Arsenal legend Lee Dixon has urged Mikel Arteta to sign a creative midfielder before the transfer window closes and believes a top-four finish in the Premier League is the ‘absolute minimum’ target for the club this season.
The Gunners suffered their first defeat of the campaign on Monday evening as champions Liverpool came back from a goal down to win 3-1 at Anfield.
Alexandre Lacazette scrambled the ball past Alisson to break the deadlock in the 25th minute of the clash before goals from Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota put the hosts out of sight on Merseyside.
Dixon was disappointed with the result but says the match was a ‘good reality check’ for Arsenal as it showed the progress they have made under Arteta, while highlighting just how far they need to go to compete with the very best.
‘Liverpool’s closing down and starting from the front was just unbelievable. To watch that in the opening 45 minutes, I was absolutely in awe,’ he told talkSPORT.
‘It was just a brilliant performance all-round. They were superb last night, there’s no doubt about that. They were back to their best.
‘They’ve had a few dodgy performances here and there, individually, at the start of the season but I thought they were superb.
‘I think from Arsenal’s point of view, it’s a good reality check because it shows them how far they’ve got to go and how far they have come. That would have been a thumping under Unai Emery.
‘I was sitting on the fence when Arteta got the job because it was his first job. Was it a bit too early in his learning curve? But what he’s doing at the club, what he’s doing to the players, what he’s doing on the training pitch and how they’re responding – he’s turned some of them around and he’s got them playing in a way they all understands.
‘Yes, there’s lots of improvements to be made but they were playing against one of the best teams in the world.’
Asked what’s ‘realistic’ for Arsenal this season, Dixon responded: ‘There’s always the ambition to win a trophy, we did that last year and I think that’s always on the side burner.
‘If you can have a good cup run, that’s great and it builds confidence and it’s something tangible for people to look at and say: “Yes, we’ve won that”.
‘We have to take into consideration the lack of pre-season and the unusual situation we find ourselves in, but I do feel Arteta be looking at top four, absolute minimum. He’s a very ambitious young manager.
‘You’ve got to get in the top four now. They’ve fallen so far from grace that that didn’t used to be enough and now, all of a sudden, it’s the holy grail. So that’s the next step.’
Arsenal have been exploring a possible deal for Houssem Aouar before the transfer deadline but Lyon are yet to receive an offer that meets their valuation of the French midfielder.
Dixon believes bringing in a quality player in this position could be key for Arsenal if they are to have any hope of matching Arteta’s ambitions this term.
He added: ‘I think he’s got his eye on a few more players. If he can get them over the line in the next week or so… I think a creative midfield player is key. When [Dani] Ceballos came on yesterday, you could see the difference in that creative side of things.
‘It’s so difficult to be under that sort of pressure for that amount of time against a brilliant pressing team, then to go and play your football because you’re absolutely exhausted. We’ve all played against a team that suffocates you.
‘So they need a little bit of creativity in midfield in order to get them out of those situations when they’ve been under pressure.’
‘Going forward, we’ve seen how good they are on the counter-attack. Defensively, I do like Gabriel and I think he will be a good player for Arsenal,’ he continued.
‘But top four is the absolute minimum for me now.
‘When you look at the league and you look at Manchester United struggling, Tottenham not quite there yet so there’s gaps to be able to sneak into the top four and I think that’s what he will be looking at.’