What needs to happen for Arsenal to reach the Top 4?
There’s exciting positives and old age negatives, but what really needs to happen for Arsenal to secure their top four status?
While the International break brings an unwelcome stutter to the buzz of returning Premier League football, it also gives us a chance to review the first month of the season. Four games in and Arsenal find themselves in a healthy position. After a renewed sense of optimism that developed in an exciting transfer window, the Gunners are sat 5th in the table with two wins, one draw and one loss.
Overall there’s exciting positives and old age negatives, but what really needs to happen for Arsenal to secure their top four status?
Find the right formation
The first and most important task Unai Emery faces is working out his best formation. In four games, the Spaniard has used three different approaches.
It appears he favours the 4-2-3-1, which he opted for against Newcastle and Burnley. However against Liverpool he attempted a wildcard by trialing a 4-1-2-1-2 and for Tottenham the team lined up in a 4-3-3.
These different approaches confirm that Emery is a pragmatic coach who adapts his team based upon his opposition and after twenty-two years of Wenger’s stubbornness this more varied approach has been welcomed.
However, most Arsenal fans aren’t sure what Emery’s aspired philosophy is. Fans look for the team to control games and if constant change brings confusion from the terraces it might be having the same effect on the pitch.
In truth, as long as Emery achieves his top four aims then no one will be too concerned on the formation played. However, with Pep and Klopp so self-assured on their tactics and team they want to build, Emery would do well to build the same.
Tierney and Bellerin
One position which does seem paramount to Emery’s desired tactics are his full backs. With Nacho Monreal being sold to Real Sociedad and Sead Kolasinac not comfortable in a back four, the manager will be just as eager as all Arsenal fans to see Keiran Tierney get up a running in red and white.
Supposedly due back in full training once the players return from the international break, he’s one player who could make the difference to Arsenal securing top 4.
And it’s not just the left side of the defence which Arsenal fans will be excited about. Hector Bellerin, who is on a similar timeline of injury progress to Tierney, will be a welcomed return.
So far this season there have been undesired gaps once Arsenal lose the ball and the opposition begin to counter. However, with Bellerin and Tierney’s pace and defensive awareness, once both players are in the team, Arsenal can feel more confident in their defensive unit as well as utilising both players attacking prowess.
It should be remembered that both have been out for an extended period of time and will need weeks to find their best form. However, once fully fit and integrated, they will be exciting additions to the starting 11.
You can’t write an Arsenal article without mentioning the defence. Already this season, new signing David Luiz has shown both positive and negative sides to his game but you can imagine signing on promises means he’ll get away with a few more mistakes before being dropped.
Meanwhile Sokratis has looked committed but increasingly headless at times. Therefore, Rob Holding’s return will be met with open arms, and most fans are hoping to see Calum Chambers get more opportunities to impress.
Regardless of what the winning partnership is, it’s extremely important that Emery works it out as soon as possible. If not, the repetitive mistakes could see Arsenal enter a fourth unwanted season in the Europa League.
In the Middle
While in defence there’s a shortage of quality, in midfield an abundance of talent has appeared. With Matteo Guendouzi showing maturity and talent beyond his age, Lucas Torreria improving on from an impressive debut season and Dani Ceballos instantly getting to grips with the passion of the Premier League it appears Emery has a perfect three.
However, the Spaniard has yet to field this partnership, and with him constantly changing the formation, his desired balance remains unknown.
More so, Granit Xhaka continues to be reckless but selected and Joe Willock has put in performances that are certainly worthy of a recall.
For Arsenal to secure a top 4 finish, Emery will need to become clear on how he wants his midfield to work. Is he after hard working machines or more flair based achievers? Whatever it is, he’ll need to find a partnership that fits as soon as possible.
What to do with Mesut?
Did you notice Mesut Ozil wasn’t even mentioned? The German had some genuine security concerns alongside Kolasinac, however, Kolasinac has returned to the team while Ozil is yet to feature.
It’s obvious that Emery doesn’t put Ozil on the same pedestal as his predecessor. However, Arsenal are still paying his £350k a week wage meaning Emery will be under pressure to find a place for the playmaker in the squad.
Regardless of the capacity, if Emery can get Ozil firing, it’ll only serve to improve the team.
One thing Arsenal have proved is they’ll score goals. With 6 scored they sit 6th in the goals scored table. Aubameyang looks hungry and has proven his natural quality in front of goal while Lacazette continues to work tirelessly as well as getting himself on the score sheet.
However, as comparisons to Liverpool’s front three continue, Emery must work out how best to use his three magic men.
It’s clear that Aubameyang has more value down the middle, but then where does that leave Lacazette? Then there is Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli who will both be desperate to impress.
With all these exciting players the team is guaranteed goals, but the pressure will be on Emery to make the most of his impressive options.
Finally, the club record signing, Nicolas Pepe has shown glimpses of his obvious talent. All the winger needs now is his first goal and if he can reach his potential, Arsenal’s chances of a top four finish will ignite beyond belief.
Overall, Arsenal have shown in the first month to expect more of the same. Their loss to Liverpool felt familiar albeit with a slight improvement and they showed character to come back from two goals down against Tottenham. Meanwhile the wins against Newcastle and Burnley were welcomed but expected.
Importantly though the win at St James Park meant there was no repeat of the clubs abysmal away record for the past two seasons.
September brings a home fixture to Aston Villa with away trips to Watford and Man Utd either side. As well as this Arsenal will begin their Europa League and EFL cup campaigns against Eintracht Frankfurt and Nottingham Forest respectively.
It’s been a solid start for Arsenal, and if they can come through September with two wins and a draw in the League, their top four prospects will look even rosier. August has just finished and if the Gunners can keep this form up, they’ll have no excuses for missing out on their goals come May
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