The simple solutions are often the best solutions.
Mikel Arteta’s issue is he is an overthinker. This can lead him to overcomplicate things for Arsenal tactically – and the result is the picture in his brain does not materialise on the pitch.
Overthinking how to resolve Kieran Tierney being out led to the Brighton defeat. He focused so much on how to protect our left hand side that it left us exposed in the middle.
Simplicity is best. Round pegs in round holes.
Against Southampton – and moving forward for the rest of the season – we need to put out a very simple XI.
Ramsdale, Cedric, White and Gabriel should be the first 4 names on the team sheet (until Tomiyasu is back fit).
I have seen some putting White at right back, Cedric at left back and Holding alongside Gabriel in the middle. This is a good example of overcomplicating a situation which leads to 2 players playing out of position and us breaking up our successful centre back partnership.
We need to stick with a solid middle. And that is White and Gabriel.
I would then still start Nuno Tavares at left back – and this is why this XI will not happen.
Tavares has had it tough in recent games – pulled off early in his last two starts. I feel sorry for him.
Out of form and no confidence, he probably is not up to the task. But he is the best full fit senior left back at the club.
By not playing him, and putting a square back in a round whole, we end up with not just a weaker left back but also weaker elsewhere on the pitch.
If we do not start Tavares, Arteta needs to look at the youth team and possibly play Joel Lopez or Lino Sousa. At 20 and 17 respectively, they might not be ready, but we could need one of them to step up – reminiscent to Gael Clichy as an 18-year-old in 2003/04.
I would stick with Tavares.
Our recent good form was due to playing a more attacking, progressive midfield.
Thomas Partey sat deep in an anchor role, whilst Granit Xhaka and Martin Odergaard played further ahead in wheat the kids call the “8” role.
The problem is Albert Sambi Lokonga is no Thomas Partey.
I would move Xhaka back deeper alongside Lokonga, moving us from the 4141 formation we are currently playing back to the 4231 we used to play.
This would resolve a couple of issues.
Firstly it would make us more defensively stable.
Against Brighton we lost the midfield battle as Lokonga was over run. Xhaka deeper – and with White and Gabriel behind, we have a solid square of 4 in the middle of the park.
We also struggled to transition the ball through the midfield against Brighton – Lokonga does not have the calmness on the ball, vision or range of passing of Partey.
With Xhaka deeper, he becomes the “first receiver” and is the one to dictate play. They should see us take the ball from defence into attack much more efficiently.
Thirdly, With Lokonga and Xhaka both deep, it will allow them to cover the left and right hand sides of the pitch. This means that Tavares will have extra help in defence from Xhaka.
Rather than Xhaka being 20 meters up the pitch as he is when he plays with Partey, his starting point will be deeper. This will allow him to get across to the left flank quicker providing Taveras some much needed protection.
Moving forward, the switch in midfield will see us return to 3 behind the striker. Saka and Odergaard are the first two.
Joining them on the left wing should be Emile Smith Rowe.
Rowe tends to drift inside more in comparison to Gabriel Martinelli. He will then more naturally fill some of the space left by Xhaka playing deeper.
Smith on the inside left will then create the space around the outside for Tavares to bomb forward.
Defence could be the best form of attack on our left hand side, so having Tavares bombing forward, Smith Rowe tucked inside, Xhaka covering the left back when he is up the pitch should create a nice balance.
Up top I would make a big change.
Alexandre Lacazette is not doing it. He is looking exhausted. We should give Martinelli a run through the middle for a bit.
The little change in midfield will see us playing deeper. As a result we need someone up top who can work the defenders and run in behind. Lacazette can not do that. Martinelli can.
If Arteta keeps it simple, we still might challenge for the top 4. If he overcomplicates things, plays players out of position and weakens more areas of the pitch beyond where we are already weak, then we might as well go to the beach and Europa Conference now.
Enjoy the game tomorrow. I am now in relax mode for the Easter break.