Mikel Arteta – Just A Suave Unai Emery?

A look ahead to the January Transfer Window, how Arteta and Emery compare defensively, and behind-the-scenes drama.

Recent results have wound up Arsenal fans over the globe; with some calling for Arteta’s immediate departure and comparing his win rate in his first 26 games, (46%) with Unai Emery’s (58%). Emery outperforms Arteta in most categories, however his defensive frailties have to be acknowledged: giving credit where credit is due, Arteta has now secured the backline which seemed to be a problem for Arsenal since the prime-Wenger days back in 07′.


Former head coach – Unai Emery’s first 26 games compared to current head                                     coach – Mikel Arteta’s first 26 games.

The tactical differences between Emery and Arteta are clearly visible, with Arteta adopting a 5-at-the-back formation a lot more effectively. While Emery’s 5-at-the-back did get Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019, the leakages were very visible. Sead Kolasinac operating as LWB provided a lovely attacking option, but was catastrophic defensively. Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi played as the 3 CB’s and were pulled into question for lack of tactical awareness more often than not. Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing as a RWB provided a versatile option for Emery which he utilized to perfection.

Maitland-Niles distraught after Emery’s side outclassed in UEL final by                                                                    Chelsea.

Comparing the Emery backline to the Arteta backline would be a logical thing to do. With Arteta coming in at a time of turmoil behind the scenes and facing vast criticism, he had a point to prove. Arteta started the 2020/21 season, his first full season in charge, and ended 2019/20 with a back 5 that propelled them to FA Cup glory.

Captain Aubameyang celebrating a win over Manchester City with Mikel Arteta.

The back-5 was 100% more solid than the Emery back-5. With Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka interchanging in the LWB slot to provide depth and pace. With LB Kieran Tierney being sent out as a LCB and proving his defensive qualities alongside new signing Gabriel Maghaeles and Rob Holding. Both Gabriel and Holding putting in good performances regularly. The RWB position was occupied by Hector Bellerin, a player who flourished under Arteta’s guidance and discovered some of his best form of late.

Overall, the flair and defensive assurances at the back led Arsenal to more fluid football post-lockdown and led them to wins over Manchester City and Chelsea to secure a 14th FA Cup title. Both games showcased the change made by Arteta, defending capably (something Arsenal fans haven’t seen in a few years) and producing chances on the counter-attack.

Arsenal captain – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mikel Arteta after winning the FA Cup.

But after seeing the season off with a trophy, pressure mounted on Arsenal to make moves in the transfer market following rivals strengthening in abundance. A top target was Lyon midfielder – Houssem Aouar, mainly because the lack of creativeness the club had going forward. But the deal couldn’t be done due to unspecified reasons and Arsenal opted to move on and delay the deal. This led to Arsenal fans first realizing adverse effect on creativity of the 5-back formation, with Arsenal failing to score in 5 games.

Arsenal target – Houssem Aouar of Lyon.

Playing a back-5 against teams who are inferior has increased frustration in the fanbase. A nail in the coffin was the 0-3 defeat at home to Aston Villa in which Arsenal registered just TWO attempts on target. This was a wake-up call for Arteta and led to contrasting calls amongst the fanbase.

The lack of guile in attack is becoming alarming at the club, with the personnel not even available to select; the Arsenal board is under extreme pressure to provide a sense of stability, balance and creativity in the squad in the January window.

Under the Emery reign, the Gunners were up and firing with no lack of creativity and stable squad rotation in the midfield. Scoring goals was never a problem for Emery and his side, however, the defence spoke for itself. It is quite the contrary for Mikel Arteta with a solid defence, but very poor going forward.

Emery providing instructions to Arsenal players.

Is it time to give up on Arteta? Of course not, providing the board backs him to excel by purchasing the quality needed, then Mikel Arteta seems to be a man of turning bad fortunes into optimism. Whether he can turn this season around and provide Top 4 remains to be seen, but taking into account the rebuild progress so far – the signs seem fairly promising. The attacking fluency needs to be addressed, and that’s down to the Arsenal board.

Techincal Director and Board Trustee – Edu Gaspar with Mikel Arteta.

Stubborn team-selections and favourites seem to be a thing of the past for Arteta as he learns the managerial trade day-by-day. One thing is for sure, giving Arteta the funds to spend will ultimately lead to further success for Arsenal. But that’s down to the board, and their ambition to rebuild Arsenal under a young manager. January may be a make-or-break month for the Gunners, as the Arsenal hopeful will be eager to see the attacking problems addressed.

An article by Ibrahim from @HaleEndArsenal.

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4 Responses to Mikel Arteta – Just A Suave Unai Emery?

  1. jjgsol November 26, 2020 at 11:08 am #

    Excuse me but how does allowing 25 shots against a team evidence that defensive problems have been solved?

    The rapidly spreading disease of wishful thinking and rose tinted viewing seems to be blinding more and more people to what they are actually seeing.

    Games are won by scoring goals.

    Other than the very occasional penalty and own goal, goals need to be constructed from midfield and attacking players.

    So far there is no midfield to speak of, no creativity and attackers losing interest because they are being starved of service.

    I see nothing here to be self satisfied or confident about.

    • Ibrahim Khan November 26, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

      Looking back to the previous games against the top sides in the PL and the FA Cup, we were making no individual errors and were composed and defending extremely well. Don’t let a game against Leeds change the entire wide view of the project.

      DM on Twitter @HaleEndArsenal for further queries.

  2. TheBigShow November 26, 2020 at 5:57 pm #

    Everyone keeps saying Arteta has made Arsenal defensively solid. How exactly? 25 shots conceded against Leeds. 3 goals conceded at home against villa.

    Also, to say Arteta will be successful if backed by d board is just a lazy rhetoric. So far, he has failed to get the best out of the squad.

    • jjgsol November 27, 2020 at 10:18 am #

      The FA cup final was months ago. There have been 9 league games since.

      How well did our defence perform in the 4 league games we lost to teams above us? We lost, so the number of errors is irrelevant.

      The worst league start for ages is hardly evidence of an improvement in defence.

      In any event you win games both scoring those silly inconvenient things called goals.

      Without goals the most immaculate defence means nothing.

      I fear you may be one of the ‘rose-tinted brigade’.

      You can be admired for talking up arteta, possibly in the hope that by saying it enough times it will become a reality, but it is not one yet.

      I would have thought a good coach, like in all professions, develops his skills as he goes along, seeing and recognising the errors and where he has to change his ideas to meet the challenges.

      I hope arteta goes along that path, because I fear that if he does not do do and adapts, he will fail.

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