In Klopp’s first full season, he was running his high press with Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, all in their early to mid-20s.
Pep Guardiola did it with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, with Sergio Agüero under orders to add more to his game outside the penalty area.
The Arsenal trio cannot replicate that. Last Sunday, they looked like three old professionals playing the final years of their careers.
Aubameyang has been an exceptional acquisition for Arsenal and the club did their best to retain him. But there is always a risk in investing a lot in a player in his 30s, especially strikers. You can never be sure how much time they have left at their peak. So the addition of another attacker in his thirties, Willian, made less sense.
Arsenal have fallen into the classic trap of trying to have their cake and eat it, believing they could build for the future while enjoying immediate success. Perhaps the FA Cup victory seduced them to that.
Since signing his contract, Aubameyang has not been the same, scoring once in open play. He doesn’t get close enough to the chances, but the era in which forwards were judged solely on their return on goal is over. Even the most prolific must bring more, as Guardiola demanded of Agüero. You can’t have a situation in which if a striker doesn’t score, he doesn’t contribute anything. Aubameyang should stretch the defenses with his pace, leading the pressure game or assisting. So a goal drought would not be a problem.
Arteta impressed me last year because he knew how to win by sacrificing certain ideals to reflect the limitations of the squad he inherited. The mistake this season has been to seek to impose every week Guardiola’s Manchester City game of possession when the quality is not yet there. The defeat at Tottenham Hotspur was the bleakest example.
Arteta knows that the reason Guardiola’s system works so brilliantly is that each player works in sync. There are no passengers and in their prime they work as tirelessly without the ball as with it.
Arteta can take the right path by working with the first-class youngsters coming out of his academy, with the help of the right variety of more experienced players. Bukayo Saka is one of the most exciting young players in England. I’m surprised we haven’t seen teenage defender William Saliba more since his signing from Saint-Etienne, despite the youngster being sent off playing for the club’s Under-21s earlier this week.
Arteta must bet her reputation on them while eliminating those who don’t fit the philosophy, building a younger, more active team over the course of two or three windows to correct the mistakes of the last five or six.
There are no shortcuts in football and despite three full-time managers and three CEOs since 2018, Arsenal are still a long way from where they want to be.
Arteta can get them back, but it won’t be quick. Your club must be prepared to take more pain first.