Arsenal’s front 3 are not working.
It is clear and obvious to all, including Mikel Arteta, that Arsenal are not creating and therefore not scoring enough.
The problem is Arteta is yet to work out what his front 3 is.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was deadly on the left hand side last season, finishing 2nd top scorer in the league. But he creates very little from out wide.
If you play Aubameyang on the left, you need to have a striker in the middle that can be the creative outlet.
When Aubameyang is outwide, Alexandre Lacazette is in the middle. But he is more of an Ian Wright or Jermaine Defoe than a Dennis Bergkamp or Gianfranco Zola.
Lacazette is a goal scorer. Not a creator.
When Arsenal play Lacazette and Aubameyang together, they are sacrificing creativity for goals. But the problem is for them to score they need to get the ball in dangerous places.
In all 3 of Arsenal’s defeats this season, both Aubameyang and Lacazette have missed clear chances to score – Lacazette against Leicester and Liverpool; Aubameyang against Man City.
So as it stands, the strikers are not getting enough chances, and when they do they are fluffing their lines.
With Lacazette down the middle and Aubameyang on one of the flanks, it leaves either Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pepe or Willian on the opposite side.
It leaves us with just one naturally creative player in the front 3 for the final third.
In the short term, Arteta should move Aubameyang into the middle and play 2 of Willian, Pepe and Saka.
Aubameyang then focuses on what he does best – scoring goals; whilst the onus is then on the two wide men to drop inside and feed up. The full backs then provide the width.
It is similar to how Manchester City attack – with Raheem Sterling on the left and either Bernardo Silva or Riyad Mahrez on the flanks.
The widemen cut in giving the full backs the space to get to the byeline and play cut backs to Sergio Aguero.
The other option is to look at Liverpool.
Liverpool’s goals come from their widemen – Sadio Mane and Mo Salah – rather than Firminho up front.
Firminho is their creative outlet in the final 3rd.
Like City, Liverpool also rely on their full backs for creativity in the wide positions.
The problem is for Arsenal is we do not have a Firminho type striker who can drop a little deeper.
If we wish to go down the Liverpool route, we need to find a Dennis Bergkamp – a striker who is a better creator than he is a scorer.
Arteta could then play his Bergkamp type down the middle, looking forward, feeding Aubameyang wide left and either Pepe or Saka wide right.
Chelsea sign Kai Harvetz this summer. He would have been ideal to play the “false 9” position.
The final option is to take inspiration from Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.
Wenger played Olivier Giroud down the middle.
Giroud is not a naturally goal scorer, but he is fantastic with his back to goal and bringing others into play.
Arsenal at their best with Giroud in the team had Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott on the flanks, scoring the goals.
2016/17 saw Arsenal score 77 league goals – the highest since 2009/10.
Alexis Sanchez scores 30 goals in all competitions and Theo Walcott 19. Giroud was 3rd top scorer with 16.
Giroud does a similar job for France as well – bringing Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe into play, letting them take the glory.
Instead of a Bergkamp type who will drop deeper to create, Arsenal could go for a Giroud type who plays with his back to goal and brings the wide forwards into play that way.
Arteta needs to make a decision on a long term plan:
- Aubameyang down the middle with creativity out wide
- Bergkamp type down the middle, with the goals out wide
- Giroud type down the middle with the goals out wide
Whatever route he goes down, one thing is clear.
Lacazette down the middle with a Aubameyang out wide doesn’t work.