Too Much Time To Think: does Arteta overcomplicate things? [ARS 2-2 FUL] (Positives Needs & Hopes)

Too much time to think

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective 

I have this theory about Mikel Arteta. 

Essentially, he makes better decisions with less time to prepare. 

If I was in a better mood I’d study past games to prove my point but I know that I’ve had this feeling quite a few times before. It doesn’t happen too often because there are too many games and for the vast majority of the season there are at least two games a week.

I would hope that my opinions are measured and not extreme or reactionary. I’m not of the opinion that Havertz needs to bleep off or that the Thomas Partey at right back experiment needs to stop. I don’t think that Gabriel starting changes that game but can admit to wishing he ended it after seeing Saka give up on their equalizer. 

I’m about to complain a little later about Fábio Vieira’s desire and I’m not going to ditch the thought because he ultimately was the game changer.

The way I pick my team is as follows…. 

  1. What team do I WANT to pick?
  2. Is that the simplest way of winning this particular game?
  3. Should we play on the front or back foot?
  4. Should I adjust based on the opponent?
  5. If I do, then have I caused confusion for my players?
  6. Is the need to consider our opponent more important affecting the rhythm of my team?
  7. Ask the opinion of my captains. They know the pulse of the dressing room.

I felt that Fulham at home needed to be a front foot game. 

I felt that nothing that Fulham had would impact the team that I would pick. 

I would’ve therefore picked the team I wanted to which would’ve seen Gabriel play instead of Kiwior and Zinchenko inverting instead of Partey. 

I would’ve started Partey at DM and Rice at left eight.

Invincibubble Banner

I think Zinchenko is the X factor at home. Willing to take offensive risks when others shy away. As we play with at least 55% possession we face low blocks which are also the opponents strength in most cases. 

I would start Gabriel against all weaker teams because he has significantly more defensive desire than anyone bar Ben White when facing set plays and this is often their biggest threat. 

The most important on my list is number 2.

If you are playing a team that you are going to dominate, and who are far more worried about you than you should be of them, then go to number two on the list and no further. Don’t over complicate it.

Having said all of that, if simplicity is the winner, then it also has to be said that Arsenal created plenty enough attacks and plenty enough chances to win regardless. In fact, Arteta could’ve gone in at half time and said, “No more shooting straight at Leno,” and walked out to watch us win. 

Arsenal will be fine. We have rightly decided to be less predictable. We are trying to keep opponents guessing. This is important as you can’t keep doing the same patterns and not expect to be neutralized. 

I think that perhaps the answer is the back pocket. Play against teams like Fulham with more of your regular patterns, automatisms and trust your individual quality to be enough. Keep your new system and patterns in your back pocket. Tell your players to use them if Plan A isn’t enough.

Make the fixture more simple. As it should be.

Before we go extreme and start thinking that Arteta is going to galaxy brain the season, note that he changed it with 30 minutes left. His mentor is too stubborn and so City are always likely to do this too but not make subs and adjust. I hope.

In closing, I know that we are becoming a versatile team that is being designed to confuse opponents. On paper it sounds so modern and perfect. I’m hoping that in practice we don’t confuse our players more.


  • Arsenal are currently a ‘flashes’ team. Playing very well in moments. Considering that we have new relationships all over the field then I understand and accept this as it sounds fair enough. The flashes are going to start coming closer together.
  • One of those new patterns is where the attacker on the far side makes a diagonal run behind the defence, allowing the winger to receive a switch and some alone time. Ben White in particular pinged some beauties. 
  • I still can’t get Max to write a blog for kids. I think it would do well. He has so much knowledge. A YouTube channel would be even better but he’s too shy. I asked him to come on my podcast, but too shy. He did ask if I could tell you what he saw in the game. Max mentioned not only that Saka is stronger than any other winger but that it would be hard to replace/give minutes to a different winger because he rarely gives it away causing transition. He is right. Saka and Martinelli both rarely give it up in dangerous areas and in Martinelli’s case, if he does, he just goes to get it back. Max may have found the reason that Arteta plays Saka so much and seems reluctant to try to find an equal in the market. 

The Legend Of Max

This is legend of Max with an Invincible that he met at the FC Cincinnati game.


