Opinion – What Arsenal are missing and how we can fix it

WHAT IS ARSENAL MISSING? by Joe Allysons

 

Hey gunners, how are you doing? Not too well myself, recovering from the virus, so I might just say keep yourself safe from it, it doesn’t feel good at all. Nevertheless, I have been having a few thoughts about what I observed through the past season, some of them have been put in bits and pieces in the comments section, others haven’t gotten out of my head, but I’m guessing with all this time away, I’ll hammer away.

 

Now, without being too much of a SOB and reminding everyone of our current predicament, let me recap our last season. Absolutely horrible; eighth place finish; no european competition. I guess that’s about it. But what caused it and how do we solve it?

 

  1. Our players ain’t playing football.

That might be an odd thing to tell you, given you watched them run out all season, but I am literally talking about playing. Playing like you would down at the park, with your friends. This is not a game for most of our players, and that is a problem. Now, before you blame it on Arteta, it’s not new. For the last 5 years or so, we’ve seen our players working hard, but not playing hard. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, we have had some who’ve actually tried to play, but they’ve either been in positions where their self expression doesn’t help the team, or been off form so ended up causing us problems instead, or been plain and simply unable to make an impact. 

 

I’d like to see our players play more. Take like Holdings juggling run against Fulham, Bellerin’s roulette pass against Man City, Tierney’s juke against West Brom (this boy needs to loosen up and play. If there’s anything I could add to him, it would be Bellerin’s brain. The willingness to vary his attacks, be a little more cheeky rather than consistently whip in a cross at every opportunity.), I think you get the point though.

 

When you watch an Arsenal game, how many skill moves do you see? How much fancy control do you see? How many cheeky nutmegs do you see? From last season, I think I can only remember like two nutmegs, both from Xhaka, a few times Pepe and Auba threw step overs, nothing more really. Do you intend to tell me Arsenal players can’t do sombreros, elasticos, rabonas, chops, feins, dummies? Do you mean to tell me Willian could do these at Chelsea, but now that he joined Arsenal he’s forgotten how to do them? You mean to tell me Saka can’t do some fancy feet just for the sake of it? That needs to change.

 

  1. Our players are too modest.

Both in defence and attack, our players are too nice. There’s no aloofness, no arrogance. I’m not talking about pride. I’m talking about arrogance. The air of invincibility. The look of being untouchable. 

 

Let me  tell you a story about a university rugby club in Uganda called the Impis. They’re probably not the best Uganda can offer, actually, based on results, they’re the worst. But they are built up to behave like they are the best. Arrogance is their mantra and when they catch you on a good day, if they catch you off guard, they will play the most beautiful rugby your eyes have ever seen because they already believe they are better than you.

 

We have had players that have shown a little arrogance, but again, it’s not those that we need. I could point to Rob Holding again. When he floors Mane and stands over him like “whatchu gon do bout dis?” (in Ice Cube’s voice). Or when Partey breaks through the Spurs midfield, has Bellerin and Lacazette screaming for the ball on the outside, has 4 Spurs players running at him, but just holds onto the ball calmly till he’s able to free up Auba on the other side. We need more of that. 

 

Over the last week or so, I rewatched a lot of Invincible footage, and arrogance did them a lot of good. That goal by Thierry against liverpool reeked of arrogance and aloofness. He literally sent Hyppia and Carragher into each other not because he needed to, but because he could.

 

  1. Substandard Players

Interestingly, this was most pointed out against a substandard team. If memory serves right, it must have been the second leg against Fulham, when the commentator mentioned that the difference between Arsenal and Fulham was that the latter were substandard and what that causes is hesitation. They delay their passes and what not.

 

Less than a minute after he points that out, a winger plays a ball to Elneny on the inside and as the ball leaves the winger’s foot, I notice Odegaard begin to sprint into the Fulham box. The easier, but riskier pass was to just play one touch to Odegaard and hope the ball makes it. To my surprise, Elneny was able to play a one touch pass, accurately but to Holding. It was an exponentially harder pass to play because Holding was further away than Odegaard, but somehow, that’s who Elneny saw. He didn’t see Odegaard. Now you might say that was an issue with all Arsenal’s midfielders, but our ball progression was ok with our starting pair. 

