Opinion – Arsenal’s Key Problem Areas And How To Fix Them


After watching our game against Leicester City last weekend, I pondered about what was the actual cause of the team’s problem areas. The following factors came to my mind:

1. The unpredictability of Premier League teams
2. Lack of coherence in our midfield
3. Lack of confidence among the players
4. Reported lack of understanding of the English language by the coach.
5. Lack of adequate options to playing out from the back

Let me give my views on the factors listed above.


This factor ordinarily shouldn’t be a problem to us as it is one of the reasons why the Premier League is more interesting than other leagues. Every season top teams are surprised by lower teams. Only Liverpool has not faced such a result so far this season. Considering the form and confidence level of Leicester City, Arsenal fans wouldn’t have bothered so much about the result against them if we had obtained maximum points against the likes Watford, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. Teams like Wolves are always a banana skin any day. The results we had before last weekend sent a negative feeling before the game. The league is what it is, no doubt. We must move on.

I am one of the fans who felt the treatment of Xhaka after his outburst came at the right time – at least for the sake of the benefit of the doubt. With the various calls for him to be dropped from the starting line up as he was a target for the lapses in the midfield, I felt dropping him would prove his doubters either right or wrong. That midfield has a chronic problem. I think it has to do with the way the players interpret how the coach sets them to play. One of the key issues I see about them is the slow transition from defence to attack which gives most opponents the time to reorganize themselves at the back. We have pacy finishers in the likes of Aubameyang and Pepe, but the suppliers are sluggish. Another area is how they help out the defence when we are under pressure. The midfield hardly adds reasonably bodies to the defence in this area. There seems to be two big holes. They are the spaces between the midfield and attack, and the midfield and defence. These are problem areas because there is no dominant presence in there.

This is one of our big problem areas. I have seen this team at their best confidence level twice so far this season – the first was against Liverpool (EPL) and the other was against Aston Villa (even with a player down). Even when they were a goal down at the break against Liverpool, pundits were singing the praise of the team. And the second half was lost due to an individual moment of madness. Against Villa they were at it till the final whistle.

I saw lack of confidence and inability to take risks come to play against Wolves and Leicester City. In the first half at Leicester, Tielemans, Ayoze and Pereira were having persistent joy down our left-hand side. Even when our defenders formed a block, they moved through them as if they were ghosts. Our tackling was diabolical due to lack of confidence. The same goes with our attack. We don’t find the kind of joy we give at our back in the opponent’s final third as we are supposed to find. Ozil on one occasion in the second half had a superb run at their defence on a counterattack. Instead of him going for goal and have a shot, or commit their defence, he fluffed on getting into their 18yard box. He seemed to have remembered just when he got to the 18 yards that he had no plans to score goal. The same goes with our passes. How many times did we pass directly to opponents?

This isn’t supposed to be an issue supposing the right thing is done at the beginning. Watching Pep and Arteta on City bench last night something came to my mind. Pep needed an intelligent Spanish guy who has been in EPL for a long time. He found that in Arteta. See how far it got them.

Opposing teams have constantly set their attack in a way to put pressure on our defence whenever we play out from the back. They know that we are prone to errors in this area. I see an opportunity in there. That opportunity is the instructions to our players to always prepare for a second option. At a point in the second half between Liverpool and City, I noticed that when Bravo was about playing out from the back. Two Liverpool attackers ran after the two City defenders that were supposed to take the ball from the goalkeeper. Then a City player from the midfield came to the rescue through the middle. That player succeeded simply because there was no pressure on him. If it were us, the opposing player will chase about 4 of our players at this point. Such moves in most cases will make them (opponents) set their defence higher around the middle of the pitch. Why can’t we lob the ball forward for players like Aubameyang and Pepe to run at their defenders. Pretend as if we want to play out from the back while one or two players are set in areas where they can receive the ball in the opponent half, then play it to them. If that is done on two or more occasions the opposing teams will think twice before coming at us.

What are your opinions about my suggestions to fix some of our problem areas?

By I.


