The problems are beginning to mount for Unai Emery in his first season at Arsenal and some sections of the fanbase are becoming increasingly frustrated at the current lack of direction surrounding the club.
The Europa League may present the best opportunity for the Gunners to claim a coveted spot in next seasons Champions League but their chances of winning the competition took a serious blow last night in Belarus.
It won’t suffice just to blame what was admittedly a Sunday league standard pitch as Arsenal were void of any creativity, looked jaded and struggled to find any kind of rhythm in the game as a first-half BATE Borisov goal condemned the Gunners to a first-leg defeat.
Problems at both ends of the pitch
Rather alarmingly, Arsenal have only kept two clean sheets in their last 14 games in all competitions and it was another bit of suspect defending which cost them yesterday as a lapse in concentration from a set piece allowed Stanislav Dragun to head the home side into a lead on the brink of half-time.
There is no doubt that Arsenal have been severely unlucky with injuries this season with two players who were more than likely to feature as first-team players in the back four/five, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin, are recovering from long term injuries.
However, the lack of improvement in the Arsenal defence has been painful and is something that fans would have been keen for Emery to try and fix early in his reign in north London.
After more than a few substandard defensive displays last season under Arsene Wenger, it raises the question to whether the personnel that Arsenal have at their disposal are more to blame for their vulnerabilities rather than the coaching.
It’s becoming more apparent by the week that despite some shrewd business done by the club in the summer, Emery and the hierarchy in charge of recruitment need more funds available to make both short term and long-term improvements to the squad.
Lack of creativity
Despite all their defensive faults in the last few years of the Wenger reign, you could rarely accuse the Frenchman’s side of being creatively naïve and lacking in ideas.
However, this has been a fairly common trait under Emery in his first season and despite Arsenal improving their running stats, sprints and general pressing, they have not reaped the benefits defensively.
With two potent strikers in the squad, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Emery has struggled to find a regular system to fit in his most creative players in Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil.
Despite his shortcomings in the defensive side of the game, something that Emery is clearly keen for his players to adopt, Ozil is just the type of player who has the potential to solve Arsenal’s creative issues going forward and is undoubtedly one of the most inventive players in the Premier League and has been since his arrival in 2013.
It’s becoming increasingly frustrating for some sections of the fanbase to see a player who has the potential to be Arsenal’s focal point be left out of the squad so regularly amid Arsenal’s issues in the attacking department.
With Ramsey departing for Juventus in the summer on a free transfer, it would not be unlikely for Arsenal to lose two of their most accomplished midfield players with Ozil’s issues at the Emirates looking far from being resolved.
Chance for second leg redemption
With no game at the weekend, Arsenal can turn their full attention towards completing a comeback in the return leg on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal will be Lacazette who let his frustrations get the better of him late in the game and was dismissed for swinging an elbow.
Not only will it be interesting to see if Arsenal can respond from what was a miserable performance, but it will be intriguing to see whether Emery will opt to bring in Ramsey and Ozil, both of whom did not feature in the first leg.