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Who is to blame for Arsenal sitting back after taking a lead?

I'm still yet to recover after yesterday's result. Manchester United were there for the taking and we fumbled it. A golden opportunity to go to 4th and 8 points clear of United was missed. We lost the game in key moments. They have the experience and quality in certain areas that we lack which proved to be the difference. But we already knew this. For me, the frustration was with the way we let United back into the game instead of killing them off when we had the Red Devils right where we wanted. This has been a theme in a number of games this season.
Arsenal started the game brilliantly, with 4 corners won after 2 minutes. Despite some sloppy play by Thomas Partey, we were intense with our press, winning the key duels and precisely moving the ball thereby exploiting the gaping holes in United's fragile structure. Make no mistake, we went there to play proper progressive football, to take the game to United and dominate proceedings. And we did do so in the first 20 minutes - I was proud of what I saw. All this pressure culminated in the opener. Even if the manner of the goal was quite comical, it had been coming.
This Man United side, for all their quality in attacking areas, simply do not play well as a unit. They're extremely low on confidence. After going 1-0 up, this was Arsenal's time to make a statement. But we let them back in. We sat back despite the manager telling the players repeatedly to push up. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was shocking yesterday, but even he, the club captain was urging the players to come forward.
The issue is that it's not one player you can pinpoint and say 'He is the reason for us dropping off'. As a unit, we don't maintain our high line. The players need to feel the confidence of each other. I have been critical of Arteta many times when it comes to the choreographed nature of our attack, but it's not on his instruction that we sit after taking a lead and I'm sure of that. On the touchline, he is screaming for his team to push up and attack. He has even echoed this in press conferences openly that we need to be ruthless and absolutely kill teams off.I believe that we get into this shell firstly due to a lack of leadership. In my opinion, Granit Xhaka and Kieran Tierney are vital to this cause. They're our most vocal players on the pitch. Thomas Partey has quality, but his nature is shy and introverted. He doesn't impose himself enough. Furthermore, he played for Atletico Madrid, a team that tended to sit. On certain occasions, it would help Arsenal's cause if he pushed up higher even after we lead. His teammates will also follow suit.One more thing to note - Mikel Arteta never had us set up the way we are now in his first full season in charge. We played the 3-4-3 hybrid system and the success was based on being pragmatic, sticking together as a unit and trying to hit teams off in transition. And it won us an FA Cup so I'm not saying it is a bad thing. But now, we're trying to evolve a style. It's not easy going from counter transitions to a team that wants to dominate. Has Arteta brought it on himself? Should he have looked to be offensive right from the beginning? I am not sure.
If you look at Jurgen Klopp, he played the same high-intensity football from day 1 at Liverpool, with results improving once personnel changed. The underlying point is that they have had the same style since day one. When you looked at Klopp, you knew they were going to be intense over 90 minutes irrespective of the Morenos and Bentekes of this world starting for them back then. With Arteta, you are not sure. He says he wants us to be a very attacking team but hasn't given us enough of identity in this regard. And I feel like it does confuse the players.There is one more interesting psychological aspect that I felt was worth thinking about. I believe the players don't have faith in themselves to constantly sustain attacks against the top teams. Against Aston Villa, Watford, Norwich City and Newcastle, we showed that we can control a game and break a block. But against the top sides, we lack belief.
Advert InsertedHaving Aubameyang in the team for these games is like playing with 10 men. He offers literally nothing. To beat the big teams, sustain attacks and reduce turnovers, you need players that can relieve pressure. We need outlets. Saka, Smith Rowe and Martinelli are top talents but young. Aubameyang hasn't helped them one bit. For all his flaws, Lacazette shows a lot more in terms of bringing others into the game. At least you can pick him out and feel somewhat confident that he might keep the attack moving and not lose the ball.
If you look at most of our big wins of the Arteta era, they've come when we played a back 3, sat back and countered. The next step is to do it against the big sides playing a more progressive brand of football. I don't believe we lose 5-0, 4-0 and 3-2 this season playing a back 5. But we want to evolve a style and for that to happen, you need to persist and may lose out on something in the short term. But this is a results business and we need to find solutions soon to get the best of both worlds.
There's a thin line between game management and allowing the opponents back in cheaply. We led 3-0 against Aston Villa after 65 minutes and then sat back. That's game management. But going into a shell after being 1-0 up against a vulnerable side is unacceptable.I must conclude by saying that in time, I do believe we can sustain attacks irrespective of the game state. It needs our leaders Xhaka and Tierney back and most importantly, a centre forward in the summer. Arteta must keep on echoing this message of pressing and attacking. The players must associate themselves as an attacking team that always keeps going. Gunnerblog said these are 'growing pains' and to a degree, I agree with him - but we better grow soon.
As always, see you in the comments below! 👇