Arsenal rise to key Mikel Arteta ‘non-negotiable’ by sharing goal burden in title hunt
Mikel Arteta is famed for his non-negotiables — and scoring plenty of goals is one of them. The Arsenal boss believes a team needs to score between 90 and 100 times to compete for the title, and his players have risen to the challenge this season.
The Gunners have scored 56 goals in the Premier League, which is more than they managed during the entirety of Arteta’s first full season in charge. They hit four against Everton on Wednesday and their increased output has helped them establish a five-point lead over Manchester City at the top.
That gap could be cut to two by the time Arsenal kick-off against Bournemouth on Saturday, with City hosting Newcastle in the lunchtime kick-off. With 13 games left, the pressure is ramping up. But Arsenal appear unfazed and look in formidable form, having won three games on the spin.
They are easing the pressure on themselves by sharing the burden, especially when it comes to hitting Arteta’s target of 100 goals. The Gunners have had 13 different scorers in the League this season, which is more than any other top-flight side. That is despite Arteta using a core group and keeping rotation to a minimum. For the win over Everton, Arteta named an unchanged XI for the 12th time in the League this season.
The narrative last season, and during the summer, was that Arsenal needed a 30-goal-a-season striker to boost their firepower, but instead everyone has stepped up. Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are both in double figures for League goals. If skipper Martin Odegaard scores on Saturday, he will join them. Gabriel Jesus has managed five in 14 games and would surely be close to 10 had it not been for his knee injury at the World Cup.
“To be with the top teams this season you need to score 90 to 100 goals at least,” Arteta said this time last year, when Arsenal were battling to finish fourth. “Somehow you need those goals in the team. Don’t ask me how, but you need them. They have to come. That contribution, how it’s done and how possible it is to happen, you have to find the right pieces to do it. But it’s a non-negotiable.”
No other Premier League side boasts two players on double figures for League goals. Erling Haaland has struck 27 times for City, which is 19 times more than their second-best scorer, Phil Foden.
At Manchester United, Marcus Rashford is nine clear of Bruno Fernandes, who has five goals. City and United would both argue they are not reliant on their two great forwards, but the statistics would suggest otherwise, and it would be intriguing to see how either fared without them for an extended period of time.
Arsenal have had to cope without star striker Jesus for three months and their attack has still functioned. It underlines a team effort, and that will fill them with confidence as they embark on the run-in.
Instead of being on the shoulders of one player, the goalscoring load is being shared around — and the benefit has been clear. Suddenly, Arteta’s target of 90 to 100 goals is in sight. More importantly, the finish line in the title race is in view, too, and Arsenal are in pole position.