A Coaches Coach: how Arteta’s coaching skills ran the Foxes ragged

Arteta Willian

A coaches coach


I wasn’t really ‘Wenger Out.’

I wasn’t ‘Wenger In’, either.

I was more ‘Wenger frustrated.’

I spent the post 2010 period largely frustrated. Whether it was the fact that we always seemed 2-3 players short of competing or the more pertinent point, that it became clear that he wasn’t a tactical coach and the game was becoming more tactical.

I thought that Wenger was a players coach. They all loved and love him. Those that got frustrated with him rarely fixing problems left as they knew it would be the same next season.

One is not necessarily better than the other. A players coach might be a motivator whether through intelligence or fear. Brian Clough was the former, Fabio Capello the latter. Alex Ferguson would be a good example of both.

A coaches coach is more tactically astute and will win through strategy and improving players. Johan Cruyff mastered the former and Ralph Hasenhuttl this season, the latter. Pep Guardiola does both and many would say he does the list above too.

Where is Mikel Arteta?

He’s probably more in the second group than the first but I could certainly see him as a motivator through intelligence too.

I was watching the game yesterday and wondering what it was that won us the game beyond the goals.

I settled on the defensive side of the game.

We possessed well and generally were better at creating than we have been but I thought that it was the strong foundation that won the game. I came to this conclusion because regardless of Leicester’s fatigue, you’d expect a team in the Top 4 to be able to create significantly more than they did regardless of how well you play. They didn’t. Why was that? A Top 4 side at home and their best and only good chance came in the 96th minute when the game was over. I think that Arteta won the game by choosing fresher players as he knew they’d be physically and mentally fatigued due to their unsuccessful exertion on Thursday. More than that though was the short term decision to press them but most importantly it was this…..

Arsenal are now a serious team. A team with defensive structure and accountability. A team that is hard to break down due to their organization and effort. If you’ve wondered why we are so conservative on the ball in the first two thirds of the field it’s because Arteta knows he can protect us from the opponents threat through smart coaching but not mistakes and transition which lead to a lack of organization. Leicester couldn’t make progress as our press got close enough to deny them the vertical game they prefer and we constantly tackled, intercepted and hurried them.

Headline writers aren’t the slightest bit interested in defensive structure as it doesn’t get looks or sell, but coaches are. Do you ever wonder why Mikel Arteta gets so many compliments from other coaches? They know the importance of a solid base. Of being hard to penetrate. Arsenal have lost many but almost all by a goal. Those that have been lost have been largely down to individual mistakes or players not being the long term required level, rather than lack of structure and discipline.


A coaches coach

Whatever happens to Mikel Arteta at Arsenal I will never forget or ignore that he inherited a team and a club that needed two major changes….. accountability and defensive structure. He has and is wading through the squad and ridding the club of the bad eggs who were allowed to get away with so much that was damaging to Arsenal. He is changing the mentality with accountability and a firm hand. Nothing speaks to this more than the treatment of the clearly talented Balogun. His agent wants him to get a bigger contract than Saka all based on potential and getting playing opportunities and guarantees and only then will he stay. Arteta wants him him to sign a contract similar to the one that Saka signed and then he will play him. This would never have happened 10,6,4,2 years ago.

On the pitch the players play with such positional discipline and structure. This is clearly seen by the frequency with which they look over their shoulders to check that they are still blocking passing lanes.

My faith in Arteta is based on a great appreciation for him healing what should’ve been healed 10 years ago. In fact it never should’ve become a thing. It is also based on the continuous improvement of the players. There is always somebody whose game surprises me. Someone I think we should sell that shows significant improvement. Then another one.

I think Arteta is a coaches coach. Someone that isn’t interested in creating headlines. More interested in culture, structure and accountability.

You won’t read it unless you check the fine print.



-I have to start with a set play goal. A goal from one of our ordinarily, bizarrely repeated, quite often awful set plays. I have a theory that our two Brazilians had a chat and ignored our not so genius set play coach and designed that themselves. If my theory is true then I hope that Arteta thinks about player creativity being more included to balance the over coaching that we often feel like we are seeing.

-Pepe and Willian were rather good. Pepe was just his good self and I think Willian was hypnotized pre-game by someone saying, “You play for Chelsea, you play for Chelsea.” That wasn’t the Arsenal version was it?

Both had a set up that suits them. Hector coming inside brings more pressure on Pepe playing to his favourite side but Cedric going on the outside gave him space. Same with Tierney overlapping Willian, giving him the space and freedom to move and create. They have both given Arteta a dilemma. It’ll be Saka plus one. Which one?

-Cedric suits our right footed left wingers. Cedric is in form. Start Cedric.

– Since Arsenal switched to a back four this is the PL table…


Again, this is another clap for Arteta.

-Odegaard is starting to flourish. What will make him fully blossom is pointing out that too often our players are too late in passing him the ball or ignore him when he’s in large spaces. He always seems to be operating in tight areas. We saw what he is capable of with his beautifully weighted ball behind to Pepe.

-Is the fact that we are having different players stepping up a result of the fact that there are only 4 players (Tierney, Leno, Saka and Partey) that are going to start if fully fit. I think that the entire squad is being cleverly managed and motivated to believe that they have a chance to play. All but Reiss Nelson, obviously.

– I really like Pablo Mari. I like him even more now that he proved that he can stay with Vardy.


-Was the man to man marking partly responsible for Mari running away from Vardy and Elneny trying to find his man rather than help Xhaka with his? It shouldn’t have happened either way and it was on ElNeny. That goal was out of place in the game as the rest was very well defended.

-Do you care that Xhaka’s legs collapse about 5 times a game when someone breathes on his back? Why don’t the refs know he’s cheating?

-After highlighting our impressive defensive structure it is also fair to say that the sooner we stop gifting the opponent a freebie the better. It’s like getting a present from your Granny on your brothers birthday. Totally unnecessary. Shouldn’t happen.

-Are we the only team that doesn’t seem to take advantage of an opponent rocking precariously on a yellow card? Luke Thomas needed to be run at as he fouled Pepe every time Pepe got the ball.

-Is Granit Xhaka a robot? Maybe he thinks it’s the 80’s where you play 65 games in a season? Why is this a NEED?

-Referees are consistently hiding behind VAR now. Why did the ref need to look at VAR to see something that was 8 yards from his eyes?

-ElNeny is so technically secure to his credit. Could he try being technically secure with his hips facing the other teams goal?

Happy Arsenal


-There is so much wrong with refereeing right now. Here is a new one to add to the list….. the fake head injury.

Evans went down after getting his neck tickled. Arsenal were in a goalscoring position. Ref blows whistle. Restart sees Leicester ‘give it back to us’ by smashing it 90 yards upfield. Hmmmm. Seems wrong to me.

-N’didi wasn’t so good yesterday but boy would I love him at Arsenal. He is a tackling machine. Would allow Partey to experience adventure.

-Am I the only one that thinks that selling Martinelli is in the clubs mind? If we can’t make money from players that are only wanted on loan and in order to upgrade in areas needed, that he might be sacrificed? Hope not.


Is Martinelli being considered for sale?


I said last week that I thought that Arsenal might go on a period of dominance. Could that happen in the last third of the season?

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One Response to A Coaches Coach: how Arteta’s coaching skills ran the Foxes ragged

  1. Francis Redemi March 3, 2021 at 8:35 am #

    Nice write up as usual.

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