  1. Emery is a huge problem, but our main problem is the culture at Arsenal. From mentality, the types of players we keep signing, defending, ambition, instability, etc.

    As I said last year, it’s easy to change players/managers, but it’s not so easy changing an entire culture. I felt it could take a minimum of 3 years until after Wenger’s departure, that we really start seeing some changes, but our current problems are only extending this transitional phase, because we’re not fully dealing with the issues at hand.

  2. Arsenal brought wide attackers such as Pepe, Martinelli, Nelson and Saka to fix our penetration problems, but they fail to meet the expectation

    Unfortunately we have to go back to a three-CB formation, to fix the defense and the creativity issues. But we need Lacazette to sacrifice himself, to be a false nine like Firmino:

    ……………….. Leno
    ……. Chambers . Holding . Luiz
    Bellerin . Guendouzi . Torreira . Tierney
    ……………… Lacazette
    ……… Pepe ………….. Aubameyang

    1. I love this line up. It looks really well balance with players being able to cover each other in defensive areas whilst having the speed for quick breakaway attaching.

  3. For me it’s more simple. Fix the leaky defense, not reinvent the wheel. Emery busy changing Arsenal into something no one wants; not fans or players.

    Players and fans were attracted to the free flowing attacking football, but defense was on life support.

    What top players want to come here and play unidentifiable Uni-ball?

  4. I think it has to do with the way the players interpret how the coach sets them to play. One of the key issues I see about them is the slow transition from defense to attack which gives most opponents the time to reorganize themselves at the back.

  5. Good points, Admin and I would add the following additional points:
    1. Too much tinkering with the team. Emery should have selected what he considered his strongest team, when he had virtually a full squad available following the return from the last international break, and then stuck with that team. This would have helped develop teamwork and cohesion.
    2. The Arsenal squad has been deficient in mental strength and physicality for too many seasons now. Gilberto Silva has never been adequately replaced. One never knows which Arsenal team would turn up particularly in away games. It appears that on too many occasions Arsenal players are not prepared to roll up their sleeves and compete with teams who come to play.
    3. Because of this the days when Arsenal could “get down and dirty” with teams that didn’t want to let them play football and wanted to kick them off the park, are long gone. All great Arsenal players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henri, Patrick Viera, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, back to Frank McLintock, Peter Storey, Ray Simpson, Pat Rice and John Radford had a touch of “mongrel” in them that recent players have lacked.
    4, Arsenal appears to have an obsession with attacking players, rather than addressing the obvious needs for a DM and CB’s. This is not say that Pepe for example, may not end up being a very good piece of business, but the same amount may have bought one or two top class defenders. This extends to the Academy, where forwards and attacking midfielders are coming through, but no DM’s and CB’s.

  6. OT
    It was funny reading comments from many posters here defending Aubameyang about his actions. Would the same be the done if it was Xhaka??
    I have every right to believe what Ornstein because I know very well Arsenal would not anger a player they clearly want to tie down to a new contract so for them to bring this up they knew it would affect the relationship between club and player.His response also showed no form of responsibility and if we are going to give excuses I might as well say Xhaka has received several death treats with sone even wishibg death on his daughter.
    How Aubameyang is being considered as captain is beyond me and the painful thing is majority think he’s captain material. A player like him shouldn’t even be our best player because he’s a true poacher and is limited in skill set. This club is a shambles I tell you. We always seem to get the basics wrong.

    1. Auba performs, rarely throws tantrums.

      Xhaka doesn’t perform, throws tantrums.

      And the latter one was made captain, lol.

      And you talk about poaching like poachers are lesser strikers. Anything in “Limited skill set” you talk about can be trained and taught. Being in the right place, right time is something you either have or don’t have. That’s the difference.

      50 goals in 78 apperances is rock solid stat for any forward. And any forward in Europe would kill to have goal instinct and finishing like Aubameyang, and we are lucky to have him.

