Why Arsenal's striker-less system is unsustainable

• Unwanted broken records

• Set-piece frustration

• Inability to change games

Leandro Trossard has mitigated Gabriel Jesus' absence
Leandro Trossard has mitigated Gabriel Jesus' absence / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Arsenal's pre-winter looked to be a thing of the past, but Porto was a stark reminder that Arsenal's striker-less system is not a sustainable option going forward.

Against Porto, as we fell to a 1-0 away defeat in the UEFA Champions League (UCL), Arsenal failed to register a single shot on target for the first time since January 2022, when the Gunners lost 1-0 away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.

It was also the first time that Arsenal have failed to register a shot on target in a UCL game since 2011, signalling several unwanted records that were broken with the defeat.

While, before this game, the team had scored 21 goals in their last five games, it now looks like a fair assessment to suggest that, as fans, we were lulled into a false sense of security, with it clear that serious issues can, and will, still arise from not having or using a striker.

Do not get carried away

While it is a conversation that definitely needs to be had, we should be careful not to be too reactionary, and any suggestion that our season is doomed based on one poor performance is extreme, to say the least.

While the inability to shoot, let alone score, in Portugal is of real concern, we have seen in recent weeks that this team is more than capable of finding goals, and lots of them.

A lack of options

Leandro Trossard
FC Porto v Arsenal FC: Round of 16 First Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

It has been clear that when things do not work for Arsenal, it really does not work and there is often no plan B, which is not aided by the lack of a world-class striker in the squad.

Against Porto, we saw Mikel Arteta make just a single substitution as Eddie Nketiah, the only fit striker at the club, was unused.

With the current injury to Gabriel Jesus, and Nketiah looking as though he is not trusted by Arteta, Arsenal have a real problem with being able to change games, and look incredibly one-dimensional in attack.

Attack subdued as set-pieces fail

I would be cautious to suggest that Arsenal rely entirely on set pieces as a means to find goals without a natural striker starting, as this very clearly is not the case, but when our set pieces are thwarted, it is undeniable that the team struggle more offensively, like against Porto.

Declan Rice
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal FC - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

It has so often been a reliable option for goals for the Gunners, having scored more than any other team in the Premier League, but against Porto it almost felt as though there was an over-reliance put on these, despite it being clear from early on that the hosts were comfortable dealing with them.

Without a world-class striker in the squad, and no recognised striker in the starting lineup at all, it is clear that the team struggle to adapt and lack confidence, and possibly sometimes ability, in finishing chances, and even taking them on in the first place.

A clear conclusion

So with all of this taken into account, it is clear that Arsenal, and Mikel Arteta, simply cannot persist with this striker-less system as we look to challenge for major honours this season.

It is somewhat baffling that Nketiah was trusted so much last season in the absence of Jesus, but now it feels as though he is simply making up the numbers.

Given some of our offensive struggles, it is baffling that he has not been trusted, or given a chance, for a greater role in the team.

With that being said, it is by no means time to write off the season, as it has been shown time and time again that we are perfectly capable of scoring en masse when things work in our favour, and there is every reason to be optimistic ahead of the run in.