Arsenal’s wonky forward line was clearly exposed against Aston Villa

Wonky Arsenal Show Deficiencies at Aston Villa. by AI

The highs and the lows. This is why football is round and why Arsenal aren’t contenders for European places this season: this maddening inability to do whatever their 150 million euro forward line suggest they ought to. There’s a sense of wonkiness here, even after the 72 million euro outlay on Nicolas Pépé: Arsenal aren’t clicking up front, at least not enough to justify the massive fees and big names.

Lacazette and Aubameyang have great chemistry; Pépé and Aubameyang also are pals on the pitch. But here in Aston Villa, the ineptitude of that forward lineup is apparent. Pépé often receives the ball deep and wide. Lacazette stands at the edge of the penalty box surrounded by four men like a criminal. Aubameyang is at the North Pole, freezing, watching his steps to avoid crevices. Nobody from the midfield fills in the spaces. Xhaka, Ceballos and Torreira all play in holding positions, waiting to recycle the ball or prevent a calamitous counterattack.

Tactically, this is a far cry from the same Arsenal that beat Manchester United with verve and panache back in January. That match still remains the brightest idea of what a fully-retooled Arteta side would look like. Inverted wingbacks, vigorous pressing, David Luiz pinging the most delectable 40 yard passes, Ozil out on the right halfspace…

It’s Mesut Ozil, isn’t it? Or, at least, the idea of him — that was what Arsenal were missing at Aston Villa. A line-breaking midfielder able to spin pass after pass to the beautiful, flashy feet of Arsenal’s pedigreed attackers. There was none of that here, just Dani Ceballos hinting at some form of it — a turn here, a dribble there — before falling back to support Xhaka.

The 3-4-3 fits Arsenal against teams ready to risk the wrath of Aubameyang having space to run into. Not against Aston Villa who, just several minutes into the first half, determined that they were better off doing the sitting back. And when all you’ve got against a settled mid block is David Luiz’s luxurious passing, then you run the risk of not scoring. Villa simply won’t press you up the pitch as a Liverpool or a Man City would do. What shall it profit a team, then, if they shall lose their space and gain the ball? You may call it the Pre-Bruno Manchester United Conundrum.

Without a De Bruyne, an Ozil or even a Jack Grealish, having the ball profits little — unless you are Liverpool and your chance creation starts the moment the ball is lost.

Arsenal are no Liverpool, though. The answer to beating Brighton and Aston Villa is blonde, suffering from back pain and taking home 350,000 euros a week in wages. That is how United seem to have addressed their we-have-the-ball-but-no-space problem: they got a creative midfielder. Unless Arteta is a Klopp-level genius coach — who, unable to afford those pricey No. 10s, worked out a consistent solution through gameplay tactics — he will need to focus on getting Ozil’s replacement in the transfer window.

For all the talk about the lack of creativity: having three midfielders helps rather than two. Playing a match at times can simply be a matter of hiding your team’s frailities (by using three defenders) or exploiting the obvious (using three midfielders). Arteta went for the former and it backfired today. A lucky goal for Aston Villa more than not. Wonky tactics because of inherent lack of midfield quality defeated Arsenal at Aston Villa.

Agboola Israel


  1. The good thing is, this is happening before the summer transfers, less we think we have a capable team.
    Let the board accept their loss on Ozil and think about the big picture, this team need another creative midfielder. We miss Xhaka in the 1st half

  2. This has been deleted because you insulted the site calling it a Spurs site in disguise simply because you disagree with an article. I have responded to another one of your comments and hope that you have taken on board what I wrote. You are welcome on here, just be respectful.

  3. Further more. Your Article doesn’t even have anything to do with the Headline. Pepe came on in the second half. And i do not care if this comment get’s approved or not. But come on man! If you are a true ARSENAL fan tone it down with these UNECESSARILY NEGATIVE Headlines. You have a responsibility here. There is already Negativity in the media when it comes to Arsenal and sometimes for no reason actually. Gosh!! It’s like Arsenal can do no Right with you all. We have a new manager here. He came in halfway through the season, he inherited a dead bunch of players. Give it a rest and give the man and the club a bit of time to see what their next move is. I saw another article from this website comparing Unai Emery, Wenger, and Arteta stats after 19 matches. Really? Well judging from Arteta’s stats i must say this is a man managing for the first time in his career and with the WORST team in the history of Arsenal football club he inherited. He didn’t do too bad considering they had to switch to a new way of training and playing halfway through the season. Give the man some credit and time.

    1. This is your first comment and so it leads me to believe that you are not a regular on here because if you were you would have seen the overwhelming positivity on this site after the Liverpool and Man City wins. You are cherry-picking as simple as that. Also, one thing about football fans, not just Arsenal is that they have a divergence of views. Arsenal fans are entitled to their views, we have pro and anti Ozil contributors on here, pro and anti Lacazette, same with Xhaka, Wenger and yes, even Arteta. No one is forcing you to read articles or comments that you disagree with but I will say this, we welcome you and any Arsenal fans regardless of their views as long as they are respectful.

  4. Roger,from your comments you are obviously a fan with a good understanding of the difficulties Arteta inherited when he took over .Misleading headlines are unfortunately fairly common place, not only on this site but as an old man I would encourage you not to refrain from participating in what can be a stimulating experience of wide ranging views on our beloved Arsenal.I look forward to reading your comments in future.

  5. Is it a coincidence that AMN did note play and we were bad at both ends? The usual suspects – Kolasinac and Cedric in whom I have zero confidence, Lucas Torrera is not an EPL style player, who knows why was he hired and for what? Xhaka and his efforts is simply not good enough or not the Arsenal invincible standard. Except for Cabellos (who has impressed me after his return from injury), the midfield was wonky IMO.Not surprised by the result.
    Hopefully 26th is the last and final time we do see Kolasinac, Lucas Torrera, Socrates, even Laca (provided we get an upgrade) in an Arsenal kit. I will not include Ozil as the fella will be spending his time gathering and counting his three hundred and fifty thousand pennies each week, he has no time to talk to other teams
    In another article, the coach was rated three. If this is the rating for the coach , can we have faith in him for the long term? Consistency is the key for success

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