Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe Starting consistently is the key to Arsenal’s Success.
The biggest bright spot for Arsenal last season was the partnership of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Their friendship off the pitch translated to the Emirates pitch as the two linked up wonderfully, particularly in the second half of the season. This partnership was the key to Arsenal reaching the Europa League final with the two scoring all seven goals in the semi-final tie against Valencia.
With the addition of Nicolas Pepe in the summer, Arsenal now has a front-three that has the firepower that can rival that of Liverpool and Manchester City. This can only materialise however if the three are given the opportunity to start together and develop the same chemistry that in particular, the trio of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino have at Liverpool.
Despite defensive struggles when Jurgen Klopp originally took over, the German manager gave his front-three which featured Phillipe Coutinho before the arrival of Mo Salah, complete freedom to express themselves. Even before Virgil Van Dijk and Allison Becker arrived at Anfield to shore up the back-line, Liverpool were one of the most exciting teams to watch.
This is a model Arsenal have to follow if they hope to reach the same level. Strengthening at the back will take time for Unai Emery as at the moment, Arsenal doesn’t have the players at the club to be one of the best defensive teams in the Premier League. Much like Klopp did in his early days at Liverpool, Arsenal needs to accept this and play to their strengths.
Pepe is one of the best dribblers in the Premier League, Aubameyang is one of the most lethal finishers and Alexandre Lacazette is one of the best all-round number nines possessing fantastic link play as well as the killer instinct of a top striker. This combination has all the same attributes that the Liverpool trio have, they simply need to be given the time to develop the on-field relationships together. Putting three players of immense quality together will not always lead to instant success but the more they get to play together, the better the results will be.
Addressing a Key Issue
One of the biggest issues for Arsenal going forward last season was the lack of wide play. Alex Iwobi was the only player Arsenal had in their ranks that enjoyed running at players and carrying the ball forward. Replacing Iwobi with Nicolas Pepe is a massive upgrade. In the 1st three weeks of the season, Pepe has completed the most dribbles in the league.
This is despite having only played just more than half of the minutes available in those three games. This ability to commit defenders and take opposition defences out of their shape will create a massive amount of opportunities for both Aubameyang and Lacazette.
Of course, Emery playing with three out and out attackers will leave Arsenal more open at the back but this is a risk that the Spaniard should be willing to take. When Arsenal have set up defensively in the past, it has not proven successful. It takes away from the attacking play but doesn’t seem to prevent the opposition from creating chances. This is simply because Arsenal’s defenders have not been good enough to play in this system. The clichéd “the best defence is a good attack” is entirely apt for Arsenal.
With Aubameyang, Lacazette, and Pepe all on the pitch, opposition teams will be forced to take fewer chances. This, in turn, will ease the workload of the back-line and make their jobs significantly easier. Inviting teams to attack definitely does more harm than good for Arsenal. When asked to defend for long periods of time, the concentration of Arsenal defenders always seems to slip and leave openings for opposition attackers.
Playing To Their Strengths
It seems pretty simple that to achieve maximum success, you need to play to your strengths and put your best players in the best position to be successful. Arsenal is going to have to take risks to achieve this success as all of the most talented players in the squad are attacking players. This risk is one which is definitely worth taking. Arsenal conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season and scored 73. This was the exact same amount of goals conceded as the 2017/18 campaign under Arsene Wenger but one less goal scored.
The best chance to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool and to achieve the primary goal of qualifying for the 2020/21 Champions League is to try and match the top two in the goals scored column. The attacking quality is there to match any team in Europe and it must be utilised to full effect. If this leads to a similarly poor defensive showing as previous years then so be it. I believe though, by going with the front-three together and pushing full-backs higher up the pitch, Arsenal will be able to pin teams back and prevent them from causing us the same problems as last season.
This will help Arsenal to achieve a better defensive record than the past two seasons as defenders will have less work to do and thus, fewer opportunities to make mistakes.
This weekend’s North London Derby is the perfect opportunity for Unai Emery to start with this front-three. Tottenham have looked unsettled in the early weeks of the season and defensively, they have not looked solid. With Jan Vertonghen and Serge Aurier apparently wanting to leave the club, neither has featured so far for Mauricio Pochettino. As well as this, Kyle Walker-Peters looks set to miss out at the Emirates due to injury leaving Tottenham’s defensive options greatly reduced for this weekend.
Emery needs to capitalise on this possible vulnerability and go all-out attack. Spurs may be forced to use Moussa Sissoko or Eric Dier at right-back on Sunday with Juan Foyth also out of the game through injury. This is a prospect that will have Aubameyang, in particular, licking his lips. He loves to operate in the channel between right-back and right-centre back and with one of Spurs midfielders being forced to deputise, he will sense the chance to get plenty of opportunities.
Simply put, Arsenal must play with an attacking trio of Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if they are to achieve their goals this season. If Unai Emery cannot manage to get the best out of these three talents then Arsenal’s chances of regaining a Champions League place will be greatly reduced.
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