Newly-promoted Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been a success so far with the north London club. Changing the team’s mentality has arguably been the Spaniard’s toughest task, but there is a noticeable difference over the last several months.

Adapting to their opponents’ style of play and getting results against the other big sides have certainly been a pleasant surprise since Arteta re-joined Arsenal. In fact, Arteta has guided the Gunners to wins against Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United since the beginning of the year.

More importantly than just beating the big boys, Arteta has also brought silverware back to the Emirates. Arsenal are the current FA Cup champions and Community Shield winners. Arteta has mostly achieved this success by solidifying the team’s defense. The Gunners allowed just three total goals in their six-game winning streak to collect their record 14th FA Cup during summer.

The Gunners have undoubtedly been better at the back under Arteta. It’s been a while since Arsenal fans could be proud of their team’s defense, but that appears to be changing. Only Aston Villa have allowed fewer Premier League goals this season and the Birmingham-based team have played one fewer game than the Gunners.

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While Arteta has helped Arsenal defensively, creativity going forward has been his team’s Achilles’ heel. The Gunners appear too reliant on star forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and are not currently creating enough goal-scoring chances. Arsenal are tied for 15th in goals scored in the Premier League, 16th in key passes, 16th in progressive passes, and 17th in shot-creating actions.

With creativity in the club currently scarce, Arsenal’s decision to freeze Mesut Ozil out of the team seems strange. The German’s statistics have undeniably been declining in recent years, particularly assists; however, his best attribute is in fact the current team’s one downfall: creating goal-scoring chances.

Despite playing under 1,500 total Premier League minutes during the 2019/20 season, Ozil averaged more key passes per 90 minutes than any other player in the team (2.3). Yes, the 32-year-old playmaker is statistically declining, but this current Arsenal team is crying out for a player such as Ozil. The team’s current leader in key passes per 90 minutes is Dani Ceballos with 2.1. This is not bad, especially considering the Spain international plays deeper than Ozil, but there is a significant drop off in this creative category with the team after Ceballos.

Arsenal’s pursuit of Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar was particularly interesting. Both midfielders are extremely talented, but in different ways. Partey more defensively, while Aouar more offensively. As I wrote in September, Arteta could choose Partey over the Frenchman to help solidity his midfield, while also hoping Nicolas Pepe, Willian, and Dani Ceballos would create enough goal-scoring chances for their forwards. Although very early, this hasn’t been the case so far.

If the trend continues, Arteta and technical director Edu, will have to address this creativity issue during the January transfer window. Arteta clearly does not want to deploy a traditional number 10 (like Ozil), but perhaps more of a creative number eight. Whether it’s another go at Aouar or another player, something has to happen to help turn around the club’s uncharacteristically poor playmaking ability.