Arteta’s Triangle Tactical Strategy Analysed and Explained

Codename: Triangle

This is my conspiracy. I believe I have unearthed what would be the main Arsenal strategy Arteta is attempting to implement at Arsenal. It is obviously a simplified version but I hope I am able to convey the key parts of it.

We begin by taking a look at the FA cup final game against Chelsea.

Formation

Stage 1

Laca

Auba Xhaka Dani Pepe

AMN Tierney Luiz Holding Bellerin

1-5-4-1

Stage 2

Auba Laca Pepe

AMN Xhaka Dani Bellerin

Tierney Luiz Holding

1-3-4-3

Stage 3

AMN Auba Laca Bellerin Pepe

Xhaka Dani

Tierney Luiz Holding

1-3-2-5

The obvious thing to notice is that we have 3 formations, Stage 1 is our starting point which is when we attempt to retain possession, Stage 2 is when we have possession and Stage 3 is how we end our attack.

The players can be broken into several groups and each group has specific guidelines (think of standard operating procedure)

 

GROUP Position Task Clarification
1 GK & ST Draw a man As written
2 CB/MF Pass Responsible for line breaking passes
3 MF +ST Triangle Making Make sure a triangle exists for a ball carrier
4 L/RM L/RB Run Either inside or outside limited to their half of the field
5 L/RM ST Shooters designated shot takers
6 ST Be annoying Laca’s method of choice is to hustle i.e. press, press, press

Triangles Everywhere

Although still in its early stages, the foundation that is laid down cannot be more obvious. Triangle making seems more like a drill during practice but here we are, having seen it displayed so blatantly. The main culprits, our midfield duo of Xhaka and Dani were so mechanical it is creepy. The orders can be expanded to “connect 2 other players with the ball carrier with either one of our midfield duo being the focal point”, I would note that a slightly different version of this guideline is given to Laca. These 2 (Laca to an extent) are the main parts to the teams transition between the formations.

More than a specialist

Arteta is putting a lot of weight to tenacity, intelligence and adaptability. I predict the ultimate goal is to have 10 players comfortable being anywhere on the pitch with the GK being the sole fixed position. Start by dividing the pitch into right and left. Currently players play on their respective sides with the exception of players in the centre who have fixed roles, as in they do are unlikely to end up in different operational areas at the end of an attacking phase.

The players in this middle line are our spine in terms of strategy as their task is not just mechanical in nature but also requires intelligence. The ones occupying these roles currently are Laca (ST), Dani & Xhaka (MF), Luiz and Martinez. Luiz is shining (not just his hair) in this set up, as he is given the most pass routes amongst our passers (and also shoulders Holding/Sokratis long pass duties should they play), Martinez has highlights as he draws an attacking player before making a confident pass, Xhaka is seen as flourishing , some gooners want to make Dani permanent and Laca gets the usual “He did ok, works hard”. If we combine what both our right & left side are doing, an image of the ideal Arteta is implementing would be seen.

For an example, Stage 2 begins with deciding which side the team would go and players in Group 4 that belongs to the chosen side would start their runs. The usual scenario is this, if we go left AMN runs out, Auba runs in. If we go right Pepe runs out Bellerin runs in. Imagine if either side is allowed to do (assuming they had the capabilities) what the other is doing on top of what they are already doing. Using the current default position of 1-5-4-1, our most aggressive attacking formation would be 1-1-4-5 with the GK being the only fixed position as mentioned earlier.

This is currently unlikely due to obvious reasons like I am unsure if I have confidence leaving a single CB of ours alone like Liverpool does with VVD, but the signs that we’re moving towards that direction is there.

Tierney has made multiple runs where he would occupy the space next to Xhaka, and Holding has made multiple attempts at being the last defender (not to great effect unfortunately).

The situation

Position Current Best Ideal Thoughts
GK Emi Ederson

(Man City)

Emi has the required traits although I won’t argue Leno could be the better shot stopper (Emi is more photogenic when he makes those saves though)
CB Luiz ?

