The wait is over, the point of tension has arrived. All week it has been quiet with the knowledge that the issue at hand is pretty simple, even if the solution may not be.
Arsenal have been struggling to score goals, struggling to get results, slipping down the table, and Arteta is beginning to lose the good graces he won with the fans at the end of the last season. With Arsenal in 15th place, Arteta either wins, buys himself and Arsenal more time, and points this ship North, or he loses and edges closer to walking the metaphorical plank.
With 6 Premier League matches in the next 3 weeks, Arsenal won’t be able to bail themselves out with January purchases, possibly until it’s too late. At the very least, not turning this around will do significant damage before it’s all said and done.
Most people are well aware of the fact that creativity and attacking prowess remains the major issue facing Arsenal, but it’s not the only aspect at play. In recent weeks, in an attempt to stimulate more attacking opportunities, Arsenal have also exposed themselves to danger at the same time. This will have certainly been an issue that Arteta was trying to avoid when he made his switch from the 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Finding a way to shield Arsenal’s backline from counters and overexposure, while actually scoring goals is proving to be an immense challenge.
“Obviously creativity is linked to the chances,” stated Arteta in his press conference, “that you are able to create in different positions around the box or the final third.”
“We are working in different aspects that we have to improve certainly. The profile of the player depends on where they play as well and that brings you one thing or another. Depending on how they play, we will try to expose certain areas.”
One player that has struggled to provide his usual spark this year is Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who has just 2 goals this whole season. In the past, Burnley has provided happy hunting for Aubameyang who has scored more goals against The Clarets than any other side. Finding a way to get three points with him on the scoresheet could be a massive step toward pointing things in a better direction, and Arteta understands just how important it is.
“It is vital for us. We have been inconsistent in the competitions, a really good run in the Carabao Cup, a really good run in the Europa League, but unfortunately the results in the Premier League haven’t been what we want. We are very frustrated with that and we know how important it is to put those results together really quickly, because we need them straight away.”
Aubameyang isn’t the only one with a great history against Burnley. Arsenal as a club have won each of their last nine home games against Burnley in all competitions. To make it 10, Arsenal will have to breakdown Sean Dyche’s low-block with Burnley full of confidence coming off a 1-1 draw with Everton.
Breaking down a strict block is exactly what Arsenal have struggled with all year and failed to do the second halves of both their last two Premier League matches. “They are difficult to break down because they have been working together with the same manager for a long time, and they know each other really well. They are disciplined and they have a good spirit and character among the team. They are always ready to fight and make it difficult for you.”
In recent weeks, Tottenham and Wolverhampton have sat back deep and created a lot of problems for Arsenal. In the second halves of both matches, Arsenal have turned to the wing and trying to fling in crosses to create chances. How many crosses will we see in a game that contains a staunch low-block for a full 90-minutes?
Breaking down that low block won’t be the only challenge Arsenal face. Burnley are notoriously a physical, no-nonsense side that looks to play route one football. They will have seen the success that Tottenham had one the break with confidence as they look to seize a few opportunities on the break when Arsenal commit numbers and lose possession.
Finally, set pieces. Arsenal have been fantastic this year on defensive set pieces conceding 0 goals. A remarkable turnaround from last year’s immense struggles. Despite the quality that Arsenal have shown, Burnley will believe they a chance given their size and the fact that they win the most aerial duels in the league.
Burnley have only scored 5 goals season season while conceding 18. It should be a game that Arsenal win, even if they struggle to overcome the defensive barricade Burnley set up centrally and on top of the box to force Arsenal to resort to hucking in low percentage crosses.
“There have been a lot of games, especially the ones we have played at home, where small details have made a huge difference” explained Arteta. “But at the end of the day, we haven’t scored enough goals and without doing that, we cannot win enough football matches. It is as simple as that.”
It’s the name of the game now, but the game is getting desperate. Results are needed regardless of how pretty the side looks achieving it.
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