These are testing times for Arsenal and manager Mikel Arteta.
After suffering a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Everton in the Premier League last Friday evening, the Gunners then suffered a 2-1 reverse to Villarreal in the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final on Thursday night.
Early goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol fired the home side into a deserved 2-0 lead by half time, meaning Arteta’s side had to produce something from somewhere in the hopes of keeping the tie alive ahead of next week’s return-leg at the Emirates Stadium.
Despite having on-loan midfielder Dani Ceballos sent off just 12 minutes into the start of the second half, the Gunners did find a route back into the contest when Bukayo Saka’s quick feet were enough to win a penalty. Nicolas Pepe stepped up to the challenge of trying to secure an away-goal for the north Londoners and he passed the test with flying colours.
That means that the Gunners would secure a passage to the final if they were to win 1-0 on Thursday evening, although they will most probably be wishing to win the tie a lot more convincingly.
However, scoring goals at the Emirates Stadium this season has not been one of Arsenal’s best strengths, with them having found the net just 19 times at home in the Premier League. To put that into context, only seven teams have scored fewer on their own patch this season in the Premier League, including the likes of Fulham, Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion.
As well as that, the Gunners have scored just two goals in their last five matches at the Emirates in all competitions, proving that they do have difficulties in putting opponents on the back foot at home, something which could give Villarreal cause for optimism in their quest to reach the Europa League final.
Whilst the main responsibility of putting the ball in the back of the net rests with the strikers, such as Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, other members of the squad do have to flex their muscles in the final third and share the load.
That, though, has not been happening.
This season, Arsenal have scored just two Premier League goals via their out-and-out central-midfield players, with Granit Xhaka, who scored against Chelsea on Boxing Day, and Martin Odegaard, who netted in the north London derby win against Tottenham Hotspur, scoring one each. That in itself highlights a major weak point.
Arsenal’s tally of two Premier League goals via their midfielders means that they have scored the fewest goals of any Premier League club from that area of the pitch this season.
To put it into context, Manchester City, who are storming towards the Premier League title, have scored 28 times via their midfielders this term, as have cross-city rivals Manchester United.
Aston Villa, Leicester City and West Ham United have also scored more than 20 goals via their midfield players this season.
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At the other end of the spectrum, Arsenal are rock-bottom with just two, with Fulham and Sheffield United narrowly ahead of them on three apiece.
This statistic underlines just how imperative it is that Arsenal bring in a new attacking-midfielder this summer, and perhaps even a box-to-box midfielder capable of chipping in with a few goals from time to time.
It is already clear that Arteta wants to keep hold of on-loan Real Madrid star Odegaard next season, but he and others around him have got to step-up their attacking threat if they are to produce the goods and get Arsenal climbing the table again.
Yes, when on top form, Arsenal are blessed with some quality, experienced attackers, but they need support from those alongside them to ensure the pressure is not all on their shoulders.