Despite their lacking to successfully acquire an abundance of trophies, Arsenal were still considered a top tier side in Europe. Not because of their achievements by the end of each season but because of their dazzling playstyle on a football pitch. Their beautiful football can be credited to the stunning midfielders they’ve had in recent years.
At times Arsenal looked like a less experienced Barcelona, as they provided the first forms of tiki-taka in the EPL. However, a major structural change in Arsenal’s squad has meant their eye-catching style is no longer an option. Their midfield; once their greatest asset is now their biggest weakness.
The contrast from even Arsene Wenger’s last years at the club is massive in comparison with Unai Emery’s side that is full of new faces. Many criticised that last couple of seasons Wenger had because of the disappointing attempts to qualify for the Champions League. Regardless of what obstacles they could not overcome, they remained one of the most entertaining teams in the whole of Europe.
It must be said that Unai Emery continued in the same fashion as Wenger when he was first appointed. But it’s as clear as day that the Spaniard had intentions to change the way Arsenal play going forward.
We got the first hint of this when both Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla were able to leave the gunners for free in lasts year’s summer transfer window. Two staples of Wenger’s classic midfield had been chucked out almost as soon as they healed from their injuries.
One player that certainly wasn’t playing as if he was on his way out was Aaron Ramsey. The Welsh international was possibly Arsenal’s only player that could comfortably be relied on to work like hell and put in a solid performance. Yet this was not enough to convince Emery. Putting up next to no fight as he saw Juventus negotiate contracts with Ramsey upon expiry of his current contract with Arsenal showed that Emery must not be aware of what he already has.
And although Arsenal spent a good amount of money this season on acquiring new players in attack and defence, one thing that was for sure is that they cannot lose any more quality midfielders. But of course, Emery didn’t disappoint as he gave Arsenal fans another shock. Henrikh Mkhitaryan on transfer deadline day completed a loan move to Italian side Roma.
Another experienced and top-quality midfielder lost. All that remains is Mesut Ozil. There is no doubt that Ozil could certainly increase his work rate, however, you cannot deny his raw talent. What’s worrying is the fact that Emery seems to be refusing to play the German maestro amid this period that sees them lacking creativity.
Instead the Arsenal boss has put faith in the likes of Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka. That trio most definitely doesn’t draw comparisons with Barcelona. This midfield has shown their inability to move the ball forward. Instead, Arsenal’s new style consists of their midfielders cowering under pressure as they constantly pass the ball back to the defenders who then clear their lines immediately.
Even though Emery has adopted a counter-attacking style of play that will take time to implement, that doesn’t shed light as to why their central areas of the starting 11 are so void of talent.