      1. Spot on

        A captain leads by example and Aubameyang are doing that with his goals

        He doesn’t need to speak loudly or being aggresive like Xhaka. He has contributed a lot to the team with his actions, not just talking nice in public

      2. Firstly, let me make it clear that I don’t rate Xhaka as a player and let alone as captain. You say Xhaka throws tantrums?? He’s average but hardly throws tantrums and before the incident was never considered to be indisciplined.
        On Aubameyang, I don’t think he’s captain material. He just doesn’t have that character for me.To also make it a clear a true poacher with limited skillset like Aubameyang is supposed to be on the end of a move most times rather than beginning it. For how he plays he’s like the one who should be finishing off the good work of our midfielders. A lot of players are world class at one thing and average at so many others. He shouldn’t be our best player. This isn’t an attack on him. It’s only stating the obvious to the eye which I know you clearly see. You can improve on your skill but in football it’s only up to a certain point else a player can train hard and be like Ronaldo.

  7. Your views on the ineffectiveness of our midfield are completely justified.The main problems in this area is the lack of a physically powerful,energetic leader as a DM.Look at Liverpool, Man City and Leicester who are blessed with three gems who are the link between the back four and the other players.Neither Torreria not Dhaka are up to this task, and while Chambers did a good job as a DM for Fulham I doubt it he is good enough at a higher level.If we had a quality DM like Ndtiti,we could adopt a 4-3-3 system which is favoured by the top four in the PL and use the likes of Guendouzi and Willock as box to box midfielders which would provide energy and drive to support the front three who have got to work just as hard on their defensive capabilities as they do in attack.The front three of Liverpool and Man City work their socks off to regain possession something which is lacking in Auba and Pepe but is their in Martinelli.In essence, to be successful in today’s game, everyone has to bust a gut if the team is going to be successful.In such a set up I’m afraid there is no room for a number of our midfielders such as Ozil,Ceballos, Torreria and Xhaka .We have decent full backs in Bellerin and Tierney to fit into such a system and only need one quality CB to partner Sali ba next season to make it work.

    1. We had a DM playing the role of a destroyer in Coquelin but fans didn’t appreciate him enough just because of one poor season(16/17). He recovered after that season and was imo our best player in the preseason which preceded the 17/18 season. He was injured a lot in 17/18 season but was sold shortly after recovery.
      Ndidi is also average on the ball and I remember fans criticising Coquelin a lot for that in 14/15. Now Coquelin is killing at Valencia and bossed the whole Barca midfield in the cup final last season. Look it up on YouTube.
      He’s not appreciated enough because he’s Francis Coquelin. He’s better than Ndidi and Torreira. You might think I’m deluded but the thing is I hate to follow general consensus on players unless my eyes tell me otherwise

        1. It was sad how under appreciated he was. If he had begun that 14/15 EPL season with us then I would have called it a legendary season for a DM playing the role of a destroyer. I dont know about you but I went into matches thinking we won’t lose because we had Coquelin protecting the back four that season. He was also great in 15/16 but injuries kept halting his form. Remember that match against Everton? The lad was simply talented. What a find by Arsenal

  8. Arsenal as arsenal team needs two professional defenders and midfielder, upfront is ok but without fixing those two areas we fans we are still crying. I swear some times I fail food bse of arsenal results when small teams like Leicester is winning.

  9. The actual gameplay problems are not going to be solved if we continue to play Goodebeningball. Emery basically wants our midfield to just waste the time passing sideways and backwards. That is Emery’s idea of defending basically.

    We have good players, in terms of their raw potential but they are not receiving the right kind of mentoring and preparation to make them fit for EPL. Since we signed Guendouzi and Torreira, we haven’t seen any improvement in them in terms of their physicality and pace. They just take a fall even if a speck of dandruff falls over them. Standing ground and keeping the ball alive is better than trying to win fouls in the midfield unless we are near to the opponent’s box. Such fouls further gives the opponent defense time to get in line.

    Sure, Guendouzi and Torreira have developed in other areas, but they still lack required physicality and pace to at least have a competition in midfield, because they aren’t training that aspect. Now I’m not taking about Xhaka here, as, well he’s physical, but more like a piece of log or rock on the field, not the useful kind of physicality. Pace + Physicality is what we are looking for.

