ikel Arteta learned to navigate storms during his time at Arsenal – and now he’s hoping to negotiate another one that’s brewing.
More than any other club, Arsenal seem to go from calm to crisis, but Arteta has always managed to steady the ship.
Under the Spaniard they have never lost three games in a row in all competitions, although they have lost two seven times, and Arteta will be desperate to keep that record intact when Arsenal play Southampton on Saturday.
Defeats for Crystal Palace and Brighton since the international break have seen Tottenham move them into fourth place in the Premier League and, ahead of games against Chelsea and Manchester United next week, Arsenal need to find their way back to winning ways.
“We know this road is getting us nowhere, especially where we want to be,” Arteta said after last Saturday’s home defeat to Brighton.
If Arsenal are to return to the form that did so much last month propel them to Champions League qualification, then they need Alexandre Lacazette to start shooting.
The striker’s last goal in open play came against Saturday’s opponents on December 11. Since then, the Frenchman has only found the net twice – and both have come from penalties.
Lacazette’s misfortunes leave Arteta in a difficult position, as the prospect of letting him down is hardly appealing. Arsenal’s captaincy struggles this season are well known, and benching their current skipper with eight games to go would surely only add to that.
There is also the question of who is a real alternative to Lacazette. Eddie Nketiah, Arsenal’s only other recognized striker, hasn’t scored a Premier League goal all season.
Gabriel Martinelli could be moved to midfield but there are questions over his ability to lead the line. Lacazette’s lack of goals is a problem, but on Arsenal’s run in February and March, his link-up play allowed Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Martinelli to flourish around him.
“We have to score more goals, that’s for sure – and that’s a collective problem,” Arteta said last week when asked about Lacazette’s form.
It’s a young Arsenal team and they’re already short of senior players, as Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey are injured. Dropping Lacazette would further reduce that number – and there’s also the matter of deciding what to do with Granit Xhaka.
The midfielder replaced left-back last week against Brighton, but you could sense his thirst to move centrally and influence the game more. Against Southampton, with Partey still sidelined, bringing Xhaka back to his favorite role could give Arsenal some much-needed stability.
Their top four prospects are far from dead, and they are just three points behind Spurs in fourth place, with one game less and the North London derby to come next month.
Arteta has been here before though, and that should give him confidence.
Tottenham’s rescheduled fixture comes after games against Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham which is why Arsenal need to get back to form now. If they can’t click against Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton, that doesn’t bode well for the tougher Tests to come.
Arteta has been here before though, and that should give him confidence. The first time Arsenal lost two games in the spin under him, the second of those defeats came against Brighton. Then, just as now, questions were posed to Arsenal, but they answered by beating Southampton.
After losing to Brighton last weekend and suffering back-to-back defeats, Arteta will be hoping history will repeat itself on Saturday.