An analysis of Arteta’s brilliant tactical record against the top teams

Arteta…The man for the big occasion? by ThirdManJW

Like many, I questioned the appointment of Arteta, specifically, the timing. I had no issue appointing someone with no experience, but at a time when Arsenal were in free-fall, surely, we needed an experienced manager? How wrong was I! I congratulate the board on staying strong, and making this appointment against the wishes of a large section of the fanbase. They saw the potential, and boy is Arteta delivering the goods.

In under 30 games Arteta has already won 2 trophies (which must be a first for a new Arsenal manager), and he’s done it the hard way, beating the best of the best. This achievement made all the more remarkable given what he’s had to work with. He inherited the worst Arsenal squad in well over 30 years, with no idea how to defend, and who’s confidence was at an all-time low. He got the fans onside almost straight away with his press conferences. Arteta seems to have an aura of strength, and confidence about him. He doesn’t mince about, saying what the fans want to hear, and there’s no empty words. Everything said, he backs up with actions. Our weakest areas have been focused on, he properly disciplines the players, and he’s taught the squad how to defend again. This keeps the fans happy, and the squad in check. I am loving everything about Arteta at moment.

I feel the most impressive thing of all, is our results against top teams since Arteta’s arrival. Not just the results, but mainly performances as well. In the past, we were getting absolutely battered against top sides on a regular basis, and that has now stopped. We’re not getting lucky wins. We are earning our victories by outperforming our opponents, and working harder in my opinion. Arteta’s tactical approach has been nothing short of amazing, and he’s somehow squeezing out every ounce of ability, and determination, from seemingly average players.

Let’s have a look at our performances against top sides under Arteta.

Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea 29/12/20
In his first game against a top side, we took the lead, and performed really well. Despite Chelsea dominating just before half-time, which continued throughout the second half, Leno was barely tested. We were defending very well until his mistake. Then another individual mistake from Mustafi, as we pushed for the winner, cost us the game. Jorginho should have been sent off though, and that turned out to be decisive. Arteta should have brought subs on earlier, but overall, the ref and individual errors are what cost us. Extremely unlucky to get nothing from this game.

Arsenal 2-0 Man Utd 01/01/20
Brilliant performance from start to finish, and we could have won by more. Deserved to win this game.

Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal 21/01/20
Yet again, what cost us in this game? Individual errors! Mustafi’s woeful attempt at a pass that put Abraham (I think it was) clean through, and then Luiz’s ridiculous, 100% guaranteed red card foul when he knew he couldn’t stop a goal anyway. Despite that, Arteta got us set up just right for the counter, and we fought hard for a point. We did get a little luck on the way, which you need with a man less for so long, but it was a very impressive performance again, given the circumstances.

Man City 3-0 Arsenal 17/06/20
Our first real beating under Arteta. His starting line-up wasn’t great, but it was a crazy amount of bad luck, and individual errors that really cost us. Two injuries in the first half, then the Luiz horror show, resulting in yet another penalty, and red card for him. Not to mention costing us the first goal right on half time as well. Up until Luiz “stepped up”, we were just about holding our own. Not much Arteta could have done in the circumstances.

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal 12/07/20
Yet again, some dreadful errors from our defenders played a key role in this defeat. Although I was a little disappointed with our attacking performance, from a tactical perspective. Especially after we conceded the second goal, where I think Lloris had nothing to do for the last 15/20 mins. Their defense was barely put under any pressure towards the end of the game. Poor defending, but this was probably the first time I really felt Arteta could have done better attacking wise. He never reacted to the goals.

Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool 15/07/20
Although Liverpool dominated the game from start to finish, the plan was to clearly let them have the ball, and hit them on the counter. We defended really well, but to be fair, we did get a lot of luck with our goals. This was probably the first time I felt we were a bit lucky to win against a top side.

Arsenal 2-0 Man City FA Cup Semi-Final 18/07/20
Arteta tactical masterclass in my opinion. We defended like lions in this game, and hit them perfectly on the counter. Fully deserving of the victory.

Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea FA Cup Final 01/08/20
As with the recent Liverpool victory, we again showed a strong mental resilience to come back from a goal behind. After conceding early, we basically dominated the game, and fully deserved the victory. We got lucky with the Kovacic sending, although Azpilicueta somehow avoided a straight red, despite deliberately fouling Auba, and not going for the ball, when he was clean through. Lampard had no answer to Arteta’s tactics.

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool (Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties) Community Shield 29/08/20
Brilliant performance from Arsenal, who were the better team on the day. We defended so well as a unit, that Liverpool didn’t even have a shot on target until around the 70th minute. Their goal was also very lucky, whereas ours was a work of art! Fantastic victory, especially given our depleted squad, and Liverpool almost at full strength.

Against top teams:
Played 9
Win 5 Draw 1 Lose 3

So, the results have been absolutely fantastic, resulting in two trophies already, but it’s the performances that really tell the story. Despite the City defeat, where we had a man less for over a half anyway, one cannot say we’ve been battered once. We are clearly progressing under Arteta, and he’s setting us up perfectly in these types of games. If this is what he can do with someone else’s squad, just imagine what he can achieve with his own players, and most importantly, better players. Let’s not forget, that Arteta hasn’t had a lot to work with thus far. Really looking forward to this season, and finally seem to have a big game manager again.



  1. The Arteta effect 🙂 I’m loving it!! Some fantastic results!!

    It’s very quiet at work today, the scousers appear to have lost their tongues 🤣🤣

  2. Sue
    The arrogant Scoucers. They never won the Premier League until last season yet they shout as if they’re the best that ever played the game.

