Arsenal fans have been ripping Mikel Arteta for his recent comments.
In his press conference before Arsenal face Rapid Vienna for the second time in the Europa League, Mikel Arteta made a rather strange comment about crossing, one that has led to some serious backlash from the fans.
Let’s be honest, we looked s**t against Wolves, with only marginal improvement from the first to second half. And one of the paradigms of our blasé performance was the number of aimless balls we lumped into the box that found absolutely nobody.
The only person remotely near any of the crosses – hell, the only person in the 18-yard box at all – was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and he looked like he’d just spent the night on an airport floor. Too soon?
So why is Arteta defending Arsenal crossing balls? It’s clear that it doesn’t work. We’ve only converted one real cross this season, and it was Gabriel against Wolves. A majority of our other goals (yeah, all ten of them) have come from cutbacks, set-pieces, or from outside the box.
There’s a very simple answer: he’s working with what he has. Not because we’re a talented bunch of distributors, nor because we’re a particularly tall team. Neither of those things are remotely true. But as it was in the last years of Wenger, and under Emery, this Arsenal team look frightened to play through the press.
Arteta recognizes his players’ inability to pass through the press. We as a squad do not have the talent, nor the ability, to do so. We’re not mobile enough, or creative enough, or consistent enough. His 3-4-3 formation was keyed to exploiting the wide spaces, and his 4-2-3-1 setup seems to do the same.
The unfortunate solution to wide overloads is that chance-creation comes at a premium from crossing scenarios. Which would be great for a team like Liverpool, but is pretty awful for Arsenal. And yet, there’s something to be said for praising crossing.
This Arsenal team is taking the bass-ackwards route of avoiding their deficiencies, instead of playing to their strengths, but they’re still trying to create. Sure, it’s mostly useless. Sure, we have the second-lowest goal tally in the league. Sure, our star center-forward has an xG of 0.3 over the last two games. But they’re still trying.
Until Arteta has the personnel and the balance to establish the offensive scheme he wants, he must use what he has at his disposal, and design a system around his players. And it may not win us games, but at least it’s something. The eternal optimist.