Arsenal show progress despite defeat in Manchester / Gunners will rue chances missed by misfiring forwards

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal talks to Thomas Partey of Arsenal before making his debut during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on October 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)


Despite Arsenal’s loss at Manchester City, Saturday’s clash proved another example of how the Gunners are making gradual progress under Mikel Arteta.

The classic statistic of away games against the ‘big-6′ will always be highlighted. However, it is how Arsenal have managed to close the gap to remain competitive in these games that is telling.

The north Londoners’ record against Manchester City at the Etihad and Liverpool at Anfield is very poor. What is noticeable, though, is how quickly such outings used to get away from the Gunners, with second-halves often used as little more than ‘damage control’.

The match on Saturday showed that Arsenal are, piece by piece, building towards challenging England’s top clubs again. With Thomas Partey still to find his way into the setup after just over a day of training, quality is only expected to improve.

Chances missed

Despite Arsenal having one of the most expensive front-lines in the Premier League, taking chances has been an issue of late. Alexandre Lacazette missed a big opportunity to make it 2-2 at Anfield late last month, and the Gunners ultimately rued that fluffed chance.

Then, at the Etihad, both Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could have equalised, were it not for Ederson. The optimist would say that making such big chances is still a positive sign, though.

However, with these opportunities coming in games that Arsenal realistically need to pick up points from to showcase significant progress, Mikel Arteta will begin to question his attacking choices.

Tactically, strikers have become isolated in ‘big games’ for Arsenal. Aubameyang often finds himself alone and feeding off scraps. At the Etihad, Arteta decided to field Willian in a false 9 role, with the Brazilian dropping deeper to try to connect play to the wide areas.

Lacazette has of course made his living at Arsenal as a striker who drops deep, holding up the ball before linking midfield to attack. Such hold-up play has not been at the same level as that of Olivier Giroud, but has nevertheless often proved effective. Therefore, questions as to why the Frenchman was left on the bench for the lacklustre Willian should be rightly asked.

Eddie Nketiah, also left on the bench, recently broke the England under-21 goalscoring record, but has yet to prove himself as a consistent goal-scoring threat in the Premier League. As Arsenal transition their formation to a back-4, the striker role will prove key.

Sparks of hope

There were two key performers from Saturday’s matchup who have brought hope for Arsenal’s upcoming run of fixtures. Firstly, Bukayo Saka was arguably man of the match, following a tenacious display. Quick feet, several successful take-ons and a near-equaliser were just some of the highlights on the part of the youngster.

Exactly where Saka fits into his side will now prove an important decision for Arteta.

Playing as a wing-back seemed ideal initially, but it is clear that the English international’s attacking verve must be harnessed further forward. Saka, recently named on the shortlist for the Golden Boy award, highlights a core group of exciting youth at the Emirates, amid hopes of a bright future in red and white.

At the other end, new boy Gabriel Magalhaes put on another commanding defensive display. After securing the signings of both the Brazilian and Partey, Edu, Arsenal’s Technical Director, spoke of how the Gunners had sought out physicality.

Sometimes outfought, Arsenal are beginning to look an intimidating side in the tunnel once again. Plus, a consistent centre-half had been a missing link in the Gunners’ side for a long time.

Arsenal now face league games against Leicester City and Manchester United, two sides with their own issues following the season’s opening. The two fixtures will no doubt provide further indication as to the progress this side has made under Arteta.

See also: Exclusive: “He has the talent to develop into a real top class player.” Former Huddersfield Head of Football Operations heaps praise on Arsenal’s Smith-Rowe

Man City reportedly making good progress on Kevin De Bruyne contract

This article was edited by Conor Laird.

Arsenal betting odds, next game:

Arsenal vs Leicester odds: result, both teams to score, correct score & goalscorers

Arsenal vs Leicester Full time result
Arsenal vs Leicester Result/Both teams scoreYesNo
Arsenal vs Leicester Correct Score
Arsenal vs Leicester GoalscorersFirstLastAnytime
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang7/57/58/11
Alexandre Lacazette12/512/513/10
Eddie Nketiah13/513/57/5
Kelechi Iheanacho11/411/47/4
Nicolas Pepe11/411/413/8

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