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.
Auba Xhaka Dani Pepe
AMN Tierney Luiz Holding Bellerin
Auba Laca Pepe
AMN Xhaka Dani Bellerin
Tierney Luiz Holding
AMN Auba Laca Bellerin Pepe
Tierney Luiz Holding
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)
|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|
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).
|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)|
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.
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…