Radical Answer to Arsenal’s Creativity Crisis

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?



21 Responses to Radical Answer to Arsenal’s Creativity Crisis

  1. RockyLives says:

    Morning All.

    This Post was written before GoonerB’s Post from yesterday and touches on some of the same things, as well as some of the questions that came up in comments.

    Still, it’s a pretty important subject right now (our lack of creativity) so there’s no harm in digging in a bit deeper.

  2. Maxwell says:

    “You can’t win anything with a bunch of kids”, famously spouted Alan Hansen before ManU did just that.

    The problem with a mature group in a struggling side is that cynicism sets in all too easily. Willian, Aubameyang, Lacazette, Luiz, Xhaka all on healthy contracts but not cutting the mustard. I wouldn’t suggest they’re not trying, but too often the fire burns low (I think those two metaphors are far enough apart not to be ‘mixed’!).

    You ask for a radical solution. Well, we have the most talented group of young players in Arsenal’s Academy history – not just one or two, like Cesc and Jack, but enough to form most of a team. So we accept a tank of sorts this season, with a view to storming the Premier League ramparts next year. This is my team:


    Bellerin Saliba Gabriel Tierney

    Partey Azeez


    Smith Rowe Martinelli Saka

    Well, you wanted radical, didn’t you?!

  3. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Maxwell – that’s rad indeed.

    I don’t know anything about Azeez and Patino and I suspect Redders would argue for the inclusion of Balogun in such a project.

    In fact I think we can put out a ‘young Gunners’ team that has even more first team experience than your 11:


    AMN – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

    Nelson – Willock – Partey (Capt) – Saka

    Nketiah – Martinelli

    Just put our name on the silverware now 😀

  4. RockyLives says:

    Saliba could start ahead of Holding, but it’s hard to make that call without having seen even a few minutes of him in an Arsenal shirt.

  5. RC78 says:

    Saliba will need time because he is not physically ready. Fofana was ready and so was Gabriel but Saliba will need to grow physically. He will be our Varane if he is managed properly 🙂

    I am convinced the creative spark will come from Martinelli and Saka playing as starters. The question for me is in which set-up?

    If we go for a 433, then Martinelli has to play like Firmino at Liverpool with Pepe (or Willian or Nelson) and Auba acting as his Salah and Mane. The midfield 3 would then be Partey, El Neny, Saka.

    If we go for a 442, then Martinelli has to play like Kane at Tottenham with Auba being his H. Son. The wings will then include Saka and one more player (Pepe? Nelson? Willian? AMN?) and our midfield would have to be Partey-El Neny.

    If we keep our 343 approach, then we play with Martinelli in the center of the front three with Saka on the right and Auba on the left. The midfied would be AMN or Bellerin, Partey, El Neny, Tierney.

    The radical points (not so radical…):
    – No guaranteed slot for Pepe/Willian
    – Xhaka, Laca, Nketiah benched
    – Guaranteed slot for Martinelli and Saka.

    Martinelli and Saka are able to drive forward and track back. Tierney has to play LB or LWB. His crossing is too important for us.

    I would live for Willock, ESR and even Ceba to be our solution but I think Martinelli holds the key in our current squad

  6. RC78 says:

    If we play 352, then there is a slot for Willock or Ceba or Willian or Pepe behind Martinelli-Auba front too.

  7. RA says:

    Morning Rocky, (I loved the post but first I have to give you a clutch of 😁😁😁😁 for the humorous counter-analogies.)

    I particularly liked ‘strikers with boots on the wrong feet’ — and I agree wearing their own size 10s would be better than someone else’s size 6s.

    As for a radical solution to our flaccid attack, I would suggest buying a faster, bigger, taller CF than any we have at the moment, who is not constantly knocked off the ball by faster, bigger, taller CBs, and can reap the benefits of some cracking crosses from Tierney — someone like …… well, OG, (not own goal, tho I never say no to an own goal when we need it) but Olivier Giroud.

    Now I did say ‘like him’ and not necessarily him, even tho rumours are he is not at all flaccid, and has continued to score important goals from the bench for Chelsea.

