Top four areas Arsenal need to improve on
Arsenal have shown a great degree of improvement and progress under Unai Emery. Both in terms of points and performances, the Gunners have improved without a doubt. However, there still remain certain areas where a great deal of improvement is required if Emery’s side are to be a greater force next season.
Arsenal have been poor defensively this season. The defending has been characterised by far too many individual errors and overall a poor defensive record. While the side has been unlucky with the number of injuries, especially long term ones to crucial players, clean sheets have been a rarity. At the time of writing, Arsenal have conceded 143 shots on target compared to Manchester City’s 70.
Opposition sides are not closed down enough and given too much freedom to take up advanced positions in the final third. 59 per cent of the goals Arsenal have conceded have come in the first half, which is the poorest record in the league and also depicts why Emery’s halftime substitutions are so common. The Gunners have also conceded a whopping 22 penalties over the last three seasons, the highest in the league.
Emery needs to iron out the mistakes his defenders are committing. Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny have formed an encouraging partnership but given their ages, a contingency plan needs to be in place in case of injuries. If Shkodran Mustafi remains at the club after this summer, which seems unlikely, the German will really require a great deal of coaching from Emery if he is to become a reliable defender. Overall, the defence hasn’t looked too bad but has been crippled by injuries and individual errors rather than the lack of a defensive system as a whole. Significant investment will be required in this area.
Deciding on a starting 11
This campaign has seen a variety of starting lineups fielded by Emery both due to injuries and tactical reasons. It would do the Spaniard and the side a great deal of good if the most suitable starting 11 can be decided upon. Many times, Arsenal have struggled to synchronise attacks, looking dull and devoid of ideas. The constant chopping and changing have, without a doubt, had a major role to play in this issue.
Even in terms of an overall system, Arsenal have switched between four-man and three-man defences constantly. A cohesive and constant starting 11 will be required to ensure the optimum utilisation of talent in the side.
Developing an identity
A major complaint directed both by fans and pundits this season towards Arsenal is the lack of identity in terms of a style of play. While results are important, Arsenal fans place a great emphasis on the aesthetics of the football played by the side. Under Emery, Arsenal haven’t really been a possession-based side. While many expected an aggressive press, this hasn’t been the case either on most occasions. This season, the style of play has varied as the season has progressed.
Initially, we saw Emery sticking to a four-man defence but given the number of goals conceded, switched to a back-three. When Arsenal play a back-three, the play is heavily concentrated on the wings, especially through the wing-backs which makes the side easy to nullify. The Gunners have looked far better when playing a four-man defence as the midfielders are more involved and the side is generally better balanced.
Perhaps this is a result of Emery’s opposition-based tactical setup but the Spaniard really needs to bring a certain character and identity to Arsenal’s playing style. This becomes especially relevant in home games where more often than not Arsenal are heavy favourites to win games and basing a game-plan on the opposition doesn’t help Arsenal’s creative, flowing football. We have seen glimpses of both intricate one-touch passing and route-one football. Sometimes, a setup to dominate and sometimes, to keep a low-block and counter. Arsenal fans will be hoping that we can see a greater identity in the side next season.
A crippling lack of decisiveness under Ivan Gazidis cost Arsenal dearly in terms of poor sales, poor recruitment and players leaving the club on a free transfer. Moving forward, Raul Sanllehi, Vinai Venkatesham and Huss Fahmy need to ensure that the club are far more efficient in the transfer market and with player contracts considering how much richer clubs like United and City are compared to Arsenal. Aaron Ramsey is leaving for Juventus and Danny Welbeck looks set to leave as well. This summer will see many departures and a significant freeing up of the wage bill. The main objective should be to recruit intelligently in younger players with resale value if Arsenal are to build a successful business model and sustain themselves at the top level with an owner as indifferent as Stan Kroenke.