What Arsenal must do before the January transfer window as Premier League returns
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Mikel Arteta's Arsenal have found themselves doing the one-foot shuffle this season – take one step forward, one step back, repeat accordingly.
That would suggest why they have won four and lost four of their Premier League games thus far.
A haul of 12 points is by no means disastrous, but certainly nothing that screams further progress after last season's FA Cup triumph.
It leaves them just four points off the top four, but they cannot keep accumulating losses at their current rate.
In truth the performances have outweighed their point total, but that is football and Arsenal had better learn quick that no prizes are given for presentation.
The highs of a win at Old Trafford, their first in over a decade, are quickly followed by the lows of a home humbling at the hands of Aston Villa.
Mikel Arteta has seen his side put in some impressive performances
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Cup competitions provide different challenges, and challenges Arteta clearly values given his desire to win last season's FA Cup.
In Europe they are three from three, albeit in a weak group, but there may come a point where juggling the unenviable Thursday – Saturday becomes a hindrance in pursuit of the top four.
One thing Arsenal do have to fall back on though is an identity. They know what they're trying to do.
The problem is however that they can't do it regularly enough.
That provides a blueprint though, something to go off, and that in itself is a start.
Arteta's issues are at either end of the pitch. In keeping with the Arsenal tradition, their midfield is up their with the best, especially after Thomas Partey's arrival.
Thomas Partey has been a huge hit since arriving in north London
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
But defensively questions remain – one being what on earth is the manager's issue with William Saliba?
The defender was tipped as the next best thing to come out of France, instead he's yet to play a game with Arteta's frustration evident.
The Spaniard is still searching for his defensive unit, although it looks set to be built around Gabriel, who has shone since arriving from Lille.
In attack the goals have dried up, at least from their leading light and go-to man.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not yet hit the heights of last season, but added to that is his new mammoth contract.
Not only does Arteta need to get the Gabonese star firing again but he also needs to manage the narrative that will accuse Aubameyang of resting on his laurels.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled for goals thus far
Another expensive man resting each and every week is Mesut Ozil.
Arteta chose to omit him from the club's Premier League and Europa League squads, and despite calls from fans to bring the playmaker back into a side that needs greater creation, that saga is just a minimal subplot in a far greater picture.
The German will almost certainly move on in the summer, if not in January itself
Attention now though is on Arsenal's next three games against Leeds, Wolves and Tottenham.
In other words: expansive, expansive but sometimes pragmatic and outright pragmatic with a fearsome front three.
Then they move forwards and before January Arteta will see his team come up against every kind of challenge the Premier League has to offer.
The Gunners have still not found all the answers though
If he has any questions over his team, their progress or their capabilities, many of those should be answered.
What Arteta does have though is a gravitas, he looks like a man with a plan and that is attractive for players in the coming seven weeks or so.
He has already shown the temerity to challenge the Emirates hierarchy to put their hand in their pocket.
Its fair to say Arteta is attempting to drag Arsenal, on and off the pitch, to the heights he once occupied at Manchester City.
They are ultimately heading in the right direction, but its certainly the scenic route.
Now the coming weeks will let the Spaniard know precisely how far along that path his side are, and whether they'll need to secure fresh navigation tools when 2021 arrives.
Where will Arsenal finish in the Premier League? Have your say here.
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