Despite a couple of encouraging displays this season, Arsenal find themselves seventh in the Premier League following their 2-1 defeat to Everton.
The Gunners’ season has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, to say the least, losing their opening three league fixtures before steadying the ship and enjoying a ten-match unbeaten run across all competitions.
However, things seem to have unravelled again as Mikel Arteta’s side have lost three of their last four outings – conceding nine goals in the process.
Pressure has now begun to mount on Arteta’s head, with the north Londoners currently below both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in the table despite both clubs sacking their managers in recent times.
One of the most common criticisms of the Spaniard has been his bemusing team selections, consistently dropping players that are in form for squad players with little match sharpness.
For example, Hale End academy graduate Ainsley Maitland-Niles delivered a man-of-the-match display during last month’s win against Watford, only to find himself on the bench in each of the next four matches despite Thomas Partey struggling to impress.
Similarly, youngster Albert Sambi Lokonga created a whopping six chances during the recent 2-0 victory against Newcastle United, by far the most of any player on the pitch that day.
However, the former Anderlecht star hasn’t played a minute since as wantway Mohamed Elneny was preferred against Manchester United before a clearly unfit Granit Xhaka was preferred at Goodison Park on Monday evening.
The Swiss international looked off the pace throughout the contest and looked extremely tired in the second half before bringing Anthony Gordon down in transition, receiving a yellow card for his troubles – something that Jamie Carragher claims cost Arsenal for the second goal.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Carragher said: “Xhaka can’t make a challenge because he’s worried about making a challenge because he’s already got a yellow card for his stupid challenge on Anthony Gordon. ”
It is no coincidence Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, the three best teams in the English top-flight, are all famed for their ability to press out of possession and regain the ball high up the pitch.
This is something that Arsenal have sporadically done under Arteta’s tutelage but it seems to have gotten more and more rare in recent weeks.
In fact, the Gunners rank dead last in the Premier League when it comes to successful pressures so far this season, as per fbref.
The north London outfit are often caught in two minds, with some players blocking passes lanes whilst others are seen attempting to press individuals, making them disjointed defensively – which is part of the reason they rank 16th in the division for xGA (expected goals) against this term.
Arsenal icon Thierry Henry admitted he was left bemused by his old side’s decision to sit deep after taking the lead against Manchester United, a similar tactic they deployed during the defeat against Everton.
Speaking to Amazon Prime, Henry said: “They started to sit and sit and sit and when Sancho received that ball you’re already defending your box.
“Why are you so low? I don’t get it.”
This has been a common theme for the Gunners this season, who squandered a 1-0 lead against Crystal Palace before doing the same against the Toffees and Red Devils.
Arteta has claimed that these instances are not his instructions, which if true is equally as worrying considering that would mean his own players aren’t listening to his demands.
The Spaniard’s substitutions have also left a lot to be desired, with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe playing just five minutes of Premier League action in the last seven weeks whilst Eddie Nketiah, who looks set to depart the club in the coming months, was handed a cameo role during Monday’s match on Merseyside.
The inexperienced coach has a lot to answer for. He will need to turn his side’s fortunes around, and fast, or faces becoming the seventh manager in the English top-flight to be sacked this season.