Connect with us

Talking Tactics

What tactics could Arteta use when Arsenal return? – Tactical Analysis


Before Mikel Arteta was appointed as head coach of Arsenal, my biggest excitement would come from what he would do to the team in his tactics. Through my tactical analysis series of Arsenal’s matches since he’s taken over we’ve seen him implement different principles, structures, and roles. They’ve been met with great success as well showing he has a great understanding of his ideas as his players are executing them on the pitch. The young coach was said to fill his walls with diagrams and have multiple TVs on from different leagues around the world. So it is easy to see why he is so diverse in his tactics.

Teams have started to become reactive to Arsenal’s frequent patterns and seeing some of the consistent principles used by the Spaniard as we saw in my last analysis of their game against West Ham. So as the team moves forward, what could we see Arteta do in his tactics to evolve the side?

Attacking the interior channels

In Arteta’s 2-3-5/3-2-5 attacking structure, making wide solutions has not been particularly easy for Arsenal. Particularly in on the right side where Nicholas Pepe is sometimes isolated, but even with the support of Mesut Ozil, they do not make consistent solutions. On the left, there has been a consistent pattern where Granit Xhaka covers space in-behind the left-back and Aubameyang makes a timely movement inside to create space. But this being Arsenal’s most dangerous sequence of play, teams are beginning to be put on notice as we saw against West Ham.

With Arteta coming from Pep’s Manchester City he has taken some aspects of the legendary manager, such as the use of inverted full-backs and the 2-3-5 structure. So to solve this issue of wide solutions, why not take his idea of attacking the interior channels to create overloads in the wide areas. Below you can see the concept and execution. In this game, City were deployed in the 2-3-5 in possession. The difference here compared to how Arsenal look to make solutions on the right is the positioning of the utilisation of the full-back. The inclusion of the full-back in the sequence makes it a 3 v 2 and offers a passing option. Bernardo hugs the touchline, which stretches the space in-between the opposition full-back and left-centre-back. Kevin De Bruyne is then given space to run into and make a first time low cross into the six-yard box for a goal-scoring opportunity. This is a more consistent solution that also can directly turn into penalty area entry. Teams have countered this against City by using a midfielder to track the runs into the interior space, but this, in turn, pins the opposition players further back.

What tactics could Arteta use next? - Tactical Analysis

Using three strikers 

It would be a crazy idea but could be an effective idea that could offer a new dynamic to the team and get more offensive input across the squad, not just the forwards. Arsenal have always been known for having world-class talent in the forward areas and this squad is no different. Although Arteta has the likes of Aubameyang firing, why not have them all? Into a similar mould of Liverpool’s attacking structure, he could deploy a 4-3-3 and during the attacking phases, the left and right-sided forwards come inside making a narrow shape. Aubameyang, Lacazette, Nketiah, and Martinelli could all be making surging runs into the box at once. The full-backs Bellerin, Saka, and/or Tierney could provide the width in the shape and be given space to create goal-scoring chances. It would not be too far away from the current 2-3-5 attack functions but with a more direct approach to attacking the opposition penalty area.

Potential changes in roles

A lot of the new changes including in player’s roles have yielded good results for Arsenal: Bukayo Saka performing at a very exceptional performance level at left-back, Xhaka as a deep-lying playmaker, Aubameyang as an inverted forward, and Maitland-Niles as an inverted full-back. But there is always room for improvement and potential tweaks.

  1. Gabriel Martinelli as a false nine

Gabriel Martinelli looks tailor-made for an inverted forward role, his great dribbling ability, and world-class off-the-ball movement makes him a potential successor for the current role Aubameyang is playing in. However, with Aubameyang still at the club as things stand, he is struggling to really get into the team. Although young his talent and quality are undeniable. Arteta could potentially play him in a false nine role coming into the side for maybe Mesut Ozil or Lacazette. His close control, touch, understanding of movement could see him develop in this role. Lacazette had a relatively failed brief stint as a false nine and since then the preferred option was to play a poacher in Eddie Nketiah. So maybe he could offer something different to Mesut Ozil in a right-footed and more athletic option that offers more direct goal threat as well as a pin connecting passing sequences together.

2. Bakayo Saka as a traditional winger

Bukayo Saka has been phenomenal as a full-back. The role provides him time and space to create goal-scoring opportunities from wide positions. The young English player said he still dreams of playing as a winger, however. He is proficient with both feet, has great athletic qualities and shown his technical quality on many occasions when operating as a traditional winger. With a fully fit Kieran Tierney in the squad this could open up an opportunity for Saka to operate in this position. If Arteta wants to opt for two traditional wingers rather than an inverted forward on the left, this could be deployed when using a 4-3-3 and could offer a new way to break down opposition deep-blocks by stretching the shape using the width provided from two wingers.

A more intricate pressing scheme 

Mikel Arteta has implemented a 4-2 press at Arsenal. With a relatively passive approach at times that prevents central ball progression, manipulating where the opposition centre-back options are to pass that sometimes forces them to move the ball into wide positions away from the goal or a long-pass that leads to a ball recovery for Arsenal. As we detailed earlier, Arteta loves to watch teams from across the world. Apart from his former peer Pep Guardiola, there are many similarities between his tactics and German coaches Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel. But their team’s presses are much more intricate and dynamic. Sometimes it is very easy to manipulate and create solutions against a 4-2 press as the first line of pressure only has two members.

A 4-3-3 press could be on the cards – Liverpool have been very successful with it in the same league this season and so has PSG in France. It offers much more dynamism against various different solutions whilst also preventing a back three from creating numerical superiority against the first line of pressure. The example seen below is an asymmetric 4-4-2 from PSG. When the ball circulates to the left-sided centre-back, the right-wing steps up from the 2nd line of pressure cutting off any vertical passing angle and preventing a solution against the first line of pressure. This also initiates the PSG right-back to pressure the opposition left-back. Furthermore, no matter which side of the pitch the ball moves to, three players are maintained in midfield preventing potential solutions into the midfield. Teams would have to try and commit more and more players to play through the press, in turn making it more difficult once they progress the ball into the final third.

What tactics could Arteta use next? - Tactical Analysis


Mikel Arteta in his relatively limited game time with Arsenal has caught the eye for some of the tactics deployed and how well he is having the gunners execute them. But to continue on this upward projection, he will need to implement more to continue to develop this team in different ways. Some will say the current squad is limited but Arteta has proven that with top quality coaching his tactics can be executed and improve individuals through the process.

More in Talking Tactics