 

The issue was whenever we had Ceballos and Elneny in midfield, or Nketiah up top, or indeed Cedric at right back. These are players that might have a moment of magic or two, but in the grand scheme of things, when you break down their play, not individual moments in a game, you realize they are both limited and unnecessary. 

 

Solutions;

 

By and large, the solutions are in the coach’s hands, but this is what I’d offer.

 

  1. Allow the players to play. I could say in the last few games of the season, Partey and Xhaka had attained the kind of relationship where they move into each other’s zones, ping passes off of each other, rough up opponents together, and all that. It needs to be encouraged all over the pitch. Wingers should be encouraged to directly attack their man as opposed to trying to get to the byline. Drive at the man, run at the man, have fun. If you lose the ball, turn around and chase. Our wingers should be encouraged to play give and go. I see Pepe trying to get some of his teammates to play give and go and you notice that they’re a bit uncomfortable with the idea because they are afraid to lose the ball, that needs to change. 
  2. Find something for Auba to do. I think I understand how Arteta wants his team to behave in the final third, and I think the current problem is not getting the ball into the final third, but how it should be used once there.In lieu of that, Auba needs to either learn a little about being a typical CF, or he needs to shift to one of the wings. Arteta’s attack is a little similar to Wenger’s in that, before the ball enters the box, the CF works almost like a wall for midfielders to bounce the ball off. This requires the forward to be strong yet nimble, mobile, and willing to take kicks to the ankles because his one touch play is becoming annoying to defenders. Laca fits the bill, but Arteta doesn’t want to lose Auba because he recognizes how many goals he’d be losing. Therefore, he will need to sort out how Auba will play next season.
  3. Who to sign.

Personally, Except for mental issues, I think we have a good squad on our hands. Even as it stands, it should have been able to challenge for a higher place in the table. Still however, I am going to base the signing suggestions on the rumours floating around.

 

My priority for this squad would be a goal scoring attacker. We’ve been linked with Raheem Sterling, and if we could get him for 60 million or less, I think that would be great. A forward line of Sterling, Laca/Auba and Pepe would have a lot of goals in it, and would also have a lot of audacity and arrogance at least, because I know both Pepe and Sterling would be likely to try and dribble past their opponents just because they can.

 

Second would be to sort out an attacking midfielder. We’re out here acting like we need a CM/DM, but we had a working pair last season. One that can be around next season. We did have attacking mids, but the one that looked best in that position isn’t guaranteed to return, and the other one, in as much as I love him, I don’t think we should depend on. I think we should try and re-sign Odegaard, at least on loan for the whole season.

 

Third would be backup for Keiran Tierney. Nuff said.

 

Then I’d sign a central midfielder. I think my opinion here is going to differ from most gunners. Most are of the view that we should sign either Bissouma or Neves to replace Xhaka. Now, from observations last season, a player we actually missed every time he wasn’t on the pitch was Xhaka, and it’s for one simple reason. He’s the one player in the squad with a unique passing skill set. Quite the long pass stereotype, but since his arrival, he’s been our most penetrative passer. Inasmuch as both Partey and Bissouma can pick up the ball and run, the ball moves faster than them both, so in most cases, a pass would serve a better purpose than a runner. Now don’t get me wrong, I do want Bissouma, but he can’t be a replacement for Xhaka. If we sold Xhaka, we’d need to sign Bissouma and someone else. We could sign Neves, as a replacement for Xhaka, but then as an Arsenal fan, I’d still want Bissouma. I think the best, though maybe impossible option, would be to sign both Bissouma and Neves, keep both Xhaka and Partey and Sell our other CM options. It means whichever combination of the four would start, would give us the same amount of balance.

 

Finally, I’d like us to get Andre Onana. Just because he’s available.

