Soccer

Mikel Arteta must follow Pep Guardiola’s advice amid Willian struggles

“My philosophy will be clear. I will have everyone 120 per cent committed, that’s the first thing,” Mikel Arteta said, prior to being handed the keys to the Emirates Stadium.

At the time, the Manchester City assistant had developed a reputation as one of the most respected coaches in European football, with a number of clubs vying for his services.

“Then I want the football to be expressive, entertaining,” he added. “I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.”

But with his one-year anniversary at the club coming in just seven days, that aim to entertain and express has come under threat.

The stats are widely known. In 11 Premier League games, Arteta’s side have managed to score just ten times, with the bottom three the only to register fewer.

And in terms of creating chances, the Gunners are unparallelled. No side have created fewer and club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is enduring his most difficult spell in years.

It’s a malaise that has set in amongst all of Arteta’s attackers, but perhaps in none more so than summer signing Willian.

When the Brazilian agreed to a bumper three-year deal at the Emirates, Arsenal fans hoped they had signed the player that had impressed so much during his time at Chelsea.

But in his first ten league games, he has looked every minute of his 32 years. In 740 minutes of action, Willian has managed just seven shots, with just one of those on target.

Willian’s problems aren’t just limited in front of goal either. After creating 77 chances for his Chelsea teammates this season, the likes of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will have been licking their lips.

That hasn’t transpired however, despite picking up two assists in his first outing, he has managed only one more. And with the assists removed, he has created a paltry two further chances.

Meanwhile, in the Europa League, Arteta’s side have played with the kind of fluidity that he will be desperate to see in domestic matters.

It has been a competition where the Arsenal boss has been able to blood in a number of youngsters, with many grabbing their chance with both hands.

Eddie Nketiah is the club’s top scorer, but it was Emile Smith Rowe who caught the eye in the most recent win over Dundalk.

The 20-year-old was handed his first start under Arteta and playing on the left-hand side, he offered the kind of energy and vigour that has been so absent.

Where will Arsenal finish in the Premier League this season? Have your say here.

Smith Rowe sees himself as a Kevin De Bruyne type player, but showed he is equally adept out wide.

When asked what advice Pep Guardiola had given him during his time with City, Arteta said: “What I've learned mostly is that you have to be ruthless and you have to be consistent and you have to fit every day the culture of the club to create a winning mentality.”

Smith Rowe’s inclusion against Arsenal will serve as the Arsenal boss’ most surprising selection decision, but in the place of Willian, it’s one that will instantly improve the XI.

Arteta now has the perfect opportunity to display his ruthless streak to get Arsenal back playing in the way that fits the club’s, and his, culture and identity.

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