Where has it all gone wrong for Arsenal?

By on December 10, 2020

pierre-emerick aubameyang arsenal 2020

It is fair to say that this Premier League season has been like no other. Although that is usually the message spouted by the broadcasters, it is a statement that still stands after the first three months of proceedings.

Talk of shock results and the erosion of home advantage have come to the forefront as of late and as we enter the month of December, we are finally at a point where the fluctuation of the league table is becoming less volatile.

That is not something that makes for good reading if you are an Arsenal fan. With the club now edging ever closer to the relegation zone, questions are being asked about the managerial style of Mikel Arteta.

With the former Manchester City assistant winning both the F.A. Cup and the Community Shield over the course of the summer, there was obviously a reason to be optimistic in the red half of North London. Optimism that saw the Gunners considered as fifth favourites to win this season’s Premier League.

With the likes of Squawka analysing a new era at the Emirates, many felt that Arteta would be the man to lead the club forward.

However, since those two successful trips to Wembley, things have not gone to plan. With defeats being collected with alarming regularity, the Spaniard has now overseen the worst start to a Premier League campaign in the club’s history. When you consider that he is telling people to ‘trust the process’, one wonders just how much trust the fans still have in the manager.

As bookies look to update their latest Premier League predictions, now might be a good time for a punter to back the Gunners as they may be going into more games as underdogs – or with slightly longer odds than they usually would.

On the evidence of recent performances, it would be unfair to suggest that Arsenal have been playing really badly. If anything, their showing against Tottenham in the North London derby suggested a lot more, it’s just that there is not a lot in terms of creative flair or attacking ruthlessness.

For every encounter that Arsenal fails to break down the opposition, the debate regarding Mesut Ozil comes to the fore and although his own personal ship has likely set sail, the lack of a midfield maestro is apparent for all to see.

One only needs to look at the way Alexandre Lacazette was deployed against Tottenham, as evidence of that. With the French international playing off the striker, there was an obvious sense of a square peg trying to be forced into a round hole.

Which has been the exact same problem for their talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as Arteta is faced with the dilemma of how to play both the Gabonese forward and Lacazette in the same starting eleven.

At the start of the season, it was Lacazette who was operating through the middle and Aubameyang deployed out wide. With Arsenal getting the better of Fulham on the opening weekend, it seemed a system that was going to torment defences up and down the country.

Unfortunately, the only torment has been for Aubameyang himself. Since scoring against the Cottagers, the only other league goal that he has added to his collection, is the match winning penalty he scored away at Manchester United.

With just two league goals so far, and with a new contract being inked soon after the victory against Fulham, there is a feeling that the former Borussia Dortmund star has got his big payday and now it is time to relax.

It is perhaps a little unfair to suggest, that the 31-year-old now has his feet under the Emirates table and is simply going through the motions. However, there is at least an element of coincidence when it comes to his continued poor level of performance.

Then again, the more apparent suggestion would be the fact that the African forward is very much a confidence player. As that attribute is all but non-existent at present, it is no surprise that the goals have dried up.

Not only that, but the way Arsenal are operating in midfield is not conducive to the way that Aubameyang plays. Although he was unfortunate not to power home a cross from Kieran Tierney, his recent showing against Tottenham drew another blank.

With the Arsenal manager happy to see his players operate across the length of the field looking to cause trouble from wide areas, it is their own attackers that are subsequently suffering the most.

Only when Thomas Partey came off injured and Dani Ceballos entered proceedings, did Arsenal look better against Tottenham. The Real Madrid loanee then became the engine room in midfield.

Unfortunately, it was an engine room that was missing a cylinder or two, because for all the possession that they mustered against their arch-rivals, little of it was causing any trouble for Tottenham’s defence.

While it is the lack of the killer pass that has ultimately been Arsenal’s Achilles heel this season and with a lack of understanding between midfield and attack at present, this is something that needs to be resolved in double quick time.

With Arsenal languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table, there is an understandable amount of schadenfreude from rival fans. Although this is a side that will be too good to go down, they do not seem good enough to become upwardly mobile either.

Which then provides the club’s board with a huge dilemma, do they stick with the current man in charge or do the twist and hit the reset button once more? Quite simply, it boils down to just how much belief they have in Mikel Arteta.

Belief that seems to still be there at the time of writing and whoever is in charge by the start of 2021 will then have to try and clear some of the deadwood out of the squad in the January transfer window, as there is plenty of this in stock at the Emirates.

Ultimately, Arteta is banking on short-term pain for long-term gain and if given the necessary time, Arsenal will then be on a much stronger footing. However, the board are banking on success now and with two ideologies in play, something will soon have to give and it is usually the manager.