Arsenal seems to have lost their vice-like grip on the Premier League during the past one month or so. They lost to second-placed Manchester City 1-3 at home last Wednesday to allow the latter to equate their own points tally. However, a win against Aston Villa through a couple of late goals earned them three points on a day when Manchester City drew with Nottingham Forest.
Arsenal is now two points clear of City with a game in hand. However, the momentum seems to be with Pep Guardiola’s side, with Mikel Arteta’s men struggling to live up to the expectations of the supporters.
In this article, we will try to analyze how Arsenal can turn things around.
Arsenal Switching to a back-three
This might sound like a panic reaction, but Arteta could think of starting with a three-man defense in their next match. Arsenal conceded twice in the match against Aston Villa. Both William Saliba and Gabriel have had issues of late. As a result, they could do with another extra man in central defense. Arteta could either switch regular starter Ben White from right-back to the additional centre-back, or play Rob Holding in that position.
Should Ben White start the third centre-back, Takehiro Tomiyasu can start at right wing-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left. Both Tomiyasu and Zinchenko are quite adept at attacking which would help the team’s cause.
The Gunners will have to start getting some clean sheets if they are to be seriously in contention for the title.
Moreover, Granit Xhaka will also have to curb some of his attacking instincts to give adequate cover to the centre-backs. Xhaka has the tendency to venture into the opposition box often. In doing so, it can create a void in front of the defense.
With Thomas Partey often out with injury and preferring to play a more creative role with a good passing range, Jorginho’s role also becomes very crucial in this regard. The 31-year-old defensive midfielder should be able to fill in as a stop-gap and do his bit to lend solidity to the Gunners’ defense.
Trying to extract a better performance from the attacking unit
Arsenal will have to make their attacking unit perform better. It seems to be a bit too dependent on Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka. As good as they have been, their performance alone are not enough to the lift that of the team.
With Gabriel Jesus and Emile Smith-Roe out with injuries and not likely to return at least within the next one month, the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli will have to step up their performance. Martinelli performed well against Villa after coming in as a substitute. Thus, Arteta must have been relieved to see that.
Nketiah’s work-rate and link-up play have been good. However, he will have to improve his tally of nine goals from 30 matches this season. One should also expect to see more of Fabio Vieira in the upcoming matches. His composure on the ball and adroit passing are what the Gunners need at the moment.
Arsenal might also think of changing their approach a little for their upcoming matches. Odegaard typically drops down quite often to create moves from deep. This results in the Gunners often lacking presence upfront during critical moments.
Therefore, it would probably be better if Odegaard left it to Partey to create moves with his astute passing and be present in the final third more frequently. It will also allow him to play those probing final passes. Also, the Norwegian can end up combining with Saka by playing one-twos more often.
The Gunners should also think of using their wing-backs for playing crosses into the opposition penalty box more frequently. The likes of Tomiyasu and Zinchenko are quite capable of doing that. The latter might have to curb his tendency to move into the central midfield.
The likes of Nketiah and Odegaard will have to make sure that they meet those crosses inside the box. It remains to be seen whether Arteta’s side can rise up to the challenge in the coming months.