    I can’t see them doing it again this season. Their dependence on Mane and Trent Arnold may be their unmaking because tactically teams will be working to neutralise them.

    Don’t underestimate Arsenal. Once, no one gave a shout to Leicester and we all know what happened. never say never.

    1. You’re not wrong, Howard!! Don’t get me wrong I’m all for a bit of banter, but come on you dish it out, you’ve gotta take it, but they can’t!
      Take today for instance, I was told “We don’t care about the community shield”
      No sure you didn’t, that’s why you put your strongest available 11 out… Why they can’t just admit they were beaten by the better team on the day, is beyond me!! They make me sick!! I hope they don’t win it again this season and have to wait another 30 years! 🙏
      Oh well, I was happy, very happy rubbing it in today – ‘ave it!!!!

      1. Sue, wish I was a fly on the wall – as you say, easy to dish it out, but can’t take it back.
        Thirty years!!! And we were being crucified for sixteen by the media 😁

  3. I hope we continue with 343 against the big teams and 433, 4231,442 against lesser opposition that like to seatback .
    We don’t need to drop much point against small clubs, that’s the only grey area I want him to work on.
    We fans were against his appointment and delayed this good feelings for almost 2 seasons. I guess the board know best.

    1. OT: I guess Bellerin will finally move. with 25m + 5m add on, I trust arsenal is just holding out for a bit to get more, and for the player? it will be a big improvement on his career.
      To those who think he isn’t good enough for us, I guess he is now good enough for a better UCL runner up.
      Good luck, Bellerin

      1. Adajim some fans are just so annoying, bellerin is still the best Rb we have and I will miss him. A player who were told was not good enough by some it’s now good enough to play for a champions league finalist. The way some fans talk about our players you will think they are playing in the championship, when iwobi was here we were told we can’t get more than 6million for him.

        1. Lenohappy, yet another post we can agree on 100%!!!

          If MA can keep uniting the fan base like this, who knows what can be achuwved🤔

  4. Arsenal management still poor. We help rival club develop their player n may be we gonna buy Ceballos once his stock rises much more n pay hefty inflated price for him. On the other hand we freeze our own player with world-class potential.

    1. If by Guendouzi you mean world class player why haven’t any top teams come in with 100 mill + bids ?
      That’s the going rate for world class players today .

      1. Last transfer window he was being linked with 50mil move n wanted by psg n barca. If we don’t play any player it’s sure his stock will fall. It’s sad that no club want him for even 25mil at present. We have to blame Ars board for this.

        1. We were also trying to get into Europe towards end of the season. we couldnt afford to play players just to raise their value. Arteta didn’t want bad personalities in the lockerroom and rightfully cared about getting results, over keeping Guendouzi’s value high. There is still another month to move him on as well, so dont need to despair quite yet.

  5. As a writer myself, I am always interested in how the article reads and whether or not true thought and research has gone into it. This site is improving in article quality because of welcome new and intelligent writers penning articles. The wider the range of writers, the healthier the site will be!

    One or two are not so good but THIS article is among the better ones and so I say well done TMJW. Despite mixed comments on here so far, I truly feel that Third Man speaks for the large majority of Gooners in his praise of Arteta.

  6. The first time I’m being optimistic about a new season.Arteta has really done well against the big teams. London will surely be red come next season.Go and get us Partey and Aouar and we will be one of the feared team in the Epl next season.

  7. But to my filling its not the right time to judge Arteta since this is his first full season in Arsenal so we need to be patient and give him the support 2gether with the board members including the owner (KROENKE FAMILY) Them we shall see the best out of him and i new this when he was still in Man city, players used to praise him a lot.

  8. I don’t feel like Arteta got that new manager effect / bounce like most managers seem to get.
    But he then got it in the last games of the season beating Liverpool twice, beating city, beating chelsea etc in one swoop winning the FA CUP and Community shield.

  9. TMJW, can I congratulate you on this excellent article?
    You and I have clashed many times in the past, but your views in the article, are forward thinking and so positive.
    Excellent analysis of the games and how they unfolded.
    As I said to Lenohappy, if we can all look forward, our fanbase will be able to match any other clubs – well done my fellow Gooner.

  10. Another fine article as has been pointed out by several others.
    I am no football coach, but it does seem to me, we are much better set-up tactically, and that we are taking the game to the opponents making them react to us, rather than the opposite.

  11. I’d say the tactics have been there since he came in. More than just in the big games , but also the small ones. The one thing I’d say is he has sorted his early favoritism that caused us a few issues. In the Chelsea game, after the Luiz red card, he wanted to take off Martinelli. You could see his assistant stop him . Against spurs, after it was obvious that Saka was leaving Bellerin exposed, he should have either shifted formations to respond to the threat or ask Saka to drop deeper.

  12. Arteta has essentially made us a quick counterattacking side and I’m glad he has because we dont have the players right now to do much more than that. Our best performances have been while sitting back, limiting space, then overlapping fullbacks playing balls to our wingers. Pepe has found Auba plenty of times in these games, and Auba is just so good at making those decisive runs on our breaks and it is no surprise he keeps scoring in these matches. I dont think this will work all season tho, and against smaller sides when we have more of the possession we will need creative players, which is why we are linked with midfielders. Arteta has done a great job and I am not dissatisfied with any of our big game performances besides losing to City 3-0. But again, that was mostly individual errors. Most of our losses are because of bone-headed individual errors.

    1. RSH, I fully agree with you. I would just like to emphasize the need for more creativity in our midfield to exploit opponents that defend with deep-sitting and compacted defenders. If we not able to accomplish this task, I fear we could be seeing or reading Arteta Out signs very early in the season.

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