Arsenal’s young creative force shows promise but needs the service of the rest of the squad

There has been a huge lack of creativity in the midfield and Arsenal’s attack this season.

Many pairs of midfielders have been stranded as Mikel Arteta tries to solve this particular conundrum, but he has only just dropped out of the 3-4-3 formation that had served them so well before it turned on him.

Both Willian and Nicolas Pepe were underwhelming, and while there is a lot of clamor for Mesut Ozil to be brought back from the cold, it’s not a prospect that should happen anytime soon.

Instead, Emile Smith Rowe has been given center stage in recent weeks.

The attacking midfielder, who has previously been loaned to RB Leipzig and Huddersfield, impressed in the 3-1 win over Chelsea, buzzing brilliantly up front and securing an assist for the strike from Bukayo Saka.

Smith Rowe returned to Brighton, lined up behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang alongside Saka and Gabriel Martinelli on the sidelines.

The quartet is full of brilliant ideas. They ran smart runs throughout the first half of the 1-0 victory, but often had to go back with the ball either fell short or passed back and recycled, often to nothing remarkable.

Martinelli has more minutes to his credit | NEIL HALL / Getty Images

This is where a player like Thomas Partey can come in handy. The Ghanaian certainly has more quality in the final third than Granit Xhaka or Mohamed Elneny, but his absence due to injury has allowed the aforementioned duo to start again together on the south coast.

They were far too passive.

Xhaka’s shortcomings were made clear when he was caught taking possession and then grazed by Alireza Jahanbakhsh on the wing, while Elneny’s passing range has no range in attack scenarios. . The pair often traded passes with center-backs Rob Holding and Pablo Mari, making things in the middle of the park a bit too pedestrian.

If the idea of ​​playing Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli was to give Arsenal more push on the clock, it didn’t really work, especially not in the first half. The trio had little ball, so Aubameyang was often isolated.

But the second half saw an improved Arsenal, who sought to exploit the space more obviously rather than tossing aside and back. Smith Rowe created a few opportunities before Saka showed why he is so highly rated, easily overtaking Dan Burn to set Alexandre Lacazette for the match winner.

The trio have as much talent as they need, but the performance in the first half gave them little work. In the second half, they were more assertive and the difference in the quality of attack between the two teams became more marked, which makes the first half so strange.

Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli all have the quality to make a difference on offense and give strikers Aubameyang and Lacazette more opportunities, but central defense and midfielders haven’t given them hope in hell.

Mikel Arteta’s team must be more assertive and more confident in possession. There are match winners in their starting XI, but the time that Xhaka and Elneny lost passing sideways and back needs to change.

Mikel Arteta
Two league wins have eased pressure on Mikel Arteta | Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

More ambition is needed, and if it is shown, Arsenal can continue to earn points and get out of that horrible hole they have dug for themselves.

But for now, in all fairness, an away win over one of their ghost teams is a good start.

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