ARSENAL NOT THAT FAR FROM TITLE CHALLENGE by Nicholas
When one compares Arsenal 2018/19 to the best in the EPL and that would be Liverpool and Manchester City, one would be tempted to see that there is a huge gulf between Unai Emery’s first season’s squad compared to Liverpool and Manchester City class of 2018/19 teams.
First, there is the difference of points. Whereas Liverpool are leading the log with 76 points in 31 matches and Manchester City is in 74 with 30 games played, Arsenal are at 60 points with 30 games. However, when one looks at goals scored, Manchester City have scored 79, Liverpool 70 and Arsenal at 63. No other team has scored above 60 goals after 30 games. There seems a huge ridge between Arsenal and Manchester city in terms of goals scored but one can argue that Unia Emery’s first season has been about trials and error,s and there are games that Arsenal have played without creative players involved as Unai tinkered with the squad trying to find the right balance.
It is in conceding goals that Arsenal have lost most ground this season. Arsenal would rank 6th in the goals conceded log, but it is actually a recovery from early in the season when they seemed not to be able to finish a match without conceding. So to answer the question of how Arsenal challenges for the title as early as in the next season? They can get there through two ways.
#1 – Playing Pattern 3-4-1-2
First, after so much tinkering it seem Unai Emery has finally settled for a 3-4-1-2 pattern. This is informed by the fact that this is the system that has seen Arsenal reclaim this season after coming from behind to win the Europa Cup matchup with Rennes and beating Manchester United. I call it reclaiming this season because before these matches, Arsenal were looking dead and gone in terms of their pre-season aims. Having been thrown out of the Carabao League Cup and the FA Cup, there was just finishing top four in EPL and lifting the Europa as the remaining aims for the season.
Losing to Manchester United and being knocked out by Rennes from the Europa League competition would have Arsenal falling off pace on the battle for top four as Manchester United would move ahead of them, and their form up until the matchup was looking good for the asking as united were running unbeaten in 12 EPL matches and had already inflicted a somewhat easy defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup Fourth round. To make matters worse, despite Arsenal’s good home ground form, this match was at the Emirates, and every indicator suggested Manchester United could repeat the same feat against Arsenal even if the game was a home match for Arsenal. Then there was Rennes in the Europa League.
Arsenal’s visit to The Roazhon Park, in Rennes, Brittany, France ended in a 3-1 defeat. Emery started both of his strikers Lacazette and Aubameyang in their preferred offensive roles, started Mesut Ozil in the number 10 role behind these two and even had Ramsey playing in Box to box role. Against Manchester united he had no role for Mustafi and the defense was Sokratis, Konsienly and Monreal. Arsenal won 2-0. Then he went with the same pattern for the return match against Rennes and only replaced suspended Sokratis with Mustafi and Cech came in for Leno in goal. It was a 3-0 win.
#2 – Transfers
Exchange Mustafi with either Nico Schulz or Phillip Max. These two players are from Bundesliga and are ranked some level behind Mustafi, and they have one thing in common. They can provide competition even an upgrade on Kolasinac. Perhaps in Germany, Mustafi will be a great piece of business for TSG Hoffenheim or FC Augsburg. Of the two I would go with Phillip Max of Augsburg. They are 14th on the log while Hoffenheim are 9th meaning it would be easier to deal with Augsburg. Phillip Max is the more versatile of the two and can play in all the left wing positions, the advanced right wing positions, centre forward and as second striker. We will have found someone who can bring depth to the left wing, and with Ainsley Maitland-Niles challenging in the right wing, Bellerin will be facing competition.
Replacing Koscielny and Mustafi in the centre-back roles with Daniele Rugani from Juventus and Wily Boly from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wily Boly ranks an impressive 7.12 in whoscored despite playing for Wolves, Rugani ranks 6.78 despite less appearances and should improve if he joins Arsenal.
Do not replace Ramsey – no need to replace as we have performing central midfielders in Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi. Bring, Alex Iwobi to deputize Mesut Ozil and he could be a revelation in that role. Sell Elneny, Koscielny, Welbeck, Lichtsteiner, Monreal to raise funds and release some tied up wages. Let the youth players like Nketiah, Smith Rowe, Saka and Reiss Nelson have their chances in the first team.
With the blunders of Mustafi, the inconsistencies of Kolasinac at the back, the poor Lichtsteiner right back plays and all round competition for places in the squad, and a dedicated play of pattern where players can improve on their specialties, Arsenal would concede less goals, score more goals, win more games and get more points.
Does that sound like a good plan?