Maybe Ramos (RealM)

Tierney shows signs of being able to deputise here if necessary but currently no one in the team does it better than Luiz purely down to his vision and passing)
LCB Tierney Future Tierney The role is basically made for him. Special mention to Kolasinac who offers a different method of playing the role (If the role is naturally meant for well-tuned rally cars, he plays it like a monster truck fitted with rocket engines)
RCB Mustafi Kimmich (Bayern M) Best we got (funny isn’t it?), Chambers somewhat capable (pace though) but I believe Arteta will choose vision and passing over defensive abilities ( Interestingly the likes of Holding and Sokratis are part of the plan should we need more mettle, more so Sokratis than Holding though)
LB Saka Future Saka Improvement in defence and expect to see him as an England starter (I think currently Chilwell plays there). Special mention to AMN who does well despite awkward moments from being on the wrong side of the pitch.
RB AMN/Bellerin Marcelo Ideally the player is capable of cutting in or running out, AMN runs out a lot, Bellerin cuts in a lot
LM Auba Messi No surprise here. Don’t be fooled by his initial position. He starts here but ends in typical ST operational area.
RM Pepe Ronaldo Pepe somewhat does it but not as effective, he has a pretty mean curve and should shoot more
RCM Xhaka ? Saul (Atlético) and Odegaard are the closest but it is more of a partnership. Xhaka is still far from the final product but it seems Arteta has faith he will get there.
LCM Dani Milinkovic Savic (Lazio) I believe this is the mold Arteta is looking for and should there exist a left footed Sergei, having both is a wonderful fantasy
ST Laca Muller (Bayern M) there are notable other players like Suarez, Lukaku who can execute it well with Muller (Bayern M) the most natural in this role, probably even more so than either Messi or Ronaldo. I sense Arteta was half serious when he told Santi to come back, we need capable cover as currently no one in the squad can do it. Aside from Laca, Nketiah is more likely to be molded into LM/RM role

 

Amongst all of our players, I believe Tierney and AMN have the talents to be the perfect Arteta player, which is basically saying able to occupy all 10 roles excluding GK. It is still very rough, there have been multiple moments where AMN awkwardly moves as he tries to do things on the left with his preferred right foot.

Hidden Maestro

The role labelled ST is actually false. It is closer to a free role where a player is given the freedom to roam a large area of the pitch (roughly 3 quarters of the pitch) connecting players and helping out in transitions. As mentioned, Muller plays this role best, but how about our current players? I believe Laca is the only one in the team capable of playing this role at a level that satisfies Arteta and its an unnatural role for him. Even so, he does the, job and does it with intelligence and grit (a lot of grit I’d say). What people fail to notice is not that he is working hard, but to what degree of difficulty the role he is given. He is the main driver to our high pressing, he is the decoy, he is the link, he is the creator, he is the option and typically what he gets in return is, “did ok, works hard”.

Consider Arsenals 2nd goal in the previous game. Arteta’s fingerprints were obvious, Bellerin made the same run after we retained possession, his forward options were Laca and Pepe. Now, consider Laca’s movements when Pepe received the ball. He ran to the right, which from a ST perspective is not the Ideal option as Zouma is on the inside with 3 other Chelsea players nearby, smaller shooting option and he’s moving away from the centre, yet it was the perfect move.

In this single move what Arteta wants to achieve with the team is made clear. Pause at the point where he finishes his run, using Pepe as a middle point, there is almost a circle of players around him. Laca in front, Bellerin ran to the right, Dani behind with Xhaka not too far away and of course the man who added the finishing touches to this beautiful scene, Auba. In that single move he gave me an epiphany, pulled Zouma out of position, almost displayed Arteta’s game plan in its perfect form, and got no credit for it. No goal, no assist to his tally just a loud scream you can hear through the screens (its obvious it was French) as a teammate made sure every time this gets replayed, those like me get speechless at the man who masterminded this and the one who executed it. A ST role that’s not focused on his own individual goal tally but the overall goal tally of the attacking group as if it is part of his bonus.

