The experiment is over and it has failed. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be the central striker and nothing else.
It was the lack of attacking threat that caught the eye of many Arsenal fans though, rather than any defensive errors. Villa controlled the game for the most part and carved them open defensively but not through any errors, just fantastic attacking play that left the Gunners jealous of their opposition.
Once again, club captain Aubameyang was stuck out on the left channel as manager Mikel Arteta opted to start with Alexandre Lacazette in the centre forward role. The France international missed a huge chance at 1-0 down with a header that fans would have been praying had fallen to their top goalscorer.
It’s an experiment that Arteta tried last season after taking over and it worked for a short period. He scored twice in the FA Cup semi-finals and final and then opened the Premier League season with a screamer this season against Fulham too.
Since then though he has found the net just once more in the Premier League, a penalty against Manchester United and his only other goal in all competitions came as a substitute against Rapid Wien.
As Arsenal continue to struggle going forward and in creating chances, the answer is surely right in front of them – play your best striker as a striker.
Arteta is keen to move to a 433 formation and he has the players in his squad to be able to do so. A midfield trio of Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos provides a solid defensive base and is also able to progress play. Couple that with a front three of Willian or Nicolas Pepe on the right, Saka on the left and Aubameyang up front and you have a genuine goal threat in all three forward positions too.
You get your best players in their best positions, in a formation that allows them to be more creative and attacking immediately.
The fact it has taken this long for many Arsenal fans to abandon the idea of Aubameyang playing out wide baffles me. He is clearly their best goal threat and with Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah as the only alternatives to that central role, his competition is hardly elite.
Arteta has to find a way to get Aubameyang closer to goal, getting shots off and balancing the side behind him. If Arsenal are to have any sort of success this season, they need to get the best out of their captain and talisman.
End the experiment, Mikel. The results are in and they’re glaringly obvious.