  • Four clean sheets in the last twenty home games is a clear issue. I have an allergy to analysts saying that they don’t know why something is happening. It’s sort of your job to at least give an opinion, a guess. My best guess is that the Emirates has been a place of support and enthusiasm. Perhaps this has subconsciously led to a belief that the bad men can’t hurt us and a different type of complacency. An over confidence of sorts.
  • Are we nervous, over confident or lacking focus at the beginning of games? Impossible to say for sure but my guess is the latter. Too loose. Not believing in the possibility that something bad could happen. Perhaps that is over confidence too? Believing  in your plan to the point where no bad thing can possibly happen.
  • I keep noticing the issue that occurs when Saka is in a crossing position. There are at least two and sometimes three, all at the back post. Perhaps if they peel to the back post and one or two make a second run then Havertz would have scored already as the new tactic of getting an aerial threat in the box is much needed but we are crowding him out. More on crosses on the returning podcast (below).
  • Saka was starting to run behind at the end of last season. He trusted White’s passing ability. White reciprocated with frequent elite deliveries. Partey can deliver that same ball but getting the eye connection and timing isn’t there yet. 
  • This is bad timing. Vieira had a breakout game yesterday but I wanted to point something out. I don’t know if he doesn’t feel worthy but he desperately needs to demand the ball. Not only is he not able to show physical desire but until he gets in a groove like he did yesterday he seems to float through games and again lacks the ‘give it to me’ desire that he needs to break into the team. What he brings to the game is what the team needs in certain moments. Quality in the final ball and the biggest threat we have shooting from distance. More on the podcast on Vieira.

Vieira tekkers

  • The set plays look like they have been rushed in preparation. I saw the logic in having the players run from the back post to the front. It stops the shirt pulling and general wrestling match. They negated a good idea though by getting the timing wrong. Either Saka/Martinelli were too slow to deliver or the pack got into place too early and stopped. They lost the advantage of being able to jump off the run. This corner is highly dangerous but the fact that we’ve likely had close to 20 opportunities to do it in 3 games and not won a header once is a little concerning. 
  • I don’t know if Arteta subbed Havertz before the crowd started booing him but either way it was smart. He received one of the best opportunities in the game to turn and chose to drop it and lost possession too. Personally, I feel sorry for him. He has found himself in the right position in the box many times in all three games but not been found. 


  • I think we need to relax on Ramsdale. If we don’t then we are going to make both our goalies nervous and want a switch every time one makes an error. What happened yesterday was that he was stitched up. He was in the right position to receive the back pass. The pass stitched him up. He saw Pereira open his hips to chip him or go far post and so he turned his hips to run back rather than back pedal so that he could make up more ground. Pereira miss hit it and got very lucky. Let’s not forget that Ramsdale (as usual) saved us at the end.

Ramsdale gutted


Man Utd are one of the strangest teams. 

A team that you can never rule out because they are the ultimate ‘moments’ team. The most inconsistent team from game to game and during the game. 

We could beat them 4-0 or lose 0-3.

In some regards they have been the least organized team in the league. A team without a functioning midfield. A team who made the most whiny player in the league their captain. A team that were so so close to making DeGea their most well paid player, bought Jonny Evans back and are about to buy Ryan Bertrand. Yet they have brilliance and a roaming single pivot who keeps scoring. 

So weird. 

No idea what is going to happen next Sunday

Check out some more thoughts in the podcast.

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5 Responses to Too Much Time To Think: does Arteta overcomplicate things? [ARS 2-2 FUL] (Positives Needs & Hopes)

  1. allezkev August 27, 2023 at 11:12 am #

    For me, the positive I took from the game was after 12 long frustrating months that Pablo Vieira might have finally arrived as possible selection choice, he made the difference for me yesterday, playing the kind of influential role that we’d hoped to see earlier in his Arsenal career, now he has to do it again next time and after that and especially when he starts a game so that we finally have a realistic rotational option to Odegaard etc.

  2. daveg August 27, 2023 at 11:49 am #

    Arsenal too predictable. They need to get more crosses into the box, Teirney and Viera to provide crosses for Havertz and Nkeita to flourish more. Arsenal are too predictable and easy to defend against. Need to mix it up with crosses, longballs as well as just allowing incoming wingers taking on defenders.

  3. jod August 27, 2023 at 1:26 pm #

    I understand what you are saying, but dominating a game and winning it are two different things. Brighton had 80% possession against West Ham, they lost. I’m not sure the “we are a new team” argument holds water. Arsenal finished second last year, if they aren’t settled now will they ever be ?

  4. Michael Harris August 29, 2023 at 10:33 pm #

    Fantastic stuff again Mike. I too believe he’s overthinking it. Amazing how many managers do when they’re ‘comfortable’…

  5. Dennis the Menace September 3, 2023 at 9:05 pm #

    I think people are too impatient with Havertz. It takes a while to learn Arteta’s system which is complex but pays dividends more so than most others. Remember, it took Bergkamp a while to settle in a simpler system and he was the best.

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