Arsenal 2020/21: Season review so far
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Dean Smith, Manager of Aston Villa shakes hands with Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on November 08, 2020 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

As we head into another international break (yes, another one) it seems an appropriate point to review Arsenal's season so far.

The Gunners have already played 14 games this season and the transfer window has been over for a month, so how have Mikel Arteta's side fared so far this season?

  • Context

In terms of the Premier League, the table does not make happy reading.

Arsenal sit 11th in the league and have already lost four out of their first eight games.

However, three wins from three in the Europa League, through to the Carabao Cup Quarter-Final, a Community Shield victory, and a win at Old Trafford against Manchester United suggest there have been positives as well as negatives about Arsenal's start to the season.  

  • Defensively Solid

Before Sunday's game against Aston Villa, Arsenal had conceded fewer goals than any other Premier League side.

Given that Arsenal have always been criticised for their defensive frailties in previous seasons, this is a massive sign of progress and a big credit to both Arteta and all the defenders at the club.

Gabriel has settled in straight away and barely put a foot wrong. He has already won Man of the Match three times and looks like a brilliant piece of business.

Kieran Tierney has continued to impress as he adapts into a centre half, although he has looked very threatening in the games he has played at left back.

Hector Bellerin is looking more like himself and has been rewarded for his good start by a call up to the Spain squad. Rob Holding and David Luiz have both looked competent next to Gabriel, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Buakyo Saka have looked solid when they've been asked to defend. 

Arsenal's defence has been solid so far this season (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images)
Arsenal's defence has been solid so far this season (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images)

Comeback Players

Arteta's abilities as a coach have certainly been seen in the improvement we have seen in some of the Arsenal squad.

Bellerin and Mohammed Elneny have both been prime examples of this. It seemed that both players futures may lie away from the Emirates, but both have comeback and improved massively.

Bellerin has been getting forward well and has already provided four assists this season without forgetting his defensive duties.

Elneny has been even more surprising with the Egyptian being key in a number of victories this season, most notably against Manchester United, when him and Thomas Partey dominated all four of The Red Devil's midfielders.

Both Elneny and Bellerin have spoken in the media and praised Mikel Arteta for their good starts to the season.

  • Lack of Creativity 

Probably the biggest weakness for Arsenal this year has been their lack of creativity, leading to a lack of chances and goals in matches this season.

Attacking football is something Arsenal have always been renowned for, so it is a real surprise and disappointment this has been a problem this year. 

Playing three at the back really limits Arsenal's options because it doesn't allow them to play with an attacking midfielder, meaning someone like Mesut Ozil couldn't play even if he was in the plans of Mikel Arteta.

No attacking midfielder means Arsenal need to rely on the wingers for creativity, unfortunately this is not happening.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang needs to be finishing the chances, not making them. Willian has not had the impact he, or Arteta would've been hoping when he was signed in the summer. 

The lack of creativity is really affecting the front three, most notably Aubameyang who has only scored two Premier League goals so far, one against Fulham and a penalty against Manchester United.

Arsenal's usual creativity means he can normally be effective on the left wing, but due to Arsenal's problems at creating chances, it seems Arteta has to play him at striker to get the most out of Arsenal's best player. 

It seems Arsenal have to sign an attacking midfielder if not in January then the summer.

They were heavily linked with Houssem Aouar from Lyon in the summer, however, his £60 million transfer fee was too much for Arsenal to pay.

They could go back for Aouar, but it looks like Lyon will stick to their price and it is very unlikely that Arsenal will be able to sign him in January.

Dominik Szoboszlai is one of Europe's brightest talents (Photo by Alejandro Rios via Getty Images)
Dominik Szoboszlai is one of Europe's brightest talents (Photo by Alejandro Rios via Getty Images)

For me, the best choice is Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Salzburg.

Szoboszlai is pronounced Sabozli and is very difficult to spell but it is the only negative thing about him.

He is only 20 years old but has already scored an international goal for Hungary and has lit up the Champions League with his performances for Salzburg.

He has a good turn of pace, especially with the ball at his feet and has a wide range of passing.

Perhaps his best attribute is his shooting, he has the intelligence to get in the right positions to finish well and has got an absolute dynamite of a long shot on him.

The best part is that he has just a £25 million release clause, which is ridiculous for a player as young and talented as he is. It seems an absolute no brainer that Arsenal should be looking to sign Szoboszlai in January.  

  • Players not been given chances

There are definitely some players at Arsenal who have the right to feel frustrated with the opportunities they've been given so far.

Ozil has notably been left out of the squad completely, perhaps for reasons outside of football and outside Mikel Arteta's control.

However, Nicolas Pepe is a player that has spoken about not being happy with his playing time.

He has only started one Premier League game this season and despite playing well in the Europa League, he has been kept out of the Premier League side.

Arteta has said he wants to see more consistency from the Ivorian, but I'm sure Arsenal fans would want to see him start in more Premier League games. 

Nicolas Pepe admits he is frustrated by his playing opportunities (Photo by James Williamson via Getty Images)
Nicolas Pepe admits he is frustrated by his playing opportunities (Photo by James Williamson via Getty Images)

Some of the younger players have a right to be annoyed with their playing time.

Reiss Nelson really impressed after the resumption of football last year and played well in the Europa League so far, however he is yet to feature in the Premier League this year.

The same can be said of Joe Willock, who made more appearances last year than any other Arsenal player and has really impressed in the Europa League but was not even in the squad for Sunday's game against Aston Villa.

These players don't expect to play every game, but I think they all deserve a chance in the Premier League to show what they can do and try and impress Arteta. 

Overall

I think overall it has been an average to the season for Arsenal.

The Villa result was obviously very poor, but it can be contrasted by the fact Arsenal went to Old Trafford and won for the first time in 13 years there a week before the Villa game.

Out of the four games they have lost so far in the Premier League, most people would have expected them to lose against both Liverpool and Manchester City.

The Leicester and Villa results have been disappointing results so far this season but realistically, Arsenal are probably only three points behind where most people would have expected them to be.

The creativity is an issue, but this is not a massive surprise given the fact Arsenal are forced to play three at the back due to their current squad.

It is important to remember that this Arsenal team is very much a working progress.

Arteta is still very new into management and has not yet built his own side, and most the signings he has made have fitted in nicely.

It is a long season, so it is important not to lose faith just because the start to the season hasn't been brilliant. If Arsenal fans are looking for good news at the minute, Gunnersaurus is back. 

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