Let’s talk Mesut

I am biased towards him. In terms of certain footballing aspects, he is arguably one of the best, but sadly it does not compensate for the lack of tenacity (our boy is a bit soft, isn’t he?) and physical presence required to make the system work. Currently the team is unable to cover his deficiencies in the system and without a big enough engine (the team), this Ferrari of ours is just sitting pretty in the garage.

Having said that, even when we are capable, he is a luxury like having a spinal doctor everywhere you travel. In matches where we need some creative boost, he is capable (not guaranteed) of giving us the fix, but is the price worth it or does the price even matter? Is it too farfetched to think Arteta is building a starting 11 of highly adaptable players with a bunch of specialists on the bench (Torreira and Sokratis are defensive specialist in a way)? Its wastefulness we aren’t able to afford yet but when we can, isn’t it nice to not have to spend an upwards of 80M for a passing specialist?

End of Conspiracy

I am open to the possibility of being wrong or ignorant of certain aspects, as this is merely a theory based on observations by a single individual and a simplified one as to keep word count low. Thank you for reading this far, and let me know what you think in the comments…

ArsenalAfroArmy

Tags Arsenal tactics Arteta

22 Comments

  1. ThirdManJW says:

    Whatever the tactics, I love the fact we FINALLY have a manager who has the ability to, not only identify our weaknesses (defending, out of possession off the ball movement, and mentality), but do something about it. Been waiting over a decade for someone to sort out these three key issues.

    We’re not the finished article by a long stretch, but we’re on the right path for sure.

    1. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      Thanks for reading! I think I would add injuries to the issues he is dealing with this strategy as players would be highly adaptable and execution of the system is relatively straight forward aside from the one occupied by Laca. By specifying what he wants, be it run or shoot or pass , players can focus better which helps deal with the mental part and off the ball movement. His approach to our defence is simply everyone do it.

      Arteta agrees with you. He is limiting his players a lot which I take as an indicator they have yet to reach the standard he is asking for . Assuming they will be capable someday, we would look like a juiced version Atlanta and that’s exciting

  2. Top Gunner says:

    Lets take Xhaka out of the equation completely because with him, the spine of the is crippled. The sooner Arteta realises that, the better. Let Maitland-Niles, Ceballos, Martinelli, Gouendouzi, and Willock to compete for midfield positions. Xhaka is one of the weak links in the team. He doesn’t have ball control, dribbling skills, heading skills, and cannot protect the defence

    1. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      Thanks for reading!
      I disagree, even if we disregard the financial cost effectiveness of Xhaka over Dani, there are very few left footed midfielders with the qualities Arteta is looking for and Xhaka is one of them(Santi is ambidextrous so he is perfect).Heres a hint, remember those long shots Xhaka use to take? Don’t be surprised at their return.

    2. Skills1000 says:

      I still dont get it why people rate Guendouzi ahead of Xhaka. This Guendouzi of a guy could not even anchor the midfield against Brighton. We lost the two games Guendouzi played. Give Xhaka some credit. Xhaka anchored a midfield that beat Liverpool, Wolves, Man City, Chelsea, Norwich city and Sheffield United. Guendouzi is not good enough. He does not pass forward, cannot tackle, very proud, not willing to learn, always passes backward, no pace. He is only good in running up and down. Does not shoot from distance.
      Xhaka is better than Guendouzi.

  3. Uzi Ozil says:

    Guendouzi over Xhaka? I m having a laugh. Arteta is using Xhaka pretty well and I have seen big improvements under Arteta. Xhaka was never a bad player. I watched him with his national team Switzerland, He is decent with them. He was a rock with his former team Borussia Mönchengladbach. I know he makes costly errors at times but that seem to have gone or erased in his game lately. Truth is, unless something drastic happens, Xhaka is in Artetas plan and rightly so….. I applaud him for such professionalism after the boos from fans against Palace…..

