It started so well. Arsenal controlled the first half. They generated chances, fired shots on goal, and even put the ball behind Kasper Schmeichel only to have it called back for a questionable offside on Granit Xhaka for “impeding” the keeper. David Luiz was pinging balls all over the field and Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were popping up all over the place. It looked as if the switch to a 4-3-3 might be the cure to Arsenal’s attacking woes.
But for all the improvement, Arsenal didn’t score in the first half. And unfortunately, the script was all too familiar. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Jamie Vardy gets a late chance against Arsenal, scores it, snatches the full points for Leicester.
Isn’t it going to be great when this stays 0-0 with #Arsenal dominating possession and looking much better on offense...— The Socially Distanced Fuse (@TheShortFuse) October 25, 2020
...only to have Jamie Vardy come on in the 70th minute and score against the run of play for a 1-0 Leicester win?
Clearly I’ve been hurt too many times.
Arsenal looked a completely different side in the second half. The improved attack of the first half vanished completely. Some of that is down to David Luiz going off hurt. Some of that can be put on Bukayo Saka getting hurt on a vicious tackle from Fofana that eventually forced him off. And I’d bet Leicester adjusted too, although I’d have to go back and watch to see what precisely Brendan Rodgers changed.
The difference between the two halves highlights one of Mikel Arteta’s biggest weaknesses as a head coach so far — he doesn’t have a Plan B. He has shown that he can set out a good side to start matches and create a good game plan. But when that doesn’t go well and Arsenal need to chase a game, he has demonstrated that his in-game tactical adjustments and his substitutions aren’t up to par.
To his credit, he’s still in his first year as a head coach, and his most recent adjustments — whatever that Willian experiment was last weekend and changing to a 4-3-3 today — show that he’s trying to find the right combinations. He just got “his guy” in Thomas Partey. I want to see how he integrates him into the setup and whether that changes things.
But the lack of an attack is very concerning. Arsenal are too predictable. They get nothing from the middle of the formation in the attacking third. The system is rigid and lacks invention/creativity/spark. Arsenal still haven’t had a “bad” result this season, but things are trending the wrong way. And I’m starting to get concerned about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It’s the first time since 2014 that he’s failed to score in 5 straight league games.