Ian Wright believes Mikel Arteta could have a real ‘problem’ on his hands against Manchester United as his Arsenal side have shown they are lacking a ‘plan B’ in attack if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is taken out of the game.
Aubameyang has scored just one goal in the Premier League since the start of the campaign and opposition teams have successfully nullified Arsenal’s attacking threat in recent games, with the forward having less joy cutting in from the left flank.
Pep Guardiola recognised the danger in Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester City and put Kyle Walker in the area of the pitch where Aubameyang tends to roam – and it worked wonders as the Gabon attacker barely had a look-in the Etihad.
Aubameyang was also anonymous as Arsenal lost to Leicester last weekend and was handed a rest on Thursday night for the Gunners’ 3-0 victory over Dundalk in the Europa League.
Wright feels Arsenal’s recent performances and the increasing pressure on Aubameyang shows just how much they crave a creative player like Houssem Aouar, who they tried and failed to sign in the summer.
‘They do need that player and I think that’s why they went for Aouar. He’s that player in there that would give Arsenal that other option,’ Wright told Optus Sport.
‘If we’re talking about creativity at Arsenal at the moment and the lack of movement from the front three, you’re talking about [Bukayo] Saka – an 18-year-old – he’s the only one that brings something different.
‘Against Fulham, a poor team, Arsenal were able to play out and do what they wanted to do, score a perfect goal with Aubameyang coming off the left.
‘But when they play like they did against City and teams work that out, that that’s what they want to do where Aubameyang comes in off the left, they close him down, stop that from happening.
‘And then they put Kyle Walker in the space where he wanted to cut inside so that completely nullifies someone like Aubameyang and there’s no plan B and that’s the problem they’ve got at the moment.
‘You’re hoping someone will do it. Now they’re saying it’s Saka because Ceballos isn’t really someone that goes up and supports the front guys, same with Xhaka and Elneny.
‘So there’s a lot of problems with progressing the ball into that area of the field with the lack of the movement of the front three for Arsenal to score a goal that’s not like the one in the FA Cup final or the one against Fulham.’
United have recovered remarkably well after their humiliating 6-1 defeat to Tottenham and are unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions.
The Red Devils will be especially buoyed after their thumping 5-0 win over Leipzig on Wednesday night and Wright admits he’s ‘fearful’ about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form side.
‘Obviously people are questioning Harry Maguire at the moment and why [Axel] Tuanzebe isn’t playing after playing unbelievably against PSG then he hasn’t played since then and then you look at Fred and [Scott] McTominay. That gives them that kind of assurance,’ Wright said.
‘With [Paul] Pogba being free and [Bruno] Fernandes being able to come off as well and create, they still have got the capability of keeping the ball which I think they’ll probably do against Arsenal.
‘Even with Donny van de Beek, I thought he was brilliant and [Anthony] Martial performed that central link in the play a lot better than I’ve seen for a long time.
‘So there’s a lot of scope for Man United to get into a situation where they can control and win a game and then you look at the form of [Marcus] Rashford and [Mason] Greenwood. I’m so pleased to see him score his goal after what happened with England.
‘Then you’re looking at a Man United team where me, as an Arsenal man going into United, I’m a bit fearful of them because if they do sit off that can still play. And they’ve got players that can really hurt Arsenal on the break.’
‘So I worry for Arsenal in this game, especially with Manchester United’s confidence at the moment.
‘I do worry for Arsenal in this game.’