For many years Arsenal suffered from defensive frailty and lacked mental toughness during the course of a season. Being traditionally bullied by Stoke City, for example.
But despite losing 3-0 at home to Aston Villa on Sunday, manager Mikel Arteta has made defensive organisation his priority.
Sunday’s blip aside, Arsenal’s strength in defence has been improving. However, it’s important Arteta’s approach doesn’t become too cautious, as we saw at the weekend.
Defensive set-up at home
On 1 November, Arsenal beat Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in 14 years. It was the Gunners’ first away win at a ‘top six’ side for five years.
With three central defenders and two defensive midfielders in the team, Arsenal were diligent and organised.
Arsenal have conceded the second-least goals in the league so far but have failed to score from open play since 4 October, against Sheffield United.
While this approach is suitable for away games, when Arsenal play at the Emirates they have to create goal-scoring opportunities.
Arsenal only had two shots on target against Aston Villa and a rampant opposition exposed Arteta’s cautious attitude.
Arteta has worked so hard to improve the Gunners’ defence, it has resulted in attacking creativity being stifled.
Aubameyang out of form
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has only scored twice in the league this season, including a penalty against Manchester United.
With Arsenal often using five defenders, goalscoring opportunities have dried up for the 31-year-old.
Aubameyang, who was named club captain in November 2019, has scored 74 goals in 119 appearances for Arsenal.
His record is unquestionable. However, his form is suffering as a result of Arteta’s determination to improve Arsenal’s defence.
On transfer deadline day, Arsenal signed Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey for £45 million. Partey has impressed in the centre of midfield and looks the player the Gunners have been crying out for.
But a combination of Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka makes Arsenal lop-sided in regards to defensive midfielders.
If Arsenal are to find consistentcy, Arteta will need to reassess his emphasis on defence in team selections for the remainder of the season. Especially at home.
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