Arsenal

Mikel Arteta knows Unai Emery’s tactic to confirm Arsenal as genuine Champions League contenders

Arsenal find themselves fifth in the Premier League table, just three points off a Champions League spot.

But are the Gunners genuine top-four contenders under Mikel Arteta?

Well, when speaking to Sky Sports after the summer transfer window had closed, technical director Edu didn’t want to set a target, rather prioritising a good season following major changes to the first-team squad.

“I don’t want to go for top four or top six or top eight or top 10,” the Brazilian said. “I’m just really looking forward to seeing this squad play together. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone fit.

“I want to see our squad because I don’t see it yet. But I’m really looking forward to it because I believe and Mikel believes that this team can have a good season.”

But with 12 games of the Premier League season played, the table is beginning to take shape at the top and bottom, and Arsenal find themselves in a great position to end their one-year hiatus from European football.

One can expect Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to contest the title race, whilst there are a clutch of clubs battling to join them in the Champions League next season.

Despite losing to Wolves at the weekend, West Ham United remain in pole position to claim the final top-four place, although they will be looking nervously over their shoulders between now and May.

Three points separate Arsenal in fifth to Manchester United in eighth – with Tottenham in seventh – and whichever club can sort their issues out first will feel confident of reeling the Hammers in.

For the Gunners to be considered genuine top-four contenders, they need to develop a ruthless streak in front of goal.

That may be a problem as whilst the north London outfit have been impressive in terms of picking up results over the past couple of months, their biggest weakness remains creating big chances and scoring goals.

As per Reddit, Arsenal’s attacking statistics ahead of their 4-0 defeat by Liverpool on Saturday evening were highlighted by Sky Sports and it didn’t make for great viewing.

The Gunners were ranked in the bottom two in terms of open play goals and big chances created (7). Neither statistic, as confirmed by fotmob, increased at Anfield with Arteta’s side drawing a blank and rarely threatening in attack.

In terms of Arsenal’s xG (expected goals) as there’s not much of a difference between what they are expected to score and the number of goals they have scored in the Premier League so far this season, it will be up to Arteta to come up with a formula that allows his side to enjoy a purple patch in front of goal.

Of course, it should be pointed out that players and teams are rarely able to over-perform their xG over a sustained period of time, but if the Gunners don’t make significant improvements in attack then their Champions League hopes – even their chances of being back in Europe next season – could be in danger.

This isn’t a new issue for Arsenal in the post-Arsene Wenger era as the creativity and goalscoring problems that existed after the Frenchman’s exit still haven’t been solved.

Except for a brief period early in Unai Emery’s reign as head coach.

 

Following Arsenal’s 5-1 win over Fulham in October 2018, only Man City (21) had scored more goals than the Gunners in the Premier League with 19 goals they were exceeding their expected goal tally at that stage of the season with a difference of 8.36 which was the highest of any team across the division.

And perhaps most impressively, Emery’s side boasted the best conversion rate in the Premier League at 25%.

Unsurprisingly, the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang weren’t able to help the Gunners over-perform their xG for much longer and they quickly fell out of the title picture.

But Emery did have the right formula to ensure Arsenal were still able to maintain a top-four push for the remainder of the 2018/19 season even when their xG reverted back to the mean.