    We have some really skillful players but pace is a non negotiable trait in EPL. If what we see in matches is something to go by, Emery is clearly not making players work on their athleticism in the training. Because why run when we can just pass sideways and backwards. And Emery has said it many times, team is playing tactically how he wants and that is what he wants, to pass sideways and backwards.

    To point things out,

    1. Guendouzi has a great potential, but the boy needs to beef up a little you know, and pick up a little speed. Do some stability and explosiveness training. Distribution, physicality, pace and game vision are the traits He should work on.

    2. Torreira needs to pimp up his tackling as that’s his strongest asset. He needs to work more on that, because of his stature, developing enough pace will be difficult. Positioning, tackling and endurance are the traits for Torreira.

    3. Apart from Auba and Laca, every other player has absolutely abysmal shooting power and accuracy. Especially the midfield players, their shooting is Ugh. We see many teams in EPL frequently scoring goals from distance. At least we see some attempts that provide some momentary morale boost, but at Arsenal, we hardly see anyone even attempt a shot from distance. We need to take more chances like that. We can’t walk the ball to the goal every time. That makes us too predictable.

    4. Once in a while, have Luiz, or Sokratis, or Holding take the ball to the final third providing one additional player for the opposition to deal with and smack a shot from distance. We need that kind of mentality, to mix it up, and not play like we are following a recipebook. Have Tierney or Bellerin, cut inside, instead of taking the wide wing, and mix up opposition markers. But I don’t think this sort of play falls under Goodebeningball. I haven’t seen so imaginatively dead as Emery to be honest.

    5. Auba and Laca should work on ball playing skills and passing. Their shooting department is good, but they severely lack ball playing skills. Working on first touches, hold up play, headers, crosses, etc.

    But in the end, I don’t think Emery sees any tactical problems so, Good Ebening.

  10. And regarding Ozil, if he is determined to stay in Arsenal as he says, he should start attempting goals from distance and contribute with pressing as much as he can. With his accuracy on the ball, he can lob the balls into corners of the goals with ease, but he never tries. That’s the part I never quite understood with him. His passing accuracy directly translate to scoring goals, if he so desires. He just needs to take a little upon himself to score from time to time, and I think he would find good success in that as he has astonishing accuracy with the ball if not power.

    Also Ceballos, he is less pacier than Ozil and not that creative even. He attempts shots, participate in defense more, so that makes him arguably more well rounded than Ozil, but I’m yet to be impressed by him. He needs to find his zone and work on it.

  11. Our biggest problem is our defense. Emery picks a defensive lineup, often with two defensive minded midfielders and sacrifices Ozil due to a lack of effort off the ball, as such we are suffering in the final 3rd especially with Pepe struggling to make an impact (and not surprisingly getting dropped).

    This approach would be ‘fine’ if we didn’t concede, but we concede constantly, doesn’t really matter who we play and where we play, Arsenal concedes.

    Emery experimented a bit against Leceister by using 5 in defense and introducing new faces, but alas, 2 goals later we aren’t any closer to solving our defensive problems.

    It has to be our number one priority because we will continue to draw and lose games that we shouldn’t as long as we fail to plug the holes at the back.

    1. It might sound a little weird, but our midfield is more responsible for our defensive frailties than our actual central defenders. Our midfield can’t control and dictate the match with the ball and without the ball, fails miserably to press and recover the ball, and with mediocre pace, can’t even track back effectively setting us up for counter attacks constantly through out the match. That is making any team just bombard our goals with shots with impunity, and when you rack up around 30 attempts on the goal, you are bound to score 1 or 2.

  12. This encapsulates our present problem. The midfield and player rotation in the face of pressure has been abysmal. Good attitude and winning mentality is lacking. Arsenal will bounce back. No coach can do any better with this present team as is.

  13. This is a better line with our fastest players who need to play one-touch and direct football.


    ……. Chambers . Socratis. Holding

    Bellerin . Luiz . Torreira . Tierney


    ……… Pepe/Lacazette ………….. Aubameyang

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