Arsenal went into the Carabao Cup fixture against West Brom without a goal so far this season, but thankfully for Mikel Arteta it the match turned out to be little more than a glorified training session.
The Arsenal boss stuck his neck out with a strong line-up which included club captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, as well as new signings Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale.
Arteta got want he wanted. Finally, the Gunners have some momentum after a resounding 6-0 win, but the only way to preserve it is to stick with these three tactical decisions which got him there.
Play Aubameyang down the centre
Arteta persisted with experimenting with Aubameyang on the left flank last season and into pre-season, despite plenty of evidence it was blunting the Arsenal skipper as a goalscorer.
For a player who scored 20+ league goals across five consecutive seasons, a feat only matched in the last decade by Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, it seems a no-brainer to play him down the centre.
The opening goal proved as much. For months Arsenal fans have had to watch the Gabon forward marooned on the left-flank, occasionally stretching his legs for a forward run but rarely getting himself into goalscoring positions.
His first meaningful contribution against West Brom was what Arsenal need from him, now more than ever. Arteta has other players who can do the work out wide, what the Gunners boss is lacking is someone who can convert the few chances they create into goals.
He saved his legs, stayed central, let the battery-powered Bukayo Saka do all the hard running, and simply used his striker’s instinct to anticipate a loose rebound and tap home.
He followed that up with a scrappy second, another goal that came about because he was sniffing around the box, rather than having to charge into it from a wide start.
His final goal was trademark, vintage Aubameyang, but does he score that goal without the confidence of the two tap-ins?
Odegaard must remain a fixture at No. 10
Despite Emile Smith-Rowe being handed the coveted No. 10 shirt following his contract extension over the summer, it’s Odegaard who should be the first choice in the central position behind the striker.
Odegaard’s first touch, ability to hold the ball in tight situations and the most importantly, his tactical intelligence when in those pockets in the final third, set him apart.
His swept backheeled assist for Sake was reminiscent of Arsenal midfielders of old. He can provide the kind of combinations Arsenal fans dined on regularly when the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla or Tomas Rosicky graced the team.
With Arsenal’s central midfield often out of sorts, it’s also Odegaard who often controls the tempo when deployed through the centre.
Smith-Rowe is a far better ball carrier than the Norweigan, so his more explosive qualities could be better deployed from an inside forward position or even as a attacking No. 8 from a central midfield three.
Ramsdale must be Arsenal’s new first-choice goalkeeper
A lot has been made about Aaron Ramsdale’s £24m move to Arsenal, with the fee, in particular, raising eyebrows.
He may not have had many saves to make against West Brom but he was calm and composed when called into action, especially in the second half when West Brom rallied for a consolation.
But Arsenal did not empty the coffers for Ramsdale’s shot-stopping but rather his ability in possession, and while it may only be one appearance against a rotated West Brom side, the early signs are positive.
For months Arsenal fans have watched Bernd Leno and his defenders swap angry glances as teams press and inevitably see Arsenal’s feeble attempts at playing out from the back crumble.
Despite West Brom’s albeit not very sophisticated press, the calmness from the new signing and, more importantly, the confidence it exuded through to his team-mates, was a welcome sight for Arteta who might finally have a base to build from.
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Source by Football London