The inflexible conundrum of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal Tenure
99 times out of a 100 I’ll back the manager. Sometimes I’ll go as far as to say he got the tactics wrong and that the slowness to correct his mistake is down to inexperience. To be granted, Mikel Arteta’s coaching staff is very inexperienced in what they do directly. It’s a step up for everyone, including Arteta. Coming from second assistant, to assistant manager, for assistant manager to coach to manager. It’s a rude awakening.
And all of the last season, that was my excuse. I used to call Arteta naïve when he fell into the trap of doing the same routine every game if it worked in one, and I might still do that. But this season there isn’t the same excuse.
Backed and tagged
This transfer window, Edu and Arteta have done, in my opinion, some of the finest work Arsenal has done in a long time. The player profile is spot on, exciting and on level. There’s no Lucas Perez or £90m Lemar chase. Every player we’ve gotten has been meticulously scouted, chatted up and enquired.
The owners has backed the project and poured some odd millions into the idea of keeping Arsenal afloat, and by that, also put pressure on Arteta to deliver on the other end.
I think any coach out there would be itching to coach this Arsenal team.
So why does this Chelsea defeat hurt like it does?
Back in our head, we all knew we were going into this game with the odds against us.
Chelsea has used up towards £800m on this team, even used triple our one window spending on forwards alone. And with Tuchel as coach, Chelsea looks to retake the throne as London’s, if not England and Europe’s, best team.
Arsenal even has the pure luck of having 3 first team players out with Covid19, one recovering from covid, just 4 months after contracting malaria. I mean the CF for today usually plays through the left wing for us.
Not only that, our first choice LB gets injured during the game, while we have 4 RB options who all have major deficiencies in their game.
Losing 2-0 isn’t anything surprising indeed. But it still hurt, because we saw the game.
If I was to play against Arsenal, I could think of a few ways to break them open. You could focus on transition, using a central target man as decoy or passing station and a wide runner to collect and move through our slow back line. You could run at our defense, as they like to back away from challenges.
Or you could do as Tuchel and use our own tactics against us:
When we attack, we usually move to a 325 type of formation, setting a CB on the central target and one off to either drop or engage wide.
When you have a 7 foot monster like Lukaku, it would be easy to assume the opposition will drag another defender up to help keep him in check. So, if you deploy a deep runner on the channel the extra defender leaves, you should be able to have a free man available until the opposition notices.
I was certain that Arteta would react promptly after it happened the first time, because it was so obvious. The space allowed and the position was too great to not address. Either task Saka to defend wide and deep or let Tierney release central and let Xhaka drop to help Mari.
But alas, for all of the first 45 minutes, Reece James was granted free access to a very dangerous position, with Tierney coming narrow and Saka trying to keep Mount quiet.
Arteta could even just bite the bullet and move into a 343 defensive formation, and leave Saka and Cedric to each wide channel, tasking Tierney to defensive duty only.
The fact nothing happened either means Arteta didn’t see it, didn’t know how to react to it or didn’t find it necessary. Some might even question why no-one in the Arsenal manager team reacted to the scare or the first goal.
Fool me once…
If this was an isolated match, you might be tempted to do a match review, look at the positives and the negatives and how Arsenal might be able to improve.
But the fact is, just a week ago, another team managed to fool us as well, using Arsenal’s biggest weakness: 2 strikers. And while the two strikers didn’t score, the fact that it looked like we haven’t scouted the team or found a way to neutralise the strength of the team or the preferred shot creation, reflects badly on the manager, since he has had all the time in the world to sponge the leaks in his team.
What does the future hold?
When Arteta gets it right, he gets it very right. We’ve looked very competent and very focused when the notches in the belt aligns, and Arteta has strung up some good results from a very lackluster team.
But the air is fizzing out and the team, while still behind him, looks either lost, apathetic or frustrated with their inability to succeed.
While a new coach might bring the answer, the coaches able to elevate a team without buying a new 11 is very limited. Conte and Allegri both desire the owners to invest heavily, and modern coaches like Potter, Nagelsmann, Marsch and Tuchel are all dedicated to their new club for at least 2 seasons.
Personally I’d look to find a very good and experienced assistant manager and position him/her so they’re always able to give Arteta a condescending stare when he becomes a bit too naïve/arrogant.
Someone like Gus Hiddink or, even better, Wenger himself. Someone able to sent a stare that says “what are you doing with this clubs legacy!”
Looking at the market, I’m sure Arteta’s position is secure for now. I also don’t think Arteta is the sole part of the problem. But he needs to learn something from Brendan Rodgers when it comes to managing a football match. Sometimes you can derive the best plan for the second hand on the performance of a first half with none.