3 concerns ahead of Arsenal's tough December fixtures

  • Arsenal have a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League table
  • Gunners have a hectic schedule in December
  • League leaders will face Liverpool, West Ham, and Brighton this month

Arsenal FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League / Julian Finney/GettyImages
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Arsenal’s lead atop the Premier League table grew to two points after Manchester City drew with Tottenham 3-3.

Liverpool sit second following a dramatic win over Fulham at home making it seem like the title race is now a three-horse race between the Gunners, Cityzens, and the Reds. While this season’s Arsenal aren't as free-flowing and fluid, the Gunners have relied on game control and defence to its run to the top of the table.

However, a very tough December lies ahead and there are some concerning issues as the Gunners face a stern test of fixtures that include Liverpool, West Ham, and Brighton.


3 concerns ahead of Arsenal's tough December fixtures

1. Strikers not finishing

Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus has scored just one Premier League goal this season / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Gabriel Jesus is much more than a goalscorer for Arsenal. His dribbling, ability in tight spaces, and savvy passing mean he's often an influential figure in the frontline.

But then there's the other side of our number 9: the scoring goals part. While he's missed plenty of games this season due to injuries, the Brazilian has scored just once in the Premier League and is underperforming his xG by 1.9.

He was replaced on Saturday by Eddie Nketiah who, by all accounts, has done what he's been asked to do as the second-choice striker. However, he had a chance to put the match away after being slipped through expertly by Martin Odegaard. Instead of killing the game, Nketiah hit the far post.

Sub-par finishing after a fast start meant Saturday's game was much more tense than it should've been, and Arsenal can ill-afford to be so wasteful when the face up against a Liverpool side, for example, that are capable of scoring relentlessly at Anfield.


2. Oleksandr Zinchenko's lapses

Oleksandr Zinchenko
Oleksandr Zinchenko handed Wolves a goal at the weekend / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Zinchenko provides so much in possession but has proven to be a liability in defence. The goal that was given up on Saturday was due to Zinchenko’s indecisiveness. Instead of just clearing his lines, he tried to make a pass to spring an attack which was intercepted.

I know Zinchenko is asked to play an inverted full-back role and creating in the midfield is part of what he is asked to do. But sometimes the defensive instinct, especially up 2-0, has to come in. Clearing your lines isn’t the worst decision to make.

Throughout the season, it seems like the left side of the Arsenal defence has been the side to attack the most. Zinchenko is given the freedom to roam in central areas. However, he does not have Granit Xhaka's cover at the LCM position. When playing the fast-paced Liverpool or even the free-flowing Brighton, Zinchenko and the left side of the Arsenal defence will be attacked at will.

Maybe the answer is putting Takehiro Tomiyasu in that spot for those matches. This is also where Arsenal miss summer signing Jurrien Timber.


3. Still questions over LCM

Leandro Trossard, Kai Havertz
Leandro Trossard and Kai Havertz are options for the third midfield spot / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

The spot once occupied by Xhaka seems to be a revolving door with nothing solidified. Early on, it was Kai Havertz in the role. Then, after the Thomas Partey at right back experiment failed, Declan Rice was slotted there.

Rice performs a more conservative box-to-back role when deployed in the role, often sitting alongside Jorginho rather than contributing in and around the box.

With Rice starting at the base of midfield after the international break, both Havertz and Leandro Trossard have been utilised in Xhaka's position. We started to see an improvement from Havertz as he netted in back-to-back games, while Trossard's industry means he's a more than competent option.

However, against better opposition, it remains to be seen whether either of these options are suitable.