 

Thank you for reading if you came this far, please let me know what you think in the comments section, I’m right here waiting. Cheers.

Joe Allysons

24 Comments

  1. ozziegunner says:

    Joe, you lost me when you intimated that Bellerin had a football brain.
    Additional goalscorers won’t make a jot of difference to Arsenal, if the team is continuously overrun in midfield.

    1. Declan says:

      Me too Ozzie and not only does Bellerin have a brain but he should give it to Tierney 😂

  2. gotanidea says:

    The most obvious one is the CF position in our possession based system. None of our strikers is as complete as Immobile, Lukaku and Kane

    Lacazette is the closest one to those great CFs and he always works his socks off, but he’s slower, shorter and less consistent than them. Whereas Aubameyang is even much more inconsistent in aerial duels, link-up and hold-up play

    If we still play with similar tactic and both senior strikers in the starting line-up next season, we can expect another disastrous season. Unless Arteta reverts to the more counter-attacking three-CB formation, to accommodate Aubameyang’s playing style

    1. Rashid80 says:

      Possession based? Don’t make me laugh! We are a defensive team now who are also extremely slow and bad in build up and counter attacking.. We are in no way a ball possession team

      1. gotanidea says:

        We’re usually dominant in ball possession. Except when playing against great positional play managers, like Guardiola, Klopp and Tuchel

        Our ball possession domination made Mourinho, Rodgers, Ancelotti and Emery chose to use defensive counter-attacking tactics against us

        1. RW1 says:

          We dominate possession in our own half that’s true most comfortably going towards our own goal … beyond the half way line is alien territory where lack of close control and awareness has us struggling to dominate any team outside the bottom three

          1. ozziegunner says:

            GAI, so you think Arsenal’s midfield is competitive, with Partey virtually on his own, not being overrun? 🤔

    2. Kedar says:

      I agree with you
      We need CF like Lukaku, Kane because Arteta lack tactical ability to use Aubameyang and Lacazzett together…
      If you observe then this season MA’s major tactics were using full backs and crossing because apart from that MA lack tactical ability…
      Emery and Wenger both used Aubameyang and Lacazzett together and both were scoring under these 2 managers so it’s clear that MA can’t use both because he doesn’t know how to use..
      Players like Aubameyang likes play on shoulders of defender and likes run in behind but for that you need tactical creativity which MA doesn’t have that’s why we always go to wing put crosses after after in box which are meaningless…
      Lukaku won’t leave Inter and at least not for Arsenal
      We can’t afford Kane
      So I think Raul Jimnez or Patrick Bamford can be realistic targets
      Bamford is good in air
      And good hold up play
      Jimnez is also good at link up and headers and hold up play

      1. gotanidea says:

        Mancini’s tactic in Euro produced many crosses, but he’s lucky to have Immobile, Insigne and Spinazzola. I don’t think our senior strikers can play well in Mancini’s system

        Arteta actually played to Aubameyang’s strengths when we won the FA Cup, with the counter-attacking 3-4-3. I think he’s seen Aubameyang’s limitations and might opt to revert to his old tactic to maximize Aubameyang’s pace

        I like Jimenez/ Bamford and Jimenez has shown that Wolves are much weaker without him. Unfortunately Jimenez is already 30 years old and his traumatic head injury would likely deter him from hard aerial duels

        1. Sylva says:

          If we are not buying a good creative midfielder then, we must play to Auba’s strength to maximize his goal scoring prowess. But it now means we shall. Be needing a good replacement Incase G Xaka leaves. My take is Bissuoma. But i just can’t trust Edu on buying quality in the market.

