Analysis – Now Arsenal need strikers to fit Arteta’s tactical masterplan

What Do Gunners Want? by AI

Let’s think about this carefully. Arsenal were in disarray under Emery. Before that, Wenger’s football was starting to be found out. His version of possession play was not as compact and defensively dominant as Klopp’s and Pep’s scheme. He encouraged natural dynamics, flying fullbacks, little proper defensive cover and little serious pressing. Top teams in Europe regularly smacked us heavily. We had little hope against the Bayerns, Barcelonas, Real Madrids, Liverpools, and Man Citys of this world. As a result, we had little hope for a trophy. We needed to change, find a modern coach who could coach a more modern version of possession play.

After some research, we chose Mikel Arteta. He was considered quite capable of coaching modern possession play, so much so that Pep Guardiola, a famous control freak, left some games under his hands.

People say that these modern coaches do not encourage natural dynamics like the traditional coaches like Wenger, Ferguson and Mourinho, but that is the point. Ferguson and Mourinho always had 2 or 3 workhorses in midfield, players who by nature are defensive, as well as strict positioning for their defenders. They played with superstar forwards who could do whatever they wanted. That was how they were able to maintain their defenses. Strictness and workhorses. They only gave freedom to the star players. Wenger gave freedom to everyone. Our fullbacks always went forward. We played with offensively minded players everywhere. We lacked discipline and defensive cover. But we had plenty of freedom going forward.

Is this what fans want right now?

Or do we want the modern version of it?

Or is counterattacking football we want?

The modern version of possession play is defensively minded. People don’t know it but Pep Guardiola holds the most defensive records for most of the competitions he has played. How does he do it? It is not just by buying expensive defenders. It is by the careful positioning of his players and scripting his attacks to go a certain manner. Welcome to the theory of positional play or, in Spanish, juego de posicion.

In positional play, you do not encourage natural dynamics between players because you want the game to be predictable. Your players will always know what to do in every moment, especially when they lose the ball. This predictability in your players’ positioning and patterns of play ensures defensive cover for your team. If one thing goes wrong in your carefully scripted pattern of play, everything can be undone. Sounds familiar?

Therefore juego de posicion teams have to be full of players who are extremely capable of executing actions as well as quick learners. If a juego de posicion manager arrives in a team that is not used to scripted football, there must be a quick turn over of the players, with plenty of new blood coming in. Mikel Arteta has only gotten 3 new starters over two major windows. The rest have been squad fillers and rotation players.

When does a juego de posicion team start playing fluid football, you ask?

When those patterns become second-nature to the players, especially in terms of execution. When every player does his job almost without thinking. The result is devastatingly beautiful and effective.

But when you still have players who cannot confidently execute a dribble or a pass or hold the ball, the pattern that’s supposed to move at 100KM/H slows down to 20KM/H which makes it easy to defend or even breaks down completely.

Klopp is also a positional play manager. If you have noticed, Liverpool almost only attack via crosses and passes from the flanks into the box. All of their midfielders are strictly positioned. Even their striker is defensively oriented. But they play predictable football at breakneck speed and press like mad men. This causes too much chaos for the opposition to handle, who eventually make mistakes and concede. You will also notice that they have signed plenty of very good players who can do almost anything in order to play this football.

Mikel Arteta’s tricky reds have only signed 3 major good players. One is Thomas Partey who is constantly injured. One is Ben White who just came into the side. One is Gabriel Maghalaes. No forwards or attacking midfielders. No wonder why we can’t play faster.

Fans must know what they want. Do you want a modern version of Wenger possession play? Then endure this. Back Arteta and ask for more signings. We have signed only 3 major players across two (2!) major windows and none of the 3 players are forwards or attacking midfielders. Klopp got Salah, Robertson, Shaqiri in one window. Before that he got Wjnaldum and Mane. Two major windows. 5 major players. 3 of them offensively minded.

