The questions that Freddie will need to address

The seemingly never-ending story of Unai Emery’s tenure as Arsenal manager was finally cut short as the club sacked the Spaniard after the London club not only failed to win the Europa game against Freiburg but ultimately lose and see the all to familiar scenes at the end of the game of boos ringing at the Emirates. Arsenal sacked Emery and brought in Freddie Ljunberg, an Arsenal legend as an interim manager as they search for a new manager officially commences.

The Swede comes into the job having served at the clubs ranks from the development team to much recently as one of Emery’s assistant, so he has a fair knowledge of not just the club but the players in the first team and its this knowledge that will be tested as Emery in his wake has left many question marks with the squad that need addressing.

The Pepe problem

Let’s start with the club’s most expensive signing, Pepe. The Ivorian player was signed from Lille for 72 million pounds, in stunning move that surprised and excited many. The former Lille attacker is yet to set the team alight and recently was being sidelined by Unai Emery. Initially the idea seemed to have been for the player to form a front three that included him, Lacazette and Aubameyang, a prospect that made Arsenal fans drool at such a trio but the implementation hasn’t been as seamless, with both Lacazette and Aubameyang favoring a more central striker role thus causing some imbalances upfront. Funny enough Mourinho serving as a Sky Sports pundit proposed an idea that I thought could be the key but would endanger the future of another star, the solution given was to give Pepe free reign as a number ten/false number nine that would withdraw a bit and supply Laca and Auba in a front three more akin to the Liverpool front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane that has been the best in the league.

The Ozil conundrum

The proposed solution that I highlighted as I hinted if implemented raises another issue with Ozil. Pepe might be the most expensive Gunner but Ozil still stands as the highly paid one. The Ozil issue has been interesting to observe for a while now, the club handed the German a hefty pay increase to persuade him to stay at the club some seasons ago but ever since then the club have lived to regret that decision, it was clear from the get go that Ozil as talented he might be Unai Emery never truly saw him as a fit in his starting lineup and in the summer try as they may to sell Ozil his astronomical wages derailed any real deal happening thus he was frozen out of the squad to force the German to lower his wage demands and seek refuge elsewhere. However as soon as the bad form started under Emery, the public perception of a talented but ‘lazy’ player was changed when the team looked devoid of any form creativity to supply the front line and suddenly Ozil was seen as natural answer to this problem. Emery would buckle under the pressure and change his stance on the player, recalling the player for much needed creativity that would only come in a few bursts. Now it would be interesting to see what decision Ljunberg makes in regards to Ozil in the interim.

The midfield problem

Arsenal have an abundance of midfielders from Guendouzi, Xhaka, Ceballos, Toreirra and etc but have failed to find a real balanced midfield that would not only complement the attacking but the defensive side. At the start of the campaign Xhaka and Guendouzi were deployed with Ceballos often featured. This midfield would see many changes due to some bad to underwhelming performances from captain at the time Xhaka. Toreirra a true defensive midfielder would initially be frozen out of the squad or played in a number eight position rather than his more accustomed role of protecting the back. These midfield machinations ultimately resulted in a midfield that neither was good in attack or defense, as the strikers mostly manufactured their goals by bypassing the midfield and a defence that has seen Bernd Leno as the leading man in the EPL in terms of saves made, a true backhand accomplishment that highlights a true lack of defensive nous across the pitch.

Back four or back three?

And lastly the defense. Unai Emery experimented with a back three that would see a trio of Papa, Luiz and Chambers flanked by Bellerin and Tierney recently. Watching Arsenal playing such a formation when its clear they don’t have the personnel for it has been painful to say the least as Arsenal even with playing a more conventional back four often than not make a mess of it. Ljunberg needs to stick with a back four and work on making it fundamentally as sound as possible with the resources he has than trying something exotic, go back to basics, none of this playing from the back, trying to be smart and sexy when you have fossils as defenders.

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