Arteta has certainly shown his adaptability in his use of different formations and systems since he took over. Pre COVID-19, Ozil was a regular feature in the side. 4-2-3-1 with Ozil in the whole was the way forward to get the best out of him. He’s the best player at the club who can drift in between the lines and provide creativity in the attacking third.
Post COVID, and Ozil’s omission from the side, Arteta tried his favoured 4-3-3 system. He quickly realised, however, that after the Brighton game we lacked the attributes and personal to implement this.
So we came to the system that suits the strengths of the players available, which is the 3-4-3 system. Our CB’s lack the quality collectively to play a back four. By sacrificing a midfield option and bringing in an extra CB, gives us more solidity.
I’m not a huge fan of this system however, as there is less emphasis on control with a two man midfield as opposed to three midfielders. Another issue is Lacazette having to drop really deep to provide a connection between the midfield and attack. By doing this, he isn’t able to regularly arrive in the box and give himself goal scoring opportunities, with a maximum of two attackers in the box on most occasions. So despite looking a lot more assured defensively, our main sources of creativity are from the wing backs providing crosses out wide. The trouble with this is we lack forwards who possess a threat in the air, so on many occasions the crosses are to no avail unless they are drilled low and hard.
But what I do see in Arteta’s philosophy is aspects of both Pep’s City and Klopp’s Liverpool, along with his own tactical tweaks, which I will discuss.
Out of possession
Manchester City and Liverpool have the same intentions of winning the ball in the opposition’s half. But both have different ways of doing it. Klopp has been praised by many for his ability to transition his ‘gegenpressing’ developed at Dortmund into this Liverpool side. Their extreme style of pressing suffocates the opposition, preventing them from having any sort control.
Pep does it differently, with his team adopting a more calculated approach. Rather than every player pressing with high intensity, it’s more of a man marking press and eliminating passing lanes. This stops the opposition from playing out from the back, forcing them to go long. By doing this, they have the players in midfield (Rodri) and at the back (Fernandinho, Otamendi Walker e.c.t) to win aerial duels, collect loose balls and maintain control in the game. I’ve seen us do combinations of both styles under Mikel although it’s nowhere near at the required level yet.
For large portions of the first half in games, we’ve tried to adopt Klopp’s intense pressing style and have had good success in recent weeks. Eddie Nketiah’s endeavour being one, closing down Southampton’s Mccarthy to force the error. Other scenarios have appeared where we have forced mistakes from teams playing at the back, but haven’t capitalised on those opportunities fully. We’ve seen a lot more of Pep’s calculated approach, by pressing in triangles. The second goal against Liverpool is a key example. Nelson provides the pressure which forces a loose pass from Allison. Pepe’s initial positioning eliminates Allison’s opportunity to pass to Trent. Lacazette anticipates the loose ball, and puts a good cross in for Nelson to convert. Not enough credit was given to our tactical press here and is the reason why we forced the error. Aubameyang’s second goal against Norwich is another example where we forced the issue with our players taking positions which eliminated Norwich to play out from the back.
Arteta has reiterated the need to maintain intensity in our game for longer durations. This suggests that he wants more sustained aggressive pressing, similar to Klopp. They do it for 90 minutes!!
But he’s also installed a calculated press which has been effective. We see this a lot more when players have fatigued. Improvement is needed though with players needing to be more consistent and intelligent in their positioning. But it’s early signs of what’s to come.
Additionally, he’s stressed the importance of improvements in the positional awareness of our midfielders out of possession and anticipating danger. This typifies the way Klopp sets his midfield out. It’s a three man, hard working midfield who provides a screen to the CB’s as well as lessening the defensive responsibilities of the attacking full backs.
The similarities in possession with Pep’s team, is the use of ‘inverted’ full backs. We saw this a lot more when playing a back four. Inverted full backs enables overloads to be created in the middle during build up as well as aiding ball retention. We’ve done this predominantly with our RB, whether it’s Ainsley or Hector. The set up in possession was a 3-2-5 in possession, pre COVID-19. The RB would play the inverted role to maintain the pivot and provide solidity when out of possession. Arteta provides his own tactical tweak by not utilising both full backs as inverted.
The positions our LB would take allowed us to create overloads on the left hand side. Aubameyang playing as an inside left forward would occupy the opposition’s RB and give our LB room to exploit out wide. Xhaka would fill in at LB to cover the space vacated. This was a very evident pattern of play. Similarities are drawn with Liverpool as well here in how we use our LB to provide a supply line and a source of chance creation. Just like Andy Robertson.
‘They have to be a threat, constantly threatening the box and the final third, assisting, getting chances to score … it’s one of the big jobs they have.’
These were quotes from Arteta about the need for more attacking impetus from our midfielders, in a similar fashion to the likes of KDB and Silva. This tells you how he clearly is looking to address this area of the squad which will allow him to implement his ideas fully.
It’s a lot different in terms of our style in possession currently with us playing a three at the back. But if Mikel can bring in key additions, revert to a back four and implement his 4-3-3 system, we will see a lot more visible similarities to the way City and Liverpool play along with his own innovations.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.