Oof, that wasn’t fun to watch.
Mikel Arteta’s appointment was met with genuine excitement and anticipation by the Arsenal faithful, but the early optimism has been replaced with a general acceptance of their current underlying issues.
The Spanish boss has certainly restored some pride and organisation to this struggling Gunners side, but they continue to lumber through games with no real direction or clear plan.
The first noticeable change to their performances since Unai Emery’s departure was the appetite and desire to fight for every ball, but that passion can only get you so far. Emery’s biggest dilemma came in trying to accommodate all of his attacking stars, and when in desperate need of a top-quality centre-back, the Gunners went out and spent more then £70m on winger Nicolas Pepe.
The lack of connected thinking is plain to see at the Emirates stadium, and that is translate on the pitch through their labouring players. Arteta has inherited a team which clearly lacks balance, and their multiple attacking options dwarf the ability of their shoddy defensive alternatives.
Arteta opted for an attacking lineup against Burnley, in the hope that his pacy full-backs could supply the ammunition to his three-pronged attack, with Mesut Ozil floating in behind to provide some killer passes.
Suffice to say, it didn’t work out like that. The Gunners looked so bereft of ideas going forward, and centre-forward Alexandre Lacazette provided no outlet for his teammates to feed off. A penny for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s thoughts as he thanklessly plugged up and down the left-wing.
The Gabonese star is without doubt Arsenal’s greatest out-and-out striker, but he is being forced to sacrifice the best part of his game to allow others to slot into the side. When your star man is receiving the ‘Paul Scholes for England’ treatment, it’s time to press the panic button.
Lacazette was not the only man who struggled, however. Youngster Gabriel Martinelli has been tearing it up for Arsenal on the left-hand side – when given the opportunity. But due to Arteta’s selections, he was thrust onto the right flank, where he failed to make any impact and was unusually quiet.
And then, there’s Ozil. Making his 250th appearance for the Gunners, the German star was hooked in the second half, having faded out of the game very early on. Arteta was prepared to give Ozil a fresh start at the Emirates stadium, and as with most managers, he believed he had what it takes to unlock the potential which has become buried deep within the World Cup winner.
But once again, he failed to see out the 90 minutes.
As a unit, the attacking stars didn’t click at all. Players were making runs which went unseen, passes were being rolled without any conviction into dangerous areas, and crosses were rarely met by a Gooner head.
All in all, it was a wretched display from the Gunners. The only positive they can take is that the backline looked more secure than in previous weeks, and they held on to a hard-earned clean sheet – even with