Arsenal have only scored one goal in their last five Premier League games. Star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not had any goals from the open game since the opening weekend. How does Mikel Arteta get the Gunners shooting again?
Commentary and Analysis
It’s now been seven hours and 56 minutes since his team scored a goal in the open game of the Premier League – and a formation change and a change of position for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did little to solve the problem at 0-0. United to resolve Sunday’s draw in Leeds.
Nicolas Pepe’s senseless red card in 51. Minute didn’t help, of course, but even in the first half when they were at full strength, Arsenal just couldn’t find a way to open against their hosts.
There were five shots by Arsenal in those first 45 minutes, but no hit – against a team from Leeds with the statistically worst defense in the league.
Toothless in attack? Arsenal were seldom in a position to threaten at all. It’s a recurring problem as Arsenal have been goalless in four of their last five Premier League games.
Arsenal have only nine points so far this season – their lowest record in nine games since 1986/87 (six)
In moments like this, Arsenal’s star striker Aubameyang is inevitably the focus. He scored 22 goals for them last season but has only one goal – a penalty – from his last eight league games.
Aubameyang’s loss of shape was a mystery and a frustration. But his move to the center forward didn’t prove to be the solution as many had recommended.
Instead, Aubameyang, who started a Premier League game through the middle for Arteta, was isolated and only managed 17 goals in the first half. Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, on the other hand, had 27.
He was overtaken twice by Leeds defenders after long balls from Leno just before the break in quick succession. Playing with his back to the goal is just not his forte.
The goal in the penalty area is true – but a wild cut past the post showed his current lack of confidence in front of goal, while a spin and shot directly at Illan Meslier at the hour on the hour failed and tame by his standards.
That was his only shot on goal of the game after having only managed three from long positions in his last six Premier League games. These are lean times for a player who has scored goals since arriving in England in January 2018.
Aubameyang’s heat on Elland Road could be attributed to less than ideal preparation as he and his Gabon teammates had to sleep on an airport floor last week on international service. Or maybe there are broader questions about his loss of form that would explain his problems before the international break.
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But Aubameyang’s position or performance isn’t Arteta’s main concern when it comes to Arsenal’s attacking problems. This is a much broader topic that includes the entire team on the front foot.
They are now among the bottom six teams in the Premier League for shots, shots on goal and odds per game in the top division this season. The fact that the exiled Mesut Ozil still ranks second when it comes to the chances Arsenal players have created since the start of last season is telling.
Reaching midfield, beating the defenders wide, creating a spark in the final third, and freeing up space in and around the box for their attackers has become Arsenal’s problem – whether they are in a 3-4-3 develop 4-2-3-1 or some other system.
Pepe’s red card clearly skews analysis of Arsenal’s performance at Leeds. If anything, players deserve credit for the fight they showed – with the help of the woodwork three times – for one point.
But in the first 50 minutes, at 11v11, there were signs that the problems we saw with their attack for much of this season were still going on – and not resolved with a simple reshuffle of players on the field can be.
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Arsenal F. . C.. . , Leeds United, Premier League, Mikel Arteta, Marcelo Bielsa and Nicolas Pépé
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