Referee blunders, Missed chances & lack of attacking options on bench – How did it go wrong for Mikel Arteta?

Last weekend Mikel Arteta got it wrong.

He did not recognise Manchester City’s vulnerability, we failed to attack them and lost. Likewise Sunday night was a tough performance to take.

Arteta actually got the line up right on Sunday – with the only debate being whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be playing down the middle, and if the midfield 3 were in the right positions.

2-nil at half time

We looked good in the first half, creating more chances and attacking at will. We should have gone into half time 2-0 up.

The Lacazette goal that was ruled out was not offside. The linesman clearly thought Aubameyang had touched it in on the fair post when in fact it had hit the post and gone in.

Lacazette then missed an absolute sitter.

Football is a game of margin’s.

Had Lacazette’s first been allowed, I am sure he would have buried the second and there would be no discussion about him getting dropped. Instead, one was disallowed and he fluffed his lines for the second chance.

Lacazette looks like a man playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His trademark sharpness within the box is missing.

Arteta now needs to make a tough decision.

He needs to drop the Frenchman and play Aubameyang down the middle.

Aubameyang was fantastic last season on that left hand side, scoring goals for fun. But he creates very little.

When you have him out wide and Lacazette in the middle, you are sacrificing creativity for goals. The problem is when neither are scoring, something has to give.

Arteta needs to get more creativity on the field, and that is done through sacrificing one of his strikers for either Nicolas Pepe or Willian on the left.

Conceding from opponents first chance

Leicester City’s game plan was simple.

10-men behind the ball, stay in the game and bring Jamie Vardy on with 20 minutes to go to against a tired defence. And it worked.

It would not have worked if Arsenal were 2-0 up. But they were not.

When Vardy came on, the dynamic of the game changed.

Leicester started attacking more, balls over the top, into the channels.

Whereas Lacazette missed his chance in the first half, Vardy scored his.

Fine margins again.

Substitutes

Arsenal’s substitutions failed to affect the game.

It would be easy to say “Arteta got them wrong”, but his first 2 changes we driven by injury – firstly to David Luiz and then Bukayo Saka.

Lacazette should really have been taken off with 30 minutes to go, but with Saka hobbling, Arteta was unable to make the change.

Instead the young Englishman went off for Pepe, with Arsenal keeping the formation.

Arteta was also hampered by Willian’s injury.

 The Brazilian would surely have come on for one of the midfielders to make us more attacking. Without him on the bench we had a 4 / 2 split for defensive / attacking players on the bench.

It did not give Arteta many options when looking to chase the game.

Questions do have to be asked why Reiss Nelson was not on the bench. Would he have not been a better option than Eddie Nketiah?

Instead we ended up with 3 strikers on the pitch, but did not have the capability of getting the ball to them.

European hangover?

Sunday’s game was awful. Both teams played Thursday night in the Europa League.

Manchester City v Chelsea was equally as dull.

Manchester City could only draw with West Ham and Liverpool barely scrapped past Sheffield United at home.

With games more congested than ever, I think we will see more tired performances after mid-week European games; more surprise results.

Arteta put out a strong side against Rapid Wien on Thursday.

With our hardest away out the way and 3 points on the board, maybe it is time to rethink that and rest his planned weekend starting XI against Dundalk this Thursday.

Got to think we can beat the Irish side with a second XI. 6 points from 6 will be one foot in the next round.

Moving forward

When we lose a game like Sunday, it is very easy to quickly get into a negative mind set. Especially taking into account we have seen that sort of performance countless times in the last 5 years.

But there were positives to take.

Arsenal looked more attacking in the first half. We just ran out of ideas in the second half and did not have the personnel on the bench to change it up.

Arteta needs to stick to 433, but with a few tweaks.

Granit Xhaka needs to play in the middle of the 3. This allows Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos to drive forward and offer assistance in the final 3rd.

Pepe needs to start ahead of Lacazette, with Aubameyang down the middle.

Then that gives Arteta an attacking option on the bench in Lacazette.

Lacazette needs to be joined on the bench by Reiss Nelson and one other attacking player. Ideally someone that creates (Willian if fit?).

There is not point having LAcazette, Aubameyang and Nketiah on the pitch if we do not have a plan how to get them the ball.

Sunday was a disappointing result, we are 10th in the table, but this is going to be a roller coaster season.

It is going to be tight as every side can drop points to each other.

After 6 games last season, Arsenal were in 4th place, but already 7 points off top.

This season we are 10th, we 2 points less. But just 4 points off top.

Had we won yesterday, we would have been 4th and Leicester 10th.

It really is going to be a season of fine margins.

Keenos

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