Mikel Arteta is the process of addressing the “soft underbelly” that has delivered an “embarrassing” string of results for the club against fellow members of the Premier League’s ‘big six’, says Alan Smith.
The Gunners have been able to hold their own against elite opposition on home soil, but trips on the road have been an issue for some time.
Arteta has started to right those wrongs since taking the reins in north London, with the Spaniard offering cause for optimism through the first year of his tenure.
Smith believes long-standing faults are being fixed, with Arsenal heading to Liverpool on Monday believing for the first time in a while that they can compete with the very best away from Emirates Stadium.
The former Gunners striker told the Evening Standard: “Some stats are misleading, others tell the truth. A well-known one about Arsenal shines a harsh light on a longstanding weakness.
“Gunners fans don’t need reminding that it’s been more than five-and-a-half years since their team won a Premier League away game against a top-six club. That’s not bad luck. It’s about poor organisation and a soft underbelly, which led to some embarrassing scorelines over that time.
“One thing I think we can guarantee tonight is that Mikel Arteta’s side will be armed with a solid game plan that commands respect. It might not be enough to beat Liverpool, but you would expect it to be able to at least compete in a way that proved beyond previous sides.
“In truth, this isn’t about beating the champions, though that would obviously be nice. It’s more about closing the huge gap in quality that has opened up, one that amounted to a 43-point difference in the Premier League come the end of last season.
“Quite a challenge, that, but Arteta has it in him to chip away at that lead as the campaign progresses.”
Arsenal have opened their 2020-21 Premier League campaign with back-to-back wins over Fulham and West Ham while also seeing off Leicester in the Carabao Cup, and have downed Liverpool in their last two meetings with the defending champions.