It was a horror show for Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday as Mikel Arteta’s side were massively outclassed by Aston Villa in the Premier League.
The Gunners were stunned 3-0 at home by a side who last season just about maintained their Premier League status, but by all means it could have been a whole lot worse for the hosts.
Jack Grealish, Ross Barkley, John McGinn and Co ran circles around Arsenal throughout in north London, but it wasn’t just in defence where the Gunners looked out of sorts.
Willian once again proved ineffective as Arsenal were outclassed 3-0 by Aston Villa on Sunday
Manager Mikel Arteta has a huge job on his hands to get Arsenal’s attack flowing again
|Premier League 2020-21||Arsenal|
|Total shots (inc. blocks)||73|
|Shots on target||28|
There was no fluidity whatsoever in attack yet again, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing to muster a single shot for the first time in a Premier League match at the Emirates.
While Ollie Watkins thrived up top with a brace thanks to Villa’s free-flowing football, Arsenal’s attack was nowhere to be seen. Dean Smith’s men out-played the Gunners on their own patch at what they supposedly do best.
And Willian’s troubles in particular perfectly highlight Arsenal’s attacking problems so far this season.
The Brazilian, signed on a free from London rivals Chelsea in the summer, looked a classy operator in Arsenal’s frontline as they emphatically overcame Fulham 3-0 on the opening day of the season.
Willian grabbed two assists at Craven Cottage, linking up superbly with Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang, who scored the pick of the goals with a fine finish from the left after being brilliantly picked out by the Brazilian.
Arsenal looked the business but fast forward almost two months and seven games later, and the situation couldn’t be any different.
|Premier League 2020-21||Willian|
|Total shots (inc. blocks||5|
|Shots on target||1|
|Big chances missed||1|
|Chances created (inc. assists)||8|
|Passes per game||33|
Arsenal have scored just nine goals in eight Premier League fixtures – only five teams have a worse record so far, including the bottom four sides.
Arsenal’s tally of just nine goals is the fewest they have scored at this stage of a league campaign since back in 1998-99 (9).
And in their last four Premier League matches, they have scored just once – and that came from the penalty spot against Manchester United. These are hugely worrying stats.
While the Gunners – up until Sunday – looked reassured at the back, up front they have massively struggled to find the correct balance and it’s hard to know where the goals are going to come from.
Arteta has prioritised the defence, but it has come at a cost. He has chosen structure over fluidity, and trusts Willian to do a defensive job better than Nicolas Pepe when it comes to tracking back and keeping the shape.
But Willian is offering the Gunners attack next to nothing at the moment, and it’s hard to see why Arteta is sticking by the experienced Brazilian when he has more lively options watching on from the bench.
The 32-year-old cannot seem to link up with his team-mates in attack, isn’t providing the runs in behind the opposition defences, while he is struggling to drive at goal – one of his biggest attributes from his Chelsea days.
Since the opening day of the season, Willian has been far too static up top for the Gunners
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failed to muster a single shot for Arsenal at the Emirates
He is becoming all-too stationary in the Arsenal frontline, and at present isn’t offering Arsenal another dimension in attack from the wing.
In seven appearances in the top-flight, Willian has no goals to his name, just two assists, only produced five shots, while creating eight chances. More is certainly needed from a man who has won almost everything in England.
Pepe came on as a second half substitute against Villa and while he struggled to make an impact, he at least showed attacking verve and promise.
The club’s record-signing isn’t afraid to take gambles going forward, and that is exactly what Arsenal need right now to try and unlock the attacking power we all know they have.
But it’s not just Willian who could do with a spell on the sidelines. Lacazette has looked out of sorts all season leading the line, and once again on Sunday he missed a gilt-edged opportunity.
At 1-0 down, Kieran Tierney swung a delightful ball towards the back post with Lacazette racing onto it. However, the Frenchman blazed his header over the crossbar with just Emiliano Martinez to beat.
Lacazette has looked shot of confidence all season and again, many Arsenal fans have been left puzzled why Arteta is continuing to show his faith in the striker.
Alexandre Lacazette missed a huge opportunity to draw the Gunners level against Aston Villa
Lacazette is neither providing the goals or holding the ball up for his team-mates, and it seems only a matter of time until Arteta looks elsewhere.
But perhaps most detrimental to Lacazette’s continued inclusion up top, is the effect it is having on Aubameyang’s performances.
Their talisman, the quickest player to score 50 Premier League goals for the club in just 79 appearances, is nowhere to be seen at present and didn’t have a sniff on Sunday as he failed to offload a single shot on the Villa goal.
Aubameyang, who only has two Premier League goals to his name this season, can’t find the service he needs and his ineffectiveness on the wing is costing Arsenal in attack.
The Gabon star should be the one making those late runs into the penalty area getting onto the end of inviting crosses, but instead he is playing a supporting role out wide.
Since the opening day of the campaign, Arsenal’s most fluent attacking play came at home to Sheffield United on October 4 when Pepe came on and Aubameyang moved down the middle.
Winger Nicolas Pepe is knocking on Arteta’s door after impressing in the Europa League
The Gunners scored two quickfire goals against Chris Wilder’s men thanks to their directness and quick inter-change on the wings, with Pepe scoring a wonderful solo goal for Arsenal’s second.
It was so simple. The Ivorian played a one-two with Hector Bellerin before running straight at Sheffield United’s defence before curling home into the bottom corner.
Pepe showed ruthlessness and bravery to get at the Blades’ defence, exactly what a winger should be doing.
The Gunners are way too static going forward right now, and Arsenal are in desperate need of a player willing to take gambles and risks to unlock opposition defences.
Pepe has laid down a marker in the Europa League, while the likes of Reiss Nelson have also looked a direct threat when given the opportunity in Europe.
Surely it’s only a matter of time until Arteta drops under-performing experienced stars Willian and Lacazette in his bid to unlock the key to Arsenal’s attack.