How is Mikel Arteta actually trying to solve Arsenal’s attacking crisis?

No side has created fewer chances than Arsenal in the Premier League - and that is the major reason they’re now much closer to the bottom than the top

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After yet another major setback, Mikel Arteta was reduced to quibbling with the minutiae. It was put to the Arsenal manager that his side had put in 44 crosses, to no success, and with no one on the end of them.

“A cross doesn’t just mean an aerial cross,” Arteta responded. That, to be fair, is true. An example was when Hector Bellerin tried to work the ball through to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang along the ground. A mere 14 seconds later, the ball was in Arsenal’s net.

The brutal reality for Arsenal is that, whatever of Arteta’s definition of crossing, their attack isn’t working at all. And the defence isn’t working much better.

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There are some basic questions here, that build up to bigger ones. What are Arsenal actually trying to do with the attack?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette look dejected during defeat

Is it just to try and centre it to Aubameyang? Is Aubameyang even suited to that? If so, what was the rationale behind Aubameyang’s new contract? Does this have the potential to be another Mesut Ozil situation, in the sense of paying an experienced attacking player so much that he becomes a problem for the team rather than a solution? Were there even other clubs willing to offer Aubameyang the same money?

Or, as one former club figure who is a fan of the striker wondered, “what does it say about the captain that he hung on for the new deal rather than go to a Champions League club?”

Could the money used for Aubameyang’s wage hike have been better served elsewhere, especially since he hasn’t scored a goal from open play since signing the contract?

There are certainly deeper questions to be asked about the recruitment decisions.

One well placed source said the squad have “too many players who know they won’t get any higher than this Arsenal”.

You could argue that is reflected in the “desperation” - to quote another source - to use Thomas Partey whenever possible. On this occasion, after three weeks out, it backfired.

There is a fair argument that, if you could start the Arsenal project from scratch, there are only about six or seven players you would keep.

Arteta has a huge job in that regard. Questions, however, must be asked of the manager as well.

Squad quality and a lack of coaching experience doesn’t explain the complete inability to work the ball into the box.

That is what is so worrying, even if people in the game and at Arsenal still speak so positively of Arsenal.

If Arteta’s idea of football is as good as everyone says, it should be easier to see what it’s supposed to be about.

It would be reasonable to expect a more pronounced vision of progressive play. Principles are universal. While exact execution might require elite players, general shape should not.

Arsenal should not just be flatly working the ball to the edge of the box and doing… nothing. That is what is troubling about the current situation.

That is also what slightly undermines Arteta’s argument that “it will come”. It is not like they are just missing chances. They aren’t creating chances. They’re lowest in the league in that stat. That is remarkable for a club of Arsenal’s size and resources, and is the major reason they’re now much closer to the bottom of the league than the top.

“There were a lot of good parts where we penetrated the penalty box on numerous occasions, just to find the last pass or the final ball and the goal came through, we didn't hit it, they blocked it - it was a lot of things to happen,” Arteta argued. “If we generate it every week we will win football matches. At the moment it looks like we need to do a lot to score a goal.”

They’re not doing anywhere near enough. The question will inevitably turn to whether Arteta himself has enough.

The picture is still too complicated. But he does need to offer a bit more clarity - not least in terms of goals.

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