New rules, new strategies: making sense of Arteta’s transfer targets


Arteta – Squad building for 22/23 (photo Stu Macfarlane AFC)

As I think I mentioned in my last column on the potential purchase of Raphinha, I was not against the signing but did not see it as a priority. However, as many reminded me on social media, with 5 substitutions allowed in the coming campaign and with the additional games that the Europa League will bring, Arteta will need a larger squad, with more depth in quality.

This was followed by an interesting observation by Darren Ambrose on Talksport, who believed that the Arsenal Manager had perhaps appreciated the impact of a 20-man matchday squad and the increase in allowable substitutions more than his rivals. The ex-Charlton and Crystal Palace midfielder certainly gave me pause for thought.


Wise use of extra subs during pandemic

Mikel Arteta drew praise in the 20/21 Covid interrupted season, for his effective utilisation of the allowed 5 changes and the greater flexibility will certainly have a significant impact in the coming season. The coach who plans for the changes to secure tactical advantage early in the season, may well give his team a serious edge.

The 5 changes instead of only three will offer far more latitude to change the pattern of matches. We know that Arsenal’s manager trains using more than one system so his squad are comfortable to change tactics to alter fortunes or react to situations on the pitch, so the new rules should assist his team.

When you then look at the transfer business done to date and those players the club are tracking, it is possible to see that the Spaniard is thinking ahead. Gabriel Jesus undoubtedly will want to play centrally but we have all witnessed just how effective the Brazilian can be from the right flank and Fabio Vieira, when you look at where he has played in the last season for Porto can play as an 8 or as a wide creator. Equally the desire to sign Lisandro Martinez is also logical, as the Argentinian can play on the left of a two- or three-man defence, and we saw Gabriel utilised centrally in a 3 in his first season. Again, flexibility to be used match to match or to change things up without any reduction in fluency or quality. The same applies of course to Arteta’s keenness to have Saliba back in the fold.

The only concern, for me, would be the overuse of advanced pre-programmed use of the substitutes and I think we can all relate to this, from the latter Wenger era, but perhaps also by taking a sideway glance at Rugby Union. Rugby moved to a 23-squad game with all 8 substitutions being permitted and the game rapidly evolved into one in which coaches used all or the majority of substitutions tactically and not just to protect the athletes. We have all seen how changing a scrumhalf or fly-half with 20 minutes to go can massively influence the outcome of a match, as can adding fresh pace on the wings. Equally we all witnessed how Eddie Jones’ pre-determined changes in the Calcutta Cup caused England’s momentum to falter and ultimately lost them the match.

We all saw how reluctant Arteta was to unleash Pepe with 20 minutes to go and given the Ivorian’s form it’s hard to blame him. This saw Bukayo Saka running on empty in May, whereas Smith Rowe was trusted to replace Martinelli on the opposite flank. Given the importance of the wide players to Arsenal’s play, the extra games due to the Europa, and the new flexibility on substitutes – the push for Raphinha to give Arteta 4 high quality wide men is more logical. Similarly, the addition of Vieira will allow Arteta, to simply ask Odegaard to press and harry as he does so well but for 65/70 minutes and not the full ninety.

0 MAIN-Arsenal-Unveil-New-Signing

On for a tired Odegaard

We are still only in the first month of the transfer window, but I am certainly looking at the squad building through slightly different lenses. Yes, it is obviously about adding greater quality and depth of quality, but I also feel our manager is buying with one tactical eye on the new 5 substitution rule.


This is the full, unedited version of my Sun Fan Column yesterday

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6 Responses to New rules, new strategies: making sense of Arteta’s transfer targets

  1. System July 6, 2022 at 10:02 am #

    This is another one of your many magnificent writings. I just love the way you see things and how you put them down. Please keep up the good work .

    • Dave Seager July 6, 2022 at 10:06 am #


  2. Cletus Ezema July 6, 2022 at 11:27 am #

    My prayer is to seee arsenal in the champions league nxt season.

  3. CT Gooner July 6, 2022 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks Dave for an eye opening article. I had forgotten about the 5 subs and you make an interesting and important point. I am a lifelong Gooner, but since moving to South Africa almost 20 years ago I have also come to love and appreciate rugby…..and the Stormers. There is much that soccer can learn from rugby…no disputing the referee’s decisions, and definitely no crowding him. no feigning injured……and most of all the benefits of the 10 minute sin bin… football it should be for the second yellow, sending off is too harsh and game changing.

    To get back to your premise about using the 5 subs tactically…….look how the Stormers (and I believe the Springnboks) bring in their fresh front row of the scrum…..the ‘bomb squad’ ….with such telling effect. If Mikel Arteta is thinking along your lines then next season should see a dramatic difference in the way we play our games.

