April 23, 2021

Arsenal facing £175m transfer headache that Mikel Arteta must solve

3 min read

When the line-up for Arsenal’s clash with Liverpool, fans on social media were quietly confident.

For the first time this season, Mikel Arteta opted to start Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette.

However, right from the off it was a decision which backfired as the Gunners fell to a humbling 3-0 defeat against the champions.

That was merely the latest edition of the biggest conundrum that has faced Arteta since replacing Unai Emery in 2019.

How to get the best out of the three most expensive players in the club’s illustrious history…

The Telegraph report that the trio are close off the pitch, with Aubameyang and Lacazette clicking from the moment the former arrived in 2018.

Mikel Arteta knows his side have under-performed this season

But on the pitch, it’s a different story, with Arsenal’s and their own individual best performances coming when that much vaunted front-three is fragmented.

Aubameyang has been shifted from left to centre on a seemingly weekly basis, as he endures his most difficult season in European football.

In fact, his last six goals have all came when Lacazette has been out of the XI, while the Frenchman has his last four when his best bud has been on the sidelines.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe shirts hang in the Arsenal changing room before the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium
Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe are Arsenal’s three most expensive signings
(Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

It’s a problem that has severely hampered their first full campaign under Arteta and one that threatened to detail his tenure completely, until the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe in December.

That gave some temporary respite, with Bukayo Saka also providing a more reliable output than his expensive teammates.

Arteta is aware of the gravity of the issue and believes there are several reason behind their lack of cohesion.

“One of them is because we have had so many injuries and Covid,” said the Arsenal manager. “We have had a lot of things happening with competitions: we have had to alternate and still be competitive.

But the three haven’t always linked up well, despite being close off the pitch
(Image: Action Images via Reuters)

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“Sometimes it is because of the qualities we have around the team, and that cohesion that the team needs. Sometimes we believe it is better to do it in a different way.”

One different way is to finally decide on the skipper’s best position, for all of Lacazette’s good work, Aubameyang appears to be a more long term fixture and they need to get the best out of him.

Gunners legend Emmanuel Petit has also urged Arteta to make a decision and stick with it, with the constant changes doing nothing for his confidence.

Former French midfielder and 1998 World Champion, Emmanuel Petit poses during a photo session on September 14, 2017 in Paris. Challenged Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger "is still the man of the situation" said Arsenal former player Emmanuel Petit, who regrets "to see that this club no longer attracts top players."
Petit has urged Arteta to play Aubameyang as a central striker
(Image: Getty Images)

“For me, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a striker, so he should play up-front,” Petit said.

“Yes, his speed means he can do a good job playing from the left-hand side. But this guy has to stay very close to the opponent’s box, not out wide where he has to get back and defend.

“He’s scored so many goals throughout his career, but when you lose that little bit of confidence, you’re not the same player and I think that’s what we’re seeing from Aubameyang at the moment.”

Either way, with a combined value of £175million, Arteta needs to find the answers and fast.

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