As Mikel Arteta comes to terms with missing out on Dusan Vlahovic, he can draw inspiration from his former mentor to come up with a temporary solution to Arsenal’s attacking woes
The Spaniard has helped steady the Gunners following their nightmare start to the season and they sat inside the Champions League places at Christmas for the first time since 2016.
But Arsenal have since gone on to endure a nightmare festive period.
The Londoners’ form has nosedived since they trounced Norwich 5-0 on Boxing Day, with the Gunners still yet to win a game in 2022. They’ve also been dumped out of both the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup since the turn of the year.
Suddenly, things aren’t quite so rosy for the Gunners chief.
If there was one thing that Arsenal needed this month to keep their season on track, it was a striker.
With Vlahovic now out of reach, some of the names that have been mentioned are uninspiring. Alexander Isak has managed just four La Liga goals this season while Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jonathan David are unlikely to be on the move this month.
That leaves Arteta in no man’s land right now.
But Arteta could solve his current woes by taking a leaf out of his mentor’s book.
Guardiola and City’s refusal to move on to alternate targets led to some doubting their capability to retain their Premier League crown.
But Guardiola has made that notion look downright ridiculous. The City chief has pulled off another tactical masterstroke by utilising his array of attacking midfielders in a false-nine role to send City surging to a potential fourth title in five years.
While City boast a far better squad than Arsenal right now, Arteta’s team is still packed with attacking talent – and Guardiola’s old pupil can use his blueprint to prevent another nightmare run from developing.
With Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli outshining the likes of Alexandre Lacazette this term, Arteta could do worse than steal a leaf out of Guardiola’s book for the remainder of the season and nudge one of them into a slightly more advanced position rather than leaving one of them out to accommodate his usual shape, as he often has in recent weeks.
It certainly feels like he needs to try something different if he isn’t going to be able to sign the out-and-out No 9 that he craves this month.
Lacazette proved once and for all with his wasteful finishing in the 0-0 clash with Burnley that he isn’t good enough to lead the line for the Gunners.
And it couldn’t be any clearer right now that Arteta doesn’t fancy Eddie Nketiah at all – even if he may try and convince himself and Nketiah otherwise by attempting to persuade the 23-year-old to stay.
It’s no wonder that the Hale End graduate is so reluctant to commit to a new deal at the Emirates if he still can’t get a look in with Arsenal’s current problems upfront.
Rather than panic-buying and lumbering themselves with another expensive flop like Nicolas Pepe, Arteta should keep faith with the kids and take the plunge as Guardiola has done at the Etihad.
The unusual move has helped elevate City to new heights – so why can it be a temporary solution to tide Arsenal over until they can bring in the elite striker they crave?
The alternative is a big-money panic-buy or persevering with the same attacking guile that was on display against Burnley; both of which could prove terminal to Arsenal’s hopes of ending their Champions League drought.