Even the most ardent of positive Arsenal fans have taken the home defeat to Leicester badly and the questioning of Arteta’s methods and tactics is on the increase. It would be fair to say the Spaniard’s honeymoon period during which he basked in FA Cup glory and to a degree the Community Shield triumph, is over.
However, those wishing him gone are ill-advised and premature in my opinion. Perhaps the early success at the end of last season raised the expectations too far as this was always going to be a period of transition. That expression seems over utilised in football these days but the club’s inability of lack of desire to back Arteta to the fullest in the window meant the transition period may have lengthened. Had Arsenal found buyers for a few more of the fringe players, that may have allowed he and Edu to bring in the most obvious missing piece of the jigsaw – the creator.
The spine of the team is visibly strengthened with the arrival of Gabriel and Partey but in a way the leaving of the latter deal has slowed the transition slightly. However, it is evident that Arteta has made his Arsenal harder to score against than either latter day Wenger or Emery’s teams. The next phase of the transition, we saw against Leicester is the reversion to a back four. I had hoped this phase could have begun earlier had we been able to trigger the Ghanaian’s release clause earlier but unfortunately the fine tuning must occur in realm time, in a tough run of fixtures.
Some have seen Arleta’s rigidity of team structure and playbook style training ground patterns as stubborn. Perhaps they are the same folk who saw it has brilliant when Aubameyang scored at the back stick against City? To me, it is more that he is perhaps a little over cautious in his move towards his end goal, both in the formation and playing style. I sense that the home defeat to Leicester will be seen by the manager, as a sucker punch that was undeserved and he will have taken some positives from his move to 433 and the additional chances his team created as a result.
It seems to me that he has these four interlinked, pressing issues to resolve now he has moved to a back four and I will be watching with interest in the coming matches.
- He needs to address the issue of involving Partey more very urgently. The first pass is always to Xhaka by habit and this needs to change and we need to mix this up. The Swiss has the passing range and this most stay part of the plan, but the Ghanaian will either move the ball quicker or travel with it. Oddly it is why Partey and Elneny, with Saka more advanced looked smoother in Vienna than Partey, Xhaka and Ceballos.
- To address this, he may opt to utilise a 4231 with Xhaka and Partey as a double pivot, rather than have the 2 midfielders spread across the pitch.
- This in turn may help his with he most pressing problem, that of creativity. The 4231 with a strong midfield partnership will allow our excellent fullbacks. Tierney and Bellerin to be more adventurous and actively involved in out attacking play. We have seen how effective such a luxury and be at Liverpool.
- The pressing question remaining will be who plays as the furthest advanced attacking midfielder behind the striker, with Ozil omitted? For me this gives is an opportunity to ease out the misfiring Lacazette and bring Aubameyang centrally. The three in behind will be Pepe on the right with 2 of Saka, Smith-Rowe and Willian making up the three. None of these players are the traditional 10 but all three can create. Whichever pairing I would see them as interchangeable on the left and centrally with the fluidity assisting us, keeping the opposition guessing and ending our over reliance on the left flank. This is important as Pepe has been isolated too much. Ceballos is also an option as the advanced midfielder is certain matches.
Arteta will be continually judged as any top-flight manager will be but the key now is how he manages the most effective inclusion of Partey, and how he uses that strength in his midfield as a platform to allow greater creativity and attacking variety. How he does this will tell us all how good a coach and tactician he is and inform him, Edu and his paymasters what is required or not required in January.
This is the original unedited version of yesterday’s Sun Football Fan Column.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.