Arsenal

Five reasons Mikel Arteta has already answered $82m Stan Kroenke January transfer question

Arsenal transfer news as the Gunners set their sights on January improvement with one slot in particular needing attention
Are you not entertained? This ‘boring’ Arsenal side, the handbreak on team that has taken Manchester City’s message of needing consistency and defensive solidity so much to heart that a mere shot on goal is an offence, have shown they can still do it.

Mikel Arteta, for the first time this season, decided it was time to unleash his attacking options. He did it on unexpecting opponents. Poor Lens.

The team picked featured what can be considered three genuine defenders, and that’s being generous because Takehiro Tomiyasu ended the night with two assists from right-back and he was one of the three. Oleksandr Zinchenko is perhaps a defender in the loosest term and even Declan Rice can’t really be considered a defender because his driving runs and passing are just as effective as his recoveries and tackles.
What was truly eyecatching was even in the world of playing 3-2-5 formations, Arsenal selected five real attackers. The two midfield No.8s were both No.10s, both wingers scored 14 or more goals last year in the league alone and Gabriel Jesus was the striker. On the face of it, there’s perhaps no surprise that the Gunners rammed in goal after goal.
Six different scorers, five in the first half, total dominance and a message to those that doubted Arteta and his team. Martin Odegaard suggested that the openness of European competition aided the team. There’s sense to that, and Lens really were poor, but this was one of the great attacking displays with ruthless clinicality.

Goalscoring was meant to be the issue here, remember. Five teams have scored more than the Gunners this season after 13 games and that’s having put five past Sheffield United. The xG is even more middling, coming in at the sixth most with a big overperformance so far.
Only five teams have outperformed their xG more than the Gunners so far which suggests things cannot go on at this level but that is despite playing with Jesus and Havertz, both of whom are serial underperformers. However, if Arteta can get this sort of attacking performance from his team more often then it flips the plans for the next five weeks on its head.

It was this type of joint effort that helped them to sustain a title push last year, ending with four players scoring ten or more goals, two of those getting 15 and Saka with 14. Even from midfield Granit Xhaka chipped in with seven (plus a valuable seven assists) while back-up striker Eddie Nketiah only got four.
The fact that Nketiah had such a small part – he played less than 1,100 minutes but featured in 30 games – is an ode to how the squad worked together. Toward the end of the season in the period that the club tailed off it wasn’t for the lack of goals but the poor defensive errors that ultimately cost the title.

This is part of the reason Arteta has chosen control over chaos but if Arsenal can harness some of the explosive attacking play then it might just change January around. Already this term they are on course to have three players hit double figures in the league at least with the chance that it becomes four again should individual form pick up.

Unlike Manchester City – who had just two getting ten or more, granted one was Erling Haaland with 36 – Arsenal continue to share the goals. At City again it is Haaland and a supporting cast.

For Stan Kroenke, Josh Kroenke, Arteta and Edu Gaspar this poses an interesting dilemma. The Gunners have long been linked with a move for an out-and-out No.9 over the winter with Jesus’ fitness problems remaining and Gabriel Martinelli failing to ignite domestically.

Whether it be Ivan Toney or Victor Osimhen, there is a belief that the club will be sniffing around, at least contemplating a move if not taking the Chelsea route of bidding, bidding, bidding.
With the Champions League knockout demands and the knowledge of just how testing, both physically and mentally, a title run-in can be, Arteta may well be looking at the winter window with the aims of bringing someone new in to bolster his options. This would give him four players – plus Trossard and Martinelli who played there at times last year – able to be centre forward, at least one too many you suspect.

Depending on what the future holds for Kai Havertz and his most likely consistent role in the team questions will remain over this. If he isn’t a long or even short-term option as a striker, then Arteta really only has two players plus potential January reinforcement with Nketiah far from proven against the top six and Jesus a constant flight risk it is a balancing act.
On the one hand Arteta and his squad have just shown how they can work together in an ideal situation, but it is also the first time this term that things have clicked quite like that in that way. Considering Toney, as the most likely arrival, would cost more than the entire January spend last year – reports suggest £65million ($82m) will be enough but Brentford continue to quote closer to £100million ($124m) publicly – it isn’t a deal that the club will take lightly.

However, if the five-man attacking dynamic is either not here to stay or cannot replicate the goods domestically then Arteta will be forced to dip into the market for a point of difference player, someone that can win games when the game isn’t there to be won or the performance doesn’t warrant it.
This is the type of match that Arsenal have shown they are capable of snatching points from more and more over the last 12 months but with Liverpool and Manchester City now in pursuit of glory in May, the demands are higher and the margins smaller. Whether Arsenal shape this with one player or opt for the same but improved and more experienced and from last term may well define the season. Either way, Arteta has shown just what can be done when he turns the heat up.

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