  3. Rashid80 says:

    We need midfielders, a right back, a back up LB for Tierney and a goalkeeper..
    5 players.. 2 in midfield (1 if willock is part of the plan) 2 fullback and a goalie

  4. Vinnie2000 says:

    Nice article!!
    And I see you giving Hector Bellerin compliments!!
    I tell pple here dat he’s still a great RB!
    !
    On the topic!!
    We don’t need much signings!!
    Only 3 or 4..
    A Striker (Auba n Laca will not take us anywhere)
    A central midfielder i.e. Bissouma
    A Winger e.g Wilfred Zaha or Jesse Lingard.
    Dats it..
    The Line up I wish for n the coming season

    Leno
    Bellerin. Holding. Gabriel. Tierney
    Partey
    Bissouma Willock
    Saka. Andre Silva. Zaha
    (Or Raul Jinemez)

  5. Sean Williams says:

    Thanks Joe for trying to reason about Arsenal. There is one extra problem, that might usurp all the other problems. Arteta has control issues and seems to micromanage any spontaneity out of the Arsenal play. Great teams and footballers usually have almost ‘a dance’ in them. That togetherness of dance should show arrogance based on confidence, skill, determination and domination. Arteta does not let the team ‘dance’. He cannot sit back and watch the dance. Micromanagement at it’ worst. It would not matter who we get, Arteta will drain them. Our football lacks everything we expect from our team….Arsenal. Arteta’s character at the present is a rookie manager who hasn’t learned that you have to allow life to move, uplift players not control them, praise, and let the players flow. Like a father should be. Male wisdom. At the moment it is like having Alexander Lukashenko of Belorussia as manager and watching players like Saliba, Torreira and Guendouzi just discarded, suggests to me there is something wrong with Arteta. My opinion purely.

    1. Twinlights says:

      On micromanagement, I agree with you.
      Give the players freedom to PLAY.

  6. jon fox says:

    A middling quality article containing some fair points and one or two daft ones. “Bellerins brain” for example; what brain would that be then, as I have seen little evidence that he even has one on the pitch?
    I also say it is very easy to set out your personal wish list for buys but there was no mention of our lack of available money to spend and THAT would have been to inject some reality, rather than easy to write but pie in the sky wish lists.

    So many Gooners articles prefer to play the cards we DON’T hold and have not a hope in hell of holding while Kroenke remains, rather than playing the far lesser cards we actually DO hold.

  7. Reggie says:

    Arsenal are missing a top manager and the way to solve it is bring in RAFA!

    1. siamois says:

      Apparently he is in talks with Everton!

      1. Vithal says:

        Both technical director & manager lack experience. Hence they are not able use players we have nor smart recruitments happening. Waste of money on ceballos while Guendouzi was upgrade on him. Reid’s Nelson was neither loaned nor played. Then the mess with keeper.willian from Chelsea was waste of money which could have been spent wisely.
        Arsenal should convince AM to play RB, sell HB & buy attacking MF with bit investment & also cover for LB & keeper.After that any purchases should be based on outgoing.

  8. ozziegunner says:

    Conte, if he is still available, if not Benitez. Unfortunately Conte will want money, but he will also get a lot more, performance wise, with what Arsenal has. Benitez has managed at Newcastle United under Ashley, so he will have no problems.

  9. Joe. S says:

    Let them play coach, let them play. Arteta needs to grow up. Agree with most points in article, but think it’s time for Bellerin and Xhaka to move on. Two top quality (expensive?) signings, a back up fullback and the return of Gandeuzi should see Arsenal edging into top six.

  10. Sid says:

    Good article. Agreed on Tierney, crosses too much for my liking. There was a period of 2 3 games in our christmas run where he cut in and varied his runs and it almost always resulted in goal contributions or chances. On that aspect he could learn from Bellerin. And vice versa Bellerin could learn some defensive aspects from Tierney. Not sure what Arsenal would do about the midfield and what targets MA has in mind but I think your suggestions make sense.

  11. Logic says:

    What is missing is Arteta to be sacked and how can we fix it employee Zidane or Conte.

  12. ArseOverTit says:

    Missing>

    -Owner that gives a s….
    – Manager with experience and past
    success
    -players of a high standard
    -the idea that winning is paramount and competing is not enough.

    Apart from that we are good to go;)))

  13. siamois says:

    I doubt we will get all players we need which for me is 6 players.
    -GK
    -RB
    -LB cover
    -DM
    -AM
    -CF(tall target man)

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