    We went thru years of relatively tiny CBs and that resulted in an era of wretched defence, so please, please Mr Action Man, don’t let us go thru a similar are of physically ineffectual forwards.

    {Off topic — I would love to see Azeez get a game, or even come off the bench on our infamous “65 minutes” rule, because he is definitely one for the future, and might be just the creative player we have been missing.)

    By the by — you say ‘eons’ — I say ‘aeons’ — let’s call the whole thing off. 😛

  8. RockyLives says:


    Go off and eat some tomaetos, or potaetos for that matter.

    Funnily enough I naturally prefer the “aeons” spelling but it seems to be out of vogue these days (a bit like me).

    I also like Mediaeval, which tends to be written as Medieval.

    I blame the Americans (though not you of course).

    As for footy matters – just imagine if we had a Zaha, Lukaku, Lewandowski type striker, with Auba playing off him…. goals galore.

  9. RA says:

    Rocky, 😁

    Your last para referring to mouth watering players , and goals is certainly a move in the right direction, and in Zaha you will have Sue on here imminently to claim first dibs. 👍

    [Both eon and aeon are loosely Greek/latinate in origin – I looked it up – but the former adopts the US English form of dropping letters not deemed necessary in spelling, whereas aeon is more UK English, as you know,.

    Anything that gives me the passing opportunity to pull your Canadian oriented leg has to be a good thing. 🤪

  10. RockyLives says:

    You can take the boy oot of Canada, but you can’t take Canada oot of the boy, eh?

  11. LBG says:

    Out of courtesy, and not unrelated to Rocky’s today, my response to your last on the previous post is as follows:- I am not in favour of Luiz at ALL in fact, and, my suggestion for a modern day ” in the pocket” player would be Smith-Rowe, Saka and Azeez in that order.

  12. RC78 says:

    LBG – I really would like for ESR to move into that role and be a key player for us but so far, we have not seen much from him in our jersey. Saka for me is best on the sides-wing because of his pace and his ability to cut inside or drive closer to the touch line. His crossing is also very good. In the middle, I feel like we would lose a bit of his ability. As for Azeez, I ve not seen him play so no opinions on him. What about Willok? As for Luiz, I am not a big fan but at the moment, he is in our top 3 defenders and we have to wait until Mari is back and Saliba qualified to play so I don’t see how we can not include him in our starting XI.

  13. RC78 says:

    Rocky – there is one very good striker in Napoli that has been frozen out of the team because he refused to extend his contract. It is Milik. I think he is an upgrade on Laca and Nketiah and would be a good addition to our squad.

    Last but not least, anybody missing Mkhytarian? He is doing really well at Roma and despite his inconsistent spell with us, he did add a bit of cretativity to our play when he was playing. He was really good at the pass before the assist. He may have been useful this season especially when you see that Ozil is out of the squad.

  14. RockyLives says:


    No, I’m not missing Mikhitarian. Not one tiny bit. His good moments for us were so rare that I was overjoyed when he moved on.

    However… I do wonder sometimes at the fact that so many players leave us and seem to do OK elsewhere. Maybe it’s something to do with the week-in-week-out battle of the EPL; or maybe we have been in the habit in recent years of asking players to perform roles they’re not suited to.

    As for Miilk, I have never heard of him (but I don’t follow much footy outside the EPL). Is he big? Can he hold the ball up?

  15. LBG says:

    I am still a fan of Willock and think he will be an important part of our future……but only as a useful journeyman, IMO. I basically agree with you with regard to Saka’s position, and only agreed with this suggestion from others because are all trying currently to be solution focussed, Smith-Rowe is scoring goals at present and, I believe could be a part solution ( with Eddie and Martinelli).
    Azeez is a very “un-Arsenal” type player. A bit like a young Santi. What he does is the unexpected, has great control on the ball, and, although might end up controlling the game ( hopefully for us) deeper, could, I believe play in the slot between lines.
    In a three man back line, Luiz is IMO no better than 4th best of those available and Mari, Chambers and Saliba are/will be better.
    Interesting debate, sorry to persist with my disagreement.

  16. RockyLives says:

    The Luiz discussion is interesting.

