Arsenal’s need for reinforcements in midfield underscored by frustrations of Xhaka, Ceballos in narrow win over West Ham

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Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta wants to sign two midfielders before the transfer window closes, and with good reason. The Gunners’ courage is noteworthy in bringing together enough quality to overtake a lively West Ham squad here at Emirates Stadium, but they won’t always be so lucky.Hammers boss David Moyes clocked a series of second-half chances with a 1-1 score in a span in which the visitors were firmly in the ascendant after gaining control from midfield in a way that will alarm Arteta. Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka have been a very effective center-midfielder pair since football resumed, but the lack of depth in this position was illustrated by the presence of Mohamed Elneny on the bench to change a plan that clearly wasn’t working. .

Elneny himself is in the midst of a surprising rebirth after spending last season on loan at Besiktas while Matteo Guendouzi remains in exile for the day and Lucas Torreira moves closer to Italy. The club are keen to make deals with Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey and Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, but no transfers are imminent as sales are key to fund the two potential incomes. Arteta was understandably quick to defend Ceballos and Xhaka afterwards, but hinted at the possibility of further additions.

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« [Ceballos and Xhaka] have been really good since joining the club and [Elneny], every time he played he deserved to play again today but I just wanted to rotate, “said Arteta. I thought it was a game where we were going to have to attack more spaces and the way they were defending, we wanted to create situations with Dani there. But if we can strengthen the team, we will try to do it until the market disappears, but everything is still open.

“Depending on what’s going on with some of the other players on the team, we’re open. The market may surprise us. It can come for one of our players in a different position and then we have to react, as it happened with [Emiliano Martinez] (which was sold to Aston Villa this week for £ 20million) so let’s see what happens. ”

The need to finish this affair is only underscored by what happened here, especially after a 45-minute open in which Alexandre Lacazette scored and Michail Antonio equalized.

Arsenal are aiming for Champions League qualification this season and to achieve this they cannot rely solely on the highly efficient counterattack approach which achieved their 14th FA Cup success last month. They’ll meet such well-organized teams as West Ham and others who won’t let so many promising situations go by with the game on the line.

There were problems elsewhere. Kieran Tierney suffered a hip problem during the warm-up, forcing a late change with Sead Kolasinac drafted in defense. Few would expect Kolasinac to be at the club after the transfer window closed on October 5, with Bayer Leverkusen interested in bringing the 27-year-old back to Germany, but the issue is more complex than relying on a player with an uncertain future. .

Arteta’s tactical deployment got Arsenal in a 5-3-2 form without the ball, moving to a full-back four in possession. This form relies heavily on the left center-back – usually Tierney – to understand the nuances of position with fitness to change quickly when, in this case, Bukayo Saka, advances from the left-back.

Kolasinac is not at an optimal level of form and Arteta could be heard regularly shouting ‘Kola’ when Arsenal’s form looked suspicious. So it was no surprise when the Hammers’ equalizer came on this side of the pitch, with Ryan Fredericks overlapping to cross for Antonio to convert up close.

However, that was precisely the type of play Arsenal would have lost under Arteta’s predecessor Unai Emery and they deserve to be commended for their persistence, conjuring up an against the run of the game winning goal. Saka fed Ceballos with a superb pass and the latter squared the ball for substitute Eddie Nketiah to score four minutes of time.

This winning goal combination was a particularly poignant example of the unity Arteta engendered as the pair clashed in the rondo warm-up ahead of last Saturday’s victory at Fulham. Nketiah reacted to what he believed was an overzealous challenge. Arteta claimed in his pre-match press conference that the case had been made history and it turned out.

“That’s the beauty of the sport, that they were in the highlights last week for something that happened between them that was a bit negative and then today they found a way to understand each other and to create the winning goal, ”said Arteta.

With Ceballos providing the decisive moment coming out of the central midfielder, one would assume that the area of ​​the pitch provides enough power and protection for this Arsenal side, but that shouldn’t mask what has happened before. Thomas, capable of playing as a box-to-box midfielder, and Aouar, an elegant playmaker, would have been tempting options here, sharing the workload in the engine room on what will be an intense campaign. .

Spending money is never a guaranteed cure-all, but Arteta’s motivations for the last fortnight of the window make a lot of sense.

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