Mikel Arteta could not have asked for a better start. Arsenal began Sunday’s game against Chelsea brilliantly. They took the lead early on and protected their advantage in a disciplined fashion. But unfortunately for Arsenal’s new manager, it did not last.
Frank Lampard replaced Emerson Palmieri with Jorginho in the 34th minute and switched to a 4-3-3 formation from the immensely effective 3-4-3 against Tottenham. It was a decisive change. Chelsea suddenly gained a foothold a midfield. Slowly but surely, they played their way into the game.
Arsenal were frustrated when Jorginho avoided a second yellow card after the break. The Italian was fortunate. But that was not the reason for the home side’s defeat. Chelsea created the better chances and deserved all three points. If he did not already realise it, Arteta will now know that he has a significant job on his hands.
Improving Arsenal’s defensive record will have been one of Arteta’s priorities upon taking charge. Only two teams in the Premier League have registered fewer clean sheets than Arsenal this term .
Arsenal’s defenders are not of the sufficient standard for a team with top-four aspirations. The January transfer window is just around the corner, but Arteta will not be able to sign an entirely new back four. The focus, therefore, should be on creating a structure that adequately protects the defence.
Arsenal managed just three shots in the final 75 minutes of Sunday’s defeat.
Unlike in defence, Arsenal have plenty of individual quality in their forward line. The issue now is making the team’s attack more than the sum of its parts. Mesut Ozil is a wonderful creator on his day, but he tends to flit in and out of games. Alexandre Lacazette is out of form. Aubameyang, in recent weeks at least, has done little outside of scoring.
Confidence is low throughout the Arsenal camp. Arteta will attempt to lift spirits before Wednesday’s meeting with Manchester United, but that will be a tall order after a run of just one win in 15 games.
When Arteta was asked about his plans for the January transfer window before Sunday’s game, he declared that Arsenal would only enter the market if the right players became available . His priority, Arteta insisted, was to extract the maximum from the players already at his disposal.
That is a sensible approach. There is clearly room for improvement within Arsenal’s squad, but a comprehensive overhaul will not be possible in January. When it comes to provoking an upturn in 2020, the training ground will be more important than the cheque book.