Arsenal’s North London Derby demolition of Tottenham Hotspur had many thinking that the Gunners had turned a new leaf and Mikel Arteta’s plan was working. However, sceptics like myself were not convinced. Spurs were poor, they left holes in the midfield, they were second to every ball and looked lost.
Arsenal’s poor showing at Brighton has shown that the problems still remain.
The North London side have been disappointing this season and have only looked good against non-Premier League teams in the Carabao Cup. When they got the win against Norwich, it was against a side that had lost 16 straight games stretching back to their last attempt at the Premier League. These are not impressive results for a club of Arsenal’s stature and resources.
Arteta’s side had the 3rd best defence in the Premier League last season. Considering all that has been said about them being weak defensively Arteta had made sure a glaring problem was solved.
Despite a disastrous start to this year’s campaign, Arsenal have steadied the ship and have conceded 1 goal in their last 4 games. However in all of these games except against Norwich, who are easily the worst team in the league, their opponents have recorded a higher xG than them.
This indicates issues with chance creation, which have been apparent since last season. Arsenal have managed only 5 goals this season their worst start in front of goal since 1986. This is damning because even the so called “Boring Arsenal” of George Graham were more prolific except in the aforementioned season.
It begs the question why the club hierarchy approved spending in the region of £140m on mostly defenders and goalkeepers. Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and, Takehiro Tomiyasu are great players, but did they warrant 2/3rds of their transfer outlay especially when goals are not flowing up front.?
The best example of this is the decline of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The striker has often been played on the wing, but he has delivered despite this, scoring 22 goals in back-to-back season standing out as one of the best strikers in the league. In Arteta’s first full season, Aubameyang struggled, his xG per 90 (0.67) last season was down (0.41), about a third what it was in Unai Emery’s full season when he won the Premier League Golden Boot.
In Aubameyang, Arsenal have one of the best strikers in the league and they have to focus on feeding him because he will deliver goals. If they are unable to create better chances for their forwards they will continue to languish in midtable.
Arsenal have spent resources in departments of the team that didn’t need heavy investment and ignored areas that required spending. They needed an improvement in attack and they decided to focus on their defence. They have struggled to create chances in the league and it is unlikely to get better as the season progresses. Arsenal are in inertia and they need to spend big on attackers to get any return on their investment.