OPINION: Fixing Arsenal’s creativity issues requires change in formation

Following Arsenal’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, it’s blatantly obvious that we sorely lack creativity. The ability to carve out decent opportunities against the reigning Premier League champions, along with some slack defending and poor individual performances, was what cost us in that game.

However, the creativity issues have been the case against most teams – we simply aren’t having enough shots per game which is closely linked to our chance creation.

As a result, Arsenal fans have cried out for the signings of Houssem Aouar and Thomas Partey on social media. The two midfielders, of Lyon and Atletico Madrid respectively, have been incessantly linked with a move to the club this summer.

Today, we have seen Houssem Aouar links progressing further. Several concrete reports have stated that Arsenal are in pole position to sign this player and Julien Laurens of ESPN who has good sources in French Football is confident we can reach an agreement with Lyon.

Either ways, with or without Aouar, or even Partey for that matter, there are few things we can do in my opinion to improve our chance creation.

The first thing I would do if I were in Arteta’s position would be to change the formation. The 3-4-3 system is too defense oriented, the double pivot means we can’t control the game.

Arteta wants control, he has openly stated that he has adapted to our squad to give us the best possible chance of winning a football match. Arteta said, speaking before the Liverpool game:

“I’m here to win. I’m here to find ways to do it. If I’m proposing something very different that is exposing our team right now, I don’t think I’m acting in the best favour of the club or the players.”

The notion is that Arsenal need more midfield depth to justify the change in formation. While that is true to a certain extent, one could argue that we can find solutions with what we have.

One potential answer is a flat midfield three, similar to what Liverpool play and having the full backs high up the pitch. However, it would require midfielders of a more athletic profile to close the gaps left by full backs, a type of player we really lack. (Considering Torreira seems to be on his way to Atletico Madrid and Matteo Guendouzi is also reportedly for sale.)

Otherwise, the only other solution to make Arsenal more creative in the middle, Mesut Ozil has to be re-integrated back into the side. Now I don’t have any details on what’s happening behind the scenes, so I’m not sure if Ozil’s being kept out of the side for a footballing or personal issue.

Based on football alone, though, Ozil has to at AT LEAST be on the bench. While I’m not his biggest fan and think it would be in everyone’s best interest if the club cut their losses with him, he should at least be making the bench. Ozil can unlock low blocks and is one of our most technically gifted players.

While his work ethic and attitude off the ball leave a lot to be desired, there’s still a decent player in there. The German averaged 2.71 key passes per 90 last season in the league, meaning he could still do a job for Arteta’s side, even if his 2 assists was the lowest amount he registered in his time at the club.

The 4-2-3-1 with a Xhaka-Ceballos pivot and Ozil #10 worked well before lockdown, as we won 3 back to back Premier league games.

Moving onto tactics, Arteta is keen to implement a system that involves Arsenal playing out from the back. On top of this, he also wants Arsenal to overload opposition half spaces, similar to how Manchester City play. Right now, Arsenal are reliant from creativity from their wingers and fullbacks, who often overlap, allowing the wingers to come inside.

While this is all well and good, Arsenal lack creative outlets from midfield. As such, Arteta needs to think of a system that gets the best out of players like Ceballos as creators.

In short, there are a few ways to get more creativity out of this Arsenal side. Yes, it’s not a side capable of carving out chances every couple of minutes, but it’s something.

A formation switch needs to happen sooner rather than later. If Arteta can get the players he wants in, specifically Aouar and Partey, then the switch can happen seamlessly.

If these moves don’t happen though, the Spaniard could use the current players at his disposal to make his Arsenal more fluid in attack, but of course, finding the right balance will be key.

Arsenal & Adl Utd supporter from the land down under.