    Sometimes I want to tear my hair out watching him (or better still, tear his hair out).

    But then I think back to his performances in the FA Cup Final and Semifinal… He was outstanding.

    In pecking order I would have him in our top three CBs along with Gabriel and Holding.

    If Saliba, Chambers, Mari come along and displace him then great. But right now he’s got to be in contention for starting most games.

  17. RC78 says:

    Hi LBG – The whole forum is about agreeing to disagreeing too 🙂

    Hi Rocky – Mkhy was not performing consistently for us, which is a shame. He did not do well in the EPL overall. Maybe too physically demanding for him? He did great in Germany and is doing very well in Italy. I agree that we did not play him necessarily in his preferred role. He is basically great as a wide attacking midfielder ideally on the left but he does need a great left back and a solid central midfielder behind him. When he played with us and in his last full season, he had 6 goals and 4 assists in 25 games while Ramsey recorded 4 goals and 6 assists. Ramsey’s workrate was much better and more consistent but if you just look at attacking stats, they played about the same number of games for a similar output…So although I do not miss Mkhy much to be honest, I think that given our current creativity gaps, he may have been able to provide something that our current players are not able to.

  18. GoonerB says:

    Great post Rocky

    I am afraid radical defeats me with this one. I’m sticking to my same old boring mantra that the formation and the right players in the right positions in that is how to massively improve our creativity and goal threat.

    Again for me it is some variation on the 4-3-3 so that we can line up with a 4 point threat from the number 9 the inverted wing forwards and the number 10 or ACM.

    I am relaxed about trying a few players in the 10 and am not certain about my preference right now but I feel even Willian could massively improve his output for us in that role. I would go further and state I feel it is the only position to play him in now and he should be our experienced banker in that position while we try out players like Saka, ESR and Willock in that position as well.

    The 4-4-2 is not for me Rocky as I dont think we have the right forward players for it. You need a Shearer and Sherringham combination both good at scoring on the ground and in the air with the slightly more creative one sitting behind the out and out striker. We dont have that but do have the players to play 3 goal scorers off the number 9.

    One other thing is that although Saka plays the left wing / wing back role well we should be looking to get him into a better attacking role either from the inside right or ACM. I feel failure to move him further up and into a goal threat position from now will stifle him.

    I always felt we missed the opportunity to nail down the best attacking role for the Ox and his versatility, although useful at times, became a slight Achilles heel. I want to see Saka on the right or just behind the 9 because I think with a run in those positions we potentially have that rare player who is both a creative threat and important goal scorer as well.

    RIP Maradonna. Despite the hand of God cheating incidence he was a joy to watch with a football at his feet

  19. LBG says:

    IMO, in a back three, and that is the only way I would play Luiz, Tierney is a better defender.
    Thanks. Just dont like to offend worthy bloggers!

  20. TotalArsenal says:

    Nice one, Rocky, especially the JC14 quote. Another famous Cruijff quote is: Every advantage has a disadvantage… and every disadvantage has an advantage. And maybe this sums up better the dilemma Arteta has at the moment during his ‘restoration’ project. He is tweaking the formation and working hard to get the players to understand his vision and what is required of them. This is very different from Wenger’s ‘just express yourself on the pitch’ which worked for a long time but not so much anymore. The PL harbours the very best managers in the world now.

    I still think Partey will honour his surname sooner or later and will help us to both push up higher AND link midfield with attack better. And as a result, he will make our football much more enjoyable and effective. We need the numbers in attack and at the moment the attackers are simply too isolated to be effective…and therefore look poor and frustated.

    But we also need to protect ourselves against turnovers and counterattacks and this is not helped by pushing up too much at the moment. We just have not got the answers/balance right now, but I trust our Mikel to find a way. I believe Arteta will need an axis of Leno, Luiz, Xhaka&Partey, Willian and Auba to have a good run in all main competitions. Build around them and for this we need a 3-4-3 (3-5-2) formation this season, as that is the only way to incorporate Luiz’s leadership. Something like:

    ——-Holding – Luiz – Gabriel——–
    AMN/Bels – Partey – Xhaka – Tierney
    —————– Willian/Saka————-

  21. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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