In pictures: Liverpool v Arsenal
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The hammering at Liverpool has made it clear for Mikel Arteta what Arsenal’s January transfer window priority should be. Arteta’s men were dominated at Anfield, showing how much further the Gunners still have to go before they can compete with the likes of the Reds.
The visitors struggled for any kind of foothold in the game and were indebted to Aaron Ramsdale for keeping the score to 4-0.
They had just 37 per cent of the possession in the Premier League clash, having only five shots to Liverpool’s 19.
At the heart of their issues was their failure to beat Liverpool’s heavy pressing tactics, with the Gunners’ midfield caught out time and time again.
Arteta’s options in central midfield are light, a situation that will only get worse when the Africa Cup of Nations begins.
Thomas Partey and Mohamed Eleney are expected to link up with Ghana and Egypt respectively for the tournament, ruling them out for around a month.
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If they are indeed called up, that would leave Arteta with only Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Albert Sambi Lokonga, with Granit Xhaka sidelined through injury.
But Arteta’s problems in that position have already been exposed, with the defeat to Liverpool making it clear that a quality option is needed quickly.
Partey has kicked on in his second season at the Emirates to become the clear first-choice option in the position.
But the question of who partners him has not truly been solved by Arteta, with Lokonga handed the role against Liverpool.
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It was not a good night for the young Belgian though, who was hauled off after 53 minutes, with Maitland-Niles replacing him.
The Englishman has struggled to convince Arteta he can be trusted, but a man-of-the-match performance against Watford seemingly brought him back into the conversation.
Maitland-Niles found it tough going at Anfield as well though, with Liverpool scoring twice after he had been brought on.
It poses a difficult question for Arteta, with his lack of quality options constraining him to a 4-4-1-1 formation even if it is not working.
Elneny is clearly not the solution, with the 29-year-old having reportedly been told he is free to leave the club.
While Arteta may have thought that the summer arrival of Lokonga would have been enough to tide the Gunners over until the end of the season, those hopes appear to have been misguided.
Their struggles in central midfield means that it is an area that should quickly become a top priority for Arteta to solve.
Arguably the best way to find that solution with the African Cup of Nations coming up is in the transfer market, though finding a player of the right quality may be hard to do in the winter window.
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