Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal of the game last weekend as Arsenal beat Norwich, but they face a stiffer task against Burnley on Saturday
Since his appointment in December 2019, Mikel Arteta has failed to guide Arsenal to a victory over Burnley in three attempts. This weekend the Spaniard will be hoping it will be fourth time lucky as if not, he could be packing his bags before dusk on Saturday.
Arsenal have won just once this season so far, unconvincingly beating relegation-favourites Norwich City 1-0 thanks to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goal.
After spending over £150million in the summer, most were expecting Arsenal to look like a rejuvenated side ready to mount a European charge, but they look more likely to be in a relegation scrap than fighting for the top four based on this campaign so far.
If the Gunners slump to another uninspiring result against the Clarets then even more pressure will be heaped on Arteta, and if his side falls to a defeat then you have to feel it is only a matter of time before he is shown the door, no matter what those higher up the ladder have said about the ‘project’.
In their last three meetings against Sean Dyche’s men, Arsenal have drawn twice and lost once.
Arteta’s 4-2-3-1 system has played into the hands of Burnley’s standard 4-4-2, where they are able to outnumber the lone striker and also crowd out the Gunners’ attacking midfielder.
So, with Granit Xhaka suspended after his dismissal against City, the Emirates Stadium outfit could be relying on predominantly defensive-minded midfielders Albert Sambi Lokonga and Thomas Partey to pull the strings in the midfield, unless wantaway midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles starts but even he might not be up to the task.
Arteta must show that he has taken the initiative to adapt for certain fixtures and be tactically flexible depending on the opponent. Potentially, although very un-Arteta, a system shift is required to get a result at Turf Moor this Saturday.
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The former Manchester City coach has a group of defenders who look far better suited to a back-three than a rigid back-four, meaning that Arteta could play two up top, bringing in Alexandre Lacazette, or adopt a formation similar to Thomas Tuchel’s at Chelsea and overload the wide areas.
Summer signing Ben White played in a back-three at Brighton, and Kieran Tierney has shown previously he can play as a left-sided centre back. If the pair played either side of 23-year-old Gabriel and Takehiro Tomiyasu and Nuno Tavares pushed on as wingbacks then Arteta could have a very strong foundation to build off of.
The 39-year-old will know from previous meetings that Burnley biggest threat offensively is their aerial presence and that his defence will need to be at their very best at set-pieces to keep a clean sheet.
Speaking about his largely new squad before the Norwich game, Arteta said: “It is a project we believed in, that we have to assemble, as it is the option that is the best for the future of the football club and we all take responsibility because we’ve all been involved in the decision. Now we have to make it work.”
It is understandable that the ex-Everton midfielder is pleading the fans for time, however, if he cannot beat a bottom-half side like Burnley – with no disrespect to them – then is he the man to be at the heart of the project?
Arteta must learn from his disappointing losses earlier this season as well as his dreadful form against this weekend’s opponent, quickly. If not, is he the man to take Arsenal to where they want to be? We all know the answer to that.