It is impossible to deny that we have a serious problem with creating chances and scoring goals.
We haven’t netted from open play in the Premier League for what seems like eons.
We make fewer chances than a rigged slot machine and when we do get a sniff of goal we’re firing more blanks than the waiting room at the men’s fertility clinic.
So what’s the answer?
The debate so far has centred on whether Aubameyang should be played as a central striker, but surely that’s not the only possible route to fixing our problem?
What about more radical solutions?
My first thought was to wonder whether there is a way we can bring Mesut Ozil back into the squad. I don’t know how strict the Premier League rules are, but I suspect that we would not be able to change our final squad list unless we were hit by exceptional circumstances (like half the squad going down with Covid).
Right now the German would surely add something to our goal threat, but I fear that that horse has bolted (and we don’t need to revisit the Ozil debate again).
Nevertheless, the key surely has to be in midfield. Yes, our strikers have all had their boots on the wrong feet this season, but they have been given so few opportunities that it’s hard for them to get their eye in.
So who, in our squad, has the ability to play as a Number 10? Some regulars here are keen for Emile Smith-Rowe to be given a chance. I confess I have seen very little of the lad, but right now I’d play Mel Smith ahead of Willian if he was (a) alive and (b) available.
And with what we’re currently getting from Willian, Pepe, Lacazette and Ceballos in particular it’s tempting to say why not just go all-in on youth and give ESR, Willock, Nelson, AMN and Nketieh a proper run as starters.
The other potential contender for No 10 has to be Saka. The kid is a revelation (when he came on against Leeds at the weekend we immediately looked a better team even though we were down to 10 men).
Could Bukayo work in the playmaker role? He is relatively inexperienced for such a responsibility but surely it has to be worth a try. He seems to have the skill, determination and vision.
Another hope on the (not too distant) horizon is the return to fitness of Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian showed great potential in his debut season last year and, again, surely merits a chance ahead of Willian or Pepe in the wide roles. He could also potentially play in the centre forward position (we have seen how good he is in the air).
And this brings me to one of my favourite ideas: that we revert to an old fashioned 4-4-2, with a front two of Aubameyang plus one. The ‘one’ would need to be more physically dominant that Auba. Eddie might be able to do it in time; Lacazette just isn’t mobile enough… but when Martinelli gets back to match fitness he could be the answer.
In my fantasy 4-4-2 we have Auba and Martinelli up front, Saka and Nelson/Pepe as the wingers and Partey plus Elneny/Xhaka in the middle.
For a more traditional approach, maybe Ceballos could be tried at No 10 when Partey is back in the team. It would mean sacrificing a wide player, so we have a midfield of Partey and Elneny/Xhaka, with Ceballos in an advanced role behind a front two of Auba/Laca or Auba/Eddie or Auba/Martinelli. I’m not sure that Ceballos really has it in him to pull off that role, but it may be worth a try.
A couple of final ideas:
Attempt to fix our creativity problem from deep by playing Luiz in midfield or as one of three CBs, but with licence to roam forward and spray those passes around.
Play Xhaka and Elneny at the base of midfield, with Partey ahead of them and relieved of some of his defensive responsibilities. In this role Partey would be free to burst forward and break the lines, creating opportunities for others and himself, Aaron Ramsey style.
The final option is we go big in the January transfer window for a playmaker like Houssem Aouar, whom we tried to sign in the summer.
OK, over to you: what would be your radical solution to our creativity problems?