    1. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      Thanks for reading!
      I would also add that he is more likely to be seen defensively weak because he Is also covering for Danis defensive frailties. More solid with Torreira but the balance is broken and our transition to attack looks blunt. A lot of space to improve and hopefully the club finds a good partner , our current crop is very rough, if we are talking purely talents and skill set, Guendouzi is actually a viable option.

      1. Skills1000 says:

        What are the skills and talents of Guendouzi? Is he as talented as Asensio? Does he have the skills of Messi?
        It is laughable to compare Guendouzi with Xhaka. Xhaka takes risks with his passing. Xhaka is a better passer of the ball. Xhaka tackles better. Xhaka takes shots.
        Guendouzi is overhyped. He is not good enough. Sell him asap. He is not humble. His Ego writes checks his body cannot cash.

    2. Skills1000 says:

      Exactly Uzil. It seems people under rate Xhaka contribution to this squad. Xhaka takes more risk with his long passing. He has a better passing range than Guendouzi. He tackles more. He is willing to get dirty. And to come back after the Crystal Palace game shows humility(something Guendouzi does not have). A midfield of Xhaka, Thomas Partey and Ceballos will be an interesting one. I would like a 3 5 2 formation next season

      Saliba. Luiz. Tierney

      Bellerin Partey Xhaka Ceballos Saka

      Pepe Aubameyang

      1. Uzi Ozil says:

        Exactly. I dont get the Guendouzi hype…

        He can be a better player if he checks his character. I like to draw a case study from Eto and balloteli (during their inter days). Eto said balotelli can be a world class player if he amends his attitude on and off the pitch. I aint comparing Guendouzi to balotelli but I m only putting character and Eto advice in context.

        Guendouzi game needs improvement and with his head down, he will be a decent player.

        The set up without him is working and rightly so. Why fix what is not broken?

      2. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

        Even if we assume Xhaka is superior in all important aspects does not change the fact Guendouzi has the potential like size, tenacity ,passing to fill in as one of the duo. I am simply ignoring his attitude problem so that I hope to be more objective with performances on the pitch. Maybe Arteta is capable of controlling him ,how long did the Xhaka incident last for?
        The beauty of being able to transition smoothly is that we are capable of multiple formations in a single game. Please give Laca a bit more credit, the man works his socks off .

        Thanks for reading!

  4. Top Gunner says:

    Just name only skill that Xhaka possesses

    1. The Deluded One says:

      @Top Gunner I suggest you google “Football packing” there are serveral articles that explain the concept. You will then see what Xhaka does so well. Namely making passes that break the opposing teams lines and bypasses their players.

    2. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      I’ll name a natural advantage of his instead, he has a strong left foot. Name one other MF in the squad that has a similar advantage.

  5. Grandad says:

    That was some epistle to wade through but I got there.Some very interesting theories for players to assimilate but, despite all the stats and multiple support information, football remains a relatively straight forward game.The object is to score more goals than your opponent, and that will never change.It has become overcomplicated to an extent where great Managers of the past would turn in their graves but at the end of the day it is about keeping the ball and scoring goals.Passing and running off the ball is the way to create space and if a team is not adept at these basics they will not be successful.As for triangles, this tactic was used by the great Celtic Manager, Jock Stein when they became the first British side to win the European Cup.A triangle of three good players is always likely to win the day over a duo of great players.Keep the game simple guys.

    1. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      Thanks for reading!
      Appreciate the tidbit on Jock Stein! I would say Arteta did exactly that.Aside from 3 players, It looked like a training drill , and that’s what I find impressive, simulating a training session in a game rather than the other way around.I am unsure if Arteta is interested in keeping possession more than the effectiveness of when They do have possession but it feels like we are less afraid of losing possession .
      Thanks once more for Jock Stein,I will look him up!

