Arsenal

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal prediction comes true amid latest Declan Rice injury update

The Gunners boss has already warned fans what to expect in games this season and believes game state will be a huge definer of his side’s ability to score goals

Questions have persisted over Arsenal’s attack all season. Even in games where they have been able to wrack up the goals, they have looked far from the free flowing best of last campaign. Saturday’s 5-0 win over Crystal Palace was no different despite the score line.

And yet there was a difference. The kind of difference that Arteta has been hinting could come for some time now.

The low block Palace brought to the Emirates Stadium was nothing new. With Arsenal’s newly reclaimed status as Premier League heavyweights, teams have been doing it all season. In fact, Roy Hodgson dropped an extra centre back into his side, just to try and frustrate his hosts even further.

Tactics like this have generally stifled Arsenal’s attempts to recreate the halcyon days of last season. At this stage last season the Gunners had 50 goals and were regularly blowing teams away with full speed football. This time around they have just 42 and have rarely hit top gear. This is something Arteta himself has acknowledged.

It’s not going to be as fluent, it’s not going to be as hectic, because there is no space to run,” he said in November. “When you are sitting in traffic, you want to go 100mph, but I have three busses and 55 taxis around me, so it’s tricky. We have to find another way to be where we want to be.”

On Saturday they finally found that route out of traffic that they have been looking for, for much of the season – an early goal. You could make a strong case for the fact that Arsenal actually played better in their recent defeats to Liverpool and West Ham. Unlike in those games though, Arsenal got the early goal that they so craved.

It’s testament to the coaching staff that they were able to unlock this tightly bolted defence. Arteta may have claimed that Arsenal didn’t work much on set pieces in the build up to this game, but they are top of the Premier League for goals scored from dead ball situations. While the Gunners continue to struggle to hit the heights of last campaign in open play, this is something Arteta feels is going to be crucial if they are to achieve their aim of winning the title.

“Especially when you are attacking low blocks, to score in this certain way, everything has to be nailed absolutely perfectly,” he said of the importance of the early set piece goal in his post-match press conference. “Sometimes when you generate things that are a bit more chaotic it opens teams up and it’s more difficult to do that. Today we exploited that really good and Palace had to change their behaviour and allow spaces for us to exploit.”

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