The three biggest issues Mikel Arteta faces as Arsenal’s return to London Colney approaches

Football may have hit a temporary cessation brought about in no small part by Mikel Arteta’s COVID-19 diagnosis but that will not have stopped the Arsenal head coach from carefully mulling the major issues that lie ahead of him when the Premier League resumes.

Arteta is feeling much better already and is eager to return to the training ground where he can implement his ideas to the squad.

At the time of writing Arsenal are due to return to their London Colney training ground on March 24, when their period of self-isolation after Arteta’s contraction of coronavirus will end. Inevitably that date should not be considered to be set in stone and much may yet change over the coming seven days both at Arsenal and across the country.

Much is still up in the air for the Gunners but Arteta will doubtless be using this time to mull over the major issues facing his squad ahead of the resumption of the 2019/20 season, still the stated aim of European football.

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Play now examines three of the key issues that Arteta will be mulling before his side get back on the training pitch next week.

Is Aubameyang in his right place?

Ever since Arsenal were panicked into signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the departure of Alexis Sanchez there has been one overriding challenge facing the three permanent managers: how to fit the Gabon striker and Alexandre Lacazette into the same team.

As yet no-one, even Arteta, has created a sustainable long-term approach. Arsene Wenger continually chopped and changed, Unai Emery paired the two together but built a side utterly reliant on moments of inspiration from the pair whilst Arteta has settled on a more consistent plan.

Since his appointment there has been a clear and visible change in where Aubameyang operates. His heatmap from late September to Arteta’s appointment is one that sees him working across the field but since Christmas the club captain has been a winger.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Premier League heat maps from September 29 2019 to December 25 2019 and December 26 2019 to March 7 2020

It has not necessarily dulled his efficacy – he has four goals in six games since returning from suspension – but there is a sense that Arsenal are not getting the best version of Aubameyang that they can.

Perhaps that is because in his wide role the 30-year-old is doing far more work on the defensive end, attempting 8.12 defensive actions per 90 under Arteta as opposed to 5.56 before the new regime took over. He is doing so effectively and with no complaints, note his work in recent games against Chelsea, but when you see Aubameyang tracking his opposing full-back into the Arsenal third you wonder whether something is being lost.

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