, far worse opposition. How damning.
The Senior Players Lack Leadership
Granit Xhaka will rightly shoulder heaps of criticism for one of his worst displays for the club. No question. However, the normal scapegoats can’t be alone in their scorn. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not performing to an acceptable level.
There is no denying whatsoever that the structure of the team does not operate in a way that suits his needs. Passes into him are always to feet, that is, of course, if he even receives the ball at all.
His body language was all wrong. When any team are in a rut then heads drop, but Aubameyang is the captain of the club. We’re at a point where Arsenal need dragging through the mud. Aubameyang cut a figure more likely to sink into it.
Not alone by any stretch of the imagination, sticking up for this group of senior players grows harder by the week. While Arteta is far from infallible, he’s being thrown under the bus by a troupe who’ve been in this situation before. Take Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Magalhaes out of this team and you’d be hard pressed to see us winning any of the matches we have done this season.
Worse of all, after the game nobody fronted up to face the media and explain themselves. Who got made to do media duties? Joe Willock. That’s not leadership.
Arsenal Have Hit An Insurmountable Mental Hurdle
One that has been in place for years.
Shape? Forget it. Tactics? Irrelevant. This issue delves deeper into the psyche.
Arsenal have a wealth of talent in their ranks that can’t win the mental battle. Ingrained into the minds of the players is a hurdle that you’d never believe existed. Training appears stern, but jovial – unity within the squad, a team feeling also appears present.
So why, when they take to the pitch, does all of that unravel?
There is no player who can grab their teammates by the scruff of the neck and thrust them into life. Saka is the only one who is undeterred by his surroundings and capable of focusing solely on his football. Most of the others just crumble, accepting of their demise.
It’s no more noticeable with the pace of the play. Arsenal don’t come firing out of the blocks, they start in first gear and trudge their way into second by the 90th minute. As soon as the white line is crossed, all positivity is sapped out. How and why that happens we still don’t know, but it only gets worse.
Emile Smith Rowe Has to Start Premier League Matches
Willock is not a No. 10. Played as an eight, as seen against Molde, he’s more comfortable with where he picks up the ball and the spaces he has to run into. Attempting once more to play him in the hole against Wolves, as had been tried against Leeds, deja vu struck.
If Arsenal are to have more joy operating in a 4-2-3-1, which they will, then the right personnel need to fill the right roles. There is only one person in the squad who can fulfill that remit: Emile Smith Rowe.
Nobody else has the guile and cunning on the ball to play that position. Trying to analyse the various methods that could be sought out to solve this torrid situation always result in the same common denominator. Him. It can’t be any worse.
Should Arteta seek to persist with this setup – which is the best way to maximise their strengths without returning to a back three – then the realisation that suitable squad members, regardless of their inexperience, are better suited than other, less able, players being shoehorned into slots they’re weak in.
You want creativity? Then play it.