After a tough start for Arsenal in the league, we are truly back now and it’s good to be a Gooner again. The main reason for this incredible turnaround is our focus on keeping it tight at the back and taking our chances when they arrive. Arsenal remain a work in progress but a solid defence will always be the backbone of any successful team. The boys conceded an eye-watering ten goals in just three games at the start of the season but since then only four goals in eight games, which is great.
The team have also started to score goals but it is fair to say this remains an area for improvement. 13 goals in eight games, about 1.6 goals per game, is nothing to write home about of course. We had one 0-0 v Brighton and three 1-0 to the Arsenals, and two games in which we scored two goals (Leicester and Palace) and two games in which we scored three goals (Villa and Spuds).
I reckon we will start to see further improvement in the next ten games but there is quite a challenge for Arteta and co to get our attack to work better. The big issue is how to combine creation and finishing of chances optimally. In principle all players play a role in our attack, from keeper to CF, but the main players are taking up the four attacking positions in front of the deep laying ‘DMs’.
It is hard to get things right at the moment as there are five players who ideally all play but for whom there are only four positions if we want to stick to two deep-laying midfielders, which certainly has my preference. Auba and Laca ideally both play and the same goes for the Ode and ESR, but that would leave Saka out which is almost unthinkable right now. Something/somebody has to give and that seems to be the handsome viking. It has meant that we needed more creative support from the other players and this has not been bad at all. With Tierney returning soon we will get better passes and crosses from the left (even though Tavares has not been bad at this) and with Partey (and hopefully soon Xhaka too) we have an allround midfielder who can pick a creative pass now and again. Lokonga has also shown real promise in the last few games.
Still, Odegaard is the sort of player who has to play regularly and the same goes for Smith Rowe of course. Ideally, we can fit them both in. But whom to leave out? Saka, Auba or Laca? Saka’s wing play is a real weapon on the right; Laca has been awesome in connecting up with his fellow players and creating space for others; Auba has worked hard but all this hard labour has made him less predatory when it comes to taking his chances. Still, I love Auba for buying into the Arteta philosophy and working his socks off. Laca suffers a bit from the same and if and when they start combining the hard work with some cool finishing we will see a step improvement in our average goals per PL game going forward.
In our highest score games, when we scored three, we had either both of Auba and Laca or both of ESR and Ode on the pitch, so the jury is still out in terms of what works best. And maybe that is just what Arteta wants right now: either focus on more creativity or more finishing power depending on our opponent. The big question is still what is the optimum combination up-front and we will find out about this in the next couple of months, no doubt. It may well be that Arteta will need to buy one or two attackers who are more natural at combining hard work and cool finishing, and January’s TW will be interesting in that respect.
What is your ‘ideal four’ in attack and why?