  6. Abdul iliyasu salifu says:

    We need 2 or 3 players to add up to willian.Partey ,Doucoure ,Everton/Fekir.

    I think we have Good defenders to compete with Quality DMs.

    Sell socratis,mustafi.

    We have young CBs Who can take us to 5-10 years without buying a CB.

    Holding,saliba,chambers,Mari,Marvropanous,Luiz.If we will buy at all let’s buy a EPL proven player.My choice is Soyuncu.

    Liverpool and City are showing us the way.EPL players are the way to go forward.

    1. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      I am more inclined towards players like Coutinho as he has proven he can play where Laca is effectively and we do not have cover.

      I fear we go through another season where emergency youth players from our B team are played due to lack of cover from selling too many cbs. Isn’t Thiago Silva out of contract? He seems fitting as cover.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. ozziegunner says:

    Unfortunately Arsenal’s Ferrari needs a major engine overhaul to cure the cylinder misfires, improve torque, endurance and durability. The suspension needs strengthening to ride the bumps and the body panels and bumpers thickening to deflect the impacts. Unfortunately it costs so much money to maintain and so prone to injury, that it is too expensive to take out of the garage.

  8. Energy JR says:

    The analysis of the formation is good but the need for player’s form for a great consistency in each role is the bell to be belled by the coach it won’t have been if the following players can play at their top notch performance GK Leno> who will set the build up with through the back 3 Chambers Saliba and Tierney (N:B LCB and RCB need speed to support the transition of attacking and defending for a balance of build up when attacking both sides must be mount up by a player who can make a 1vs1 mark of opponent because today football is all about wingers so to avoid less goals try to close up your flanks leaving CB to be like a general dictating the tempo from the back and being a SWEEPER who just clears up the ball for build up while the defending is done by his 2 deputies) Midfield is the middle man of the product by received which a great deal of technicalities and creativity must surface good (LM is secured by SAKA with good recovery rate, pass, take ons which can keep opponent full at bay RM hope to see better of AMN RCM will be great by an upgrade of XHAKA who will improve is build and boxing of the ball with long ball and DANI improving is risk taking creativity while we can hope to see PÉPÉ LACAZETTE AUBA maintain a fluidness in the front give us a goal poacher who is a speedster , wide man with tricks and creativity like Messi, hazard, neymar and a target man who is complete forward who can face center back and à player like GIROUD,ZLATAN, AGUERO then we will start conquering clubs in football arenas

  9. Sid says:

    That was quite a tactical lesson! Thank you for the detailed analysis. Based on your observations, I guess Saka, AMN, Tierney are the players who are most advanced with regards to versatility. I read up a tactical analysis of Martinelli’s movements and playstyle and think he can become an ideal LM/RM along with Saka. His sharp turns and head use while coming in from the left is crucial for his goal/assist contributions. The only problem I see for him being played in the Laca role is that his off the ball movement is somewhat predictable, as he mostly runs in sight of the defenders and in between them, also getting in places where it is gonna be difficult to shoot when coming in for crosses (not all the time). If he varies his off the ball movement like adding oof the shoulder runs more, then coupled with his relentlessness he can become great in all forward roles. Also, we need, in my opinion, someone on the right just like Tierney, someone who is comfortable on the right side of the defense while transitioning. Hope I didn’t bore you lol!

    1. ArsenalAfroArmy says:

      AMN is currently top on the versatility rank capable of playing 8 of the 10 roles to some degree.
      Tierney is the best in terms of positional fit as In He doesn’t look awkward playing on either side as long as it’s the back line.
      Saka is promising for our attacking force.
      I’m praying Martinelli can help out in the Laca role as we are desperate for cover without reinforcements .
      Meet a better right footed Tierney , Joshua Kimmich from Bayern. Does everything Tierney does with better efficacy .

      Also, thanks for reading!

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