Frustrated throughout the match with Burnley, Mikel Arteta’s side had gaps in their structure and congestion elsewhere. The options available may be limited but it was obvious that new additions will define the end to Arsenal’s season
The Arsenal that attacked Liverpool in the opening moments of their League Cup semi-final defeat was not present as Burnley won the early battles of attrition and earned an agonising point.
Mikel Arteta set up Arsenal with the same team bar Takehiro Tomiyasu who was replaced by Rob Holding, Ben White moving to right back. The crux of Arsenal’s issues seemed to lie in their midfield and striking positions. Ironically the two areas that the Gunners have been looking to strengthen in this winter transfer window.
Sambi Lokonga occupied the sole deep midfield position with Emile Smith-Rowe and Martin Odegaard ahead of the Belgian. Yet Arsenal lacked the focal point as Alexandre Lacazette’s positioning hampered the identity of the Gunners’ forward play.
With everybody fit, Arteta prefers to have the single number ten and the two deeper midfielders. With the double eights, the space behind the striker should solely be filled by the midfielders.
However, it is in Lacazette’s style to drop in and play the false nine position. Smith Rowe has lost his place to Gabriel Martinelli and Odegaard both out wide and centrally. Playing the England international in the group is proving not enough to be decisive even against the lower sides in the league.
Arsenal’s forays into the market for two players at striker and central midfield would have offered the solutions on the day that were not found in the game’s entirety.
Another central midfielder next to Lokonga, be it the Juventus man Arthur Melo who has been linked for some time, would have opened up space for the number ten.
The additional passing conductor from deep was clearly missing in the first half of the game as Arsenal struggled for dominance in the middle third. Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey’s absence felt yet again.
Gradually more long balls crept into the play from Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes. Similar to how the Liverpool defeat began to develop.
Whereas the acquisition of a central striker and more traditional number nine would have given Odegaard and Smith-Rowe a far greater focal point.
Lacazette missed a huge chance against Liverpool to change the game and as Smith Rowe burst down the left flank to set up the Frenchman, again Lacazette failed to hit the target in the best chance of the game.
Dusan Vlahovic’s prospective move continues to look unlikely to become anything more than a story.
Arsenal have other targets such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Alexander Isak and Jonathan David. But switching targets so late on could prove too much for a deal to be completed. Yet not signing a striker at all could end all hopes of achieving the top four.
There remains just over a week of the transfer window remaining and with the improvements continuing at Manchester United and Tottenham the pressure only increases on Edu to get the players in that Arsenal desperately need.
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