Before travelling to Everton, Arsenal were many football fans favourites for a top four finish following a recent run of great form at The Emirates.
But the teams dismal performance at Goodison Park highlighted how with four challenging away trips left in their schedule, Arsenal are a long way from securing a top four finish.
On Thursday, we once again saw how good Arsenal are at The Emirates, gaining a 2-0 advantage over Napoli. But the tie is far from over and now Unai Emery has two crucial away games coming up next week that will go a long way to determining the season (Watford and Napoli).
With six league games to go, Emery’s men still have to travel to four inform teams: Watford, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley. If the performance against Everton is anything to go by, then Arsenal have no chance of finishing in the top four. So what can Emery do to change things?
In my opinion Arsenal have been far too conservative in games away from home this season, often playing with five at the back and then two or even three defensive minded midfielders, leaving massive gaps between the teams midfield and attack.
Arsenal don’t have the defensive personnel to rely on keeping clean sheets, so they need to take the approach of attack is the best form of defence.
Their last good away performance came against Tottenham, where the team would’ve won if Aubameyang managed to score a late penalty. Arsenal were the better team and that was because of how Emery set them up, bizarrely we haven’t seen the Spaniard take a similar approach in an away game since, but that has to change.
Emery opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Iwobi and Mkhitaryan providing natural width and Ramsey linking the midfield to the attack.
Crucially Emery opted for Mustafi and Monreal in the full back roles, this duo offer a much more reliable defensive presence than the more attacking duo of Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac. I would like to see Maitland-Niles play in his more natural, advanced position, rotating with Mkhitaryan and Iwobi.
Ramsey has proven to be a crucial part of the team and although he’s leaving in the summer, he may well be the key to securing Champions League football for the Gunners next season. Aaron in a deeper midfield role ensures Arsenal aren’t too conservative in the middle of the park.
Many have called for Aubameyang to start in tandem with Lacazette, but I’m not sure that is the answer. Arsenal’s biggest problem has been establishing control in away games and creating chances. Selecting both of these strikers will limit the level of control the Gunners can have in a game and ultimately it is likely to result in a performance similar to what we saw in the second half against Everton, where the team created pretty much nothing.
It’s clear Emery doesn’t have the personnel he wants to fully implement his style of play and take this Arsenal team to the next level, but he won’t have that until next season at the earliest. It’s crucial that he finds a way for this team to improve their away form to enable them to finish in the top four and therefore attract the caliber of player the manager will want in the summer.