All the talk about Conte betrays what Arsenal fans say they stand for. If we just want to win by any means, then we are no different from Tottenham and Chelsea. We are Arsenal. We are the Arsene Wenger club. We win by attacking. We are only trying to attack now in a more modern manner. It looks difficult now but trust the process. It is the hill to die on. Patience, patience.

Agboola Israel

Tags Arteta


  1. How long will you continue to defend a process that is not working? There is always a million and one excuses for failure. Even if Arteta get rid of all our current players and get new ones, people like you will still make excuses for him. So pathetic, many of us are so used to the team dismal performances that we defend it passionately.

    1. Arteta is a safety first pragmatic manager.
      Go down the flanks which makes it more difficult for teams to counter attack if we lose possession.
      Put in 50 crosses a game and convert 2 of those crosses and win 2-1 the most common score in football.
      For the rest of the game defend like hell.
      So we need fox in the box strikers who can lose their markers and stick out a boot and nick a couple of ugly goals per game.
      The recently deceased German great
      Gerd Muller was a master of this style.

  2. And the two abysmal performances against Emery were also part of the modern attacking football? That wasn’t playing footballers out of position and praying it will work?

    If he knew what he was getting into, he never should have accepted the role.

    Arsenal needs a manager that knows how to make a good sh**t pie, pardon my French. Arteta is not that manager. Maybe Conte is. Sadly, there isn’t a single decision maker at the club who could recognize such a gaffer.

  3. It’s the manager’s job to implement a system of play that best suits his players. If the majority of your players are not comfortable with Juego de posicion, then does it make sense to insist upon it?

    The reality is that Arteta was far too green for this job to begin with and this is something that his advocates will realize this season.

    1. So why not ask for Ranieri? He was famous for making a new system tailored to Leicester’s players in 2015

      Conte would likely have the same problems as Arteta does, because he was highly reliant on a dominant CF like Costa/ Lukaku at Chelsea and Inter Milan

      1. Leno is a perfect example. He clearly cant play out from the back so you have one of two options.

        1. Find a keeper that can and bench/sell Leno

        2. If you are going to play Leno, tweak your tactics to benefit the team.

        I believe MA’s ego is the main issue here.

        1. I believe that’s why we’re looking for a new GK

          If Leno has to start, we might have to do a lot of long goal kicks to play safe. This needs a CF who can pose good aerial challenges to the opposition’s CBs

          1. once again, no clue, as the long ball is exactly what Ramsdale is known for, so why would they target him instead of a Keeper who possesses the very attributes that the manager so desperately covets, from a tactical standpoint, which our present Keeper clearly lacks…not to mention, according to reports, we could be paying considerably more for this ill-suited Keeper than the monies we received for a substantially better Keeper some 12 months prior…welcome to Arsenal, home of GNI

      2. Sacking Arteta will not make Arsenal’s problems disappear. Please don’t misunderstand.

        However, keeping MA, will not make Arsenal any better. The team’s most recent past league performances speak volumes.

        You say Conte relies on a dominant CF – Fine. Ask anyone with a brain and they will tell you that they’d rather have that, a manager who not only is able to maximize what he’s been dealt with but also able to efficiently make use of the funds he’s been given, over someone who for all intents and purposes is still “learning”.

    2. You’re brought a very good point! I’m pretty sure that many fans including myself have asked ourselves the same question several times,surely the first thing when a manager comes in is to assess your squad and players, their best qualities and weaknesses you then use systems accordingly and not like MA imposing” his” onto the players especially after so long,this is not stubbornness we’ve past that stage a long time ago but arrogance or he really doesn’t have a clue.