    Well said!

    • Dave Seager July 6, 2022 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks for informative feedback

  4. Bob July 15, 2022 at 9:14 am #

    Dave.. Thank you for your article. The five subs will definitely affecting on how the PL clubs playing their games, and I can not hold my wild imagination on how mikel arteta-8 will possibly make use of this new rule for tactical benefit, altogether with “the sign of nature” from the media, hahaha =D:

    *5 subs = the tactical rise of three-at-the-back and wing back*
    I believe Conte and Tuchel are smiling widely with this tactical changes, they are the faithful user of this formation.

    Until now, one of the obstacle of using wing back is the wide-and-long area that RWB and LWB has to cover during 2×45 minutes. The player will easily become exhausted, vulnerable for attack and becomes blunt as the game approaching final minutes.

    Coaches can not easily substitute their LWB and RWB; either they need those substitutes for another player (player with yellow card and warning, a tired center midfielder, different type of center forward, injured player) or they simply dont have player with the same quality for substitute.

    Now give the coaches a new 5 subs rule. The football will become like F1\MotoGP. Take your exhausted tire to the pit, put a new pair of tire, and you are good to go again. Ask your RWB and LWB to run like their life depend on it, put on a new and fresh legs after break, then our engine are good to go again. Worry not, there are still usual three- changes left for yellow card receiver, injury prone, and time waster player.

    This will not fix the problem where the LWB and RWB may sometimes still left behind in backline after some defensive work when the ball is already approaching the final third. We will discuss it later.

    What we have:
    Whether we see it or not, we actually being blessed by having so many players capable of playing as left and right wing back. We have Tierney and Tavares on the left, Hecci and Soares on the right. Even Martinelli and Niles, Saka and Nelson can also play as LWB and RWB respectively (I rated Tomiyasu as a more defensive and ball-playing type for the back three who initialize the play instead of a flying wing back). It is a nightmare for any right back to handle Tavares for first 45 minutes only to welcome a fresh-leg Tierney for another 45′. =D

    What mikel did so far:
    I understand our coach is not a LWB and RWB favouring type of a guy. He is more of a 4-3-3 type, but indeed he is a smart tactical person. Impossible that he did not recognize this coming. And I impressed, in a game against Nurnberg, he really use 3 at a back and LWB-RWB. Not only he entertain the idea of using wing back, he used Nketiah and Jesus altogether in 3-5-2 set up.

    Jesus is a winger that evolve into striker. Nketiah is a striker that asked to be capable of playing as a winger. Mikel tactical idea can be seen in both of Jesus’ goal against Nurnberg. For the first goal, Jesus receives the ball on the wide right area as the furthest right player (notice our RWB still behind), playing the ball to Nketiah who waits centrally and return it to Jesus for shooting. For Jesus’ second goal, Eddie receives the ball as furthest left player, return it to Martinelli, and Jesus who runs centrally receives Martinelli’s assist.

    Not only our gaffer has entertained the idea of using RWB and LWB together with three at the back. He also fixed the issue when RWB and LWB incapable of receiving the ball on the final third after defensive work by telling his central forward to go wide on the ball playing side while the other awaits centrally and vice versae. Nice one mikel!

    Players transfer:
    A False 9.
    Now lets add some spice by inserting a false nine who can do the late run centrally, a good finisher yet can also help midfield work. First name appear in my mind is Smith Rowe, next in the row is Fabio Vieira. Too bad none of them playing together with Jesus-Nektiah forward to test this hypothesis during Nurnberg game. Maybe later on pre season?

    Winger and wing back.
    It is interesting how the news around Hector’s transfer is cooling down. Unlike Leno and Torreira, Hecci’s corner is quite calm and I believe it is correlated to how Mikel and Hecci knows how he is going to be utilized next season (5 subs Hecci? Run wild for first half then we close the shop with smart substitution?). It is also interesting to see what will happen to Niles and Nelson. Niles plays centrally against Nurnberg, I think if we fail to land midfield enforcer this season, Niles will add layer to the midfield.

    Center back.
    I have got the idea why we still connected to center back transfers especially when we already have Magalhaes, White, Saliba and Holding (and Mari?) in our rank. In a game against City, we saw Magalhaes leaving for two consecutive yellow card. By having 5 substitutes, coaches should not be hesitate to sub their yellow card receiver, especially those in the position whom their duty is doing the last ditch tactical foul (DM, CB). It is better to sub them asap rather than seeing red card coming, otherwise it is definitely manager’s fault. If you do not have sufficient layer of substitute player, this transfer window is the time to prepare for it.

    I believe it is going to be interesting on how the five-subs will affect Arsenal way of playing games as well as other PL club. VCC!

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