    3. No, it is not. And this is where most of us fans get it totally wrong. Each manager has his own ideas and tactics which he is going to implement. It is the managers job to build a squad that is capable of executing his ideas. When a new manager comes in, he may first have to use tactics that suites the existing squad. But that is ONLY temporary solution to get something out of the squad. Later on one of the most important jobs for the manager is to change the squad by using the transfer windows to make it suite his ideas and tactics the best way possible. So the manager needs to have a very good understanding of the different profiles of the players. He also needs to have a precise understanding of what exactly is needed in each position of the formation he is using. Then, combining all this, the manager is able to decide which players need to get sold and which ones to buy. This is the process, this is the way a new manager makes the team reflect and execute his ideas of the game. Unfortunately it usually takes 2-3 years for everything to click and most of us fans refuse to wait that long. However, this is the best way of building a winning football team and this is what Arteta is trying to do. We, as fans, can help the process by supporting it every possible way. Or we can run our poison through it by our negative actions and ruin it. Yes, indeed, the negative fans are the real bad apples of every team.

  4. Mmmm Arsenal is not just wenger and attacking football..AFC is George Graham and tough combat it I’ve midfielders with talented and efficient strikers built on a defensive wall.

    It’s also Herb Chapman winning our first ever major trophy..

    Etc etc…

    AFC is more than one transient manager, owner or player.

    It also irks a little about the Arsenal way!;)
    What does this actually mean now?
    Does it mean selling your fans out to the super league or consistently lying to them season after season?

    It actually used to mean something but now we are no different to anyone else. It’s like Arteta’s mythical ‘process’ that means nothing as far as I can see.

    Personally I think we need TRUE ambition from the top that will lead the owner to move heaven and earth to buy a top quality experienced manager who has had success through crafting a winning team through his system/s of play. We neither have the manager or level of players needed for your suggested system.

    We need change and Stan will only action change when the fans are at the gates with torches and pitch folks since he is not in the business of winning and will only be seen to act if there is no other way.

  5. It was obvious that the striker situation was going to bite us, Auba is not going to save us anymore.
    I said before the summer that everything was in this transfer window for Arteta and the need for a massive overhauls of players simply wasn’t taken seriously enough.
    We needed to move on loads of players, many at a loss and focus on cheaper, smarter signings, like we did with Lokonga. We needed about 5 more like him in all different positions. This would be the way to rebuild properly, rather than focusing on a rigid ideology, and spending seemingly the bulk of our money on a defensively weak all CB.
    Chasing after lautaro just shows our arrogance, delusion and unwillingness to accept that we are not seen as a big club; we’re not in a position to be spending big money on one or two when the bulk of the squad is so poor.
    Sambi Lokonga, Martinelli – this is the kind of player we should be going for right now, not lautaro it Ben White

    1. It just goes to show that Edu & Co. still haven’t wrapped their heads around the constraints facing us as a club.

      We cannot afford to spend ourselves out of our current quagmire. We have to optimize our recruitment (á la Leicester) and make every transfer window count.

      Many deals made by the current regime (Mari, Cedric, Xhaka extension, Martinez) seem to indicate a lack of clarity of purpose!

  6. I believe Arsenal want to have the following as their trademarks or characteristics:

    – Always win the ball possession
    – Build the attack from the back
    – Score more open-play goals than doing it from set-pieces

    Unfortunately, most fans only care more about the trophies than the gameplay, hence they criticized the wasteful crosses. Actually, Bayern Munich made plenty of similar crosses too, but they have good headers and attackers who can convert the crosses into goals:

    Since some fans just care about winning, don’t like Arteta’s/ Guardiola’s “scripted” football and are asking for a manager who can make a system tailored for our current set of players, why not ask for Ranieri? Conte would likely have the same problem as Arteta does, because he was highly reliant on a dominant CF like Costa/ Lukaku at Chelsea and Inter Milan

    1. The best manager for Arsenal of now is probably Bielsa. The man can make a great sh**t pie and Arsenal will only have ingredients for that footballing delicacy.
      Also, Edon’t is a bigger priority when it comes to sacking. His blunders have destroyed 2 transfer windows now.

      1. I have never thought that I would say this but at this stage even big Sam would get more out of this team than MA !

    2. I’m not one who cares overly about winning exactly, but I do care about competing and showing a desire to win, whatever the style of play.

  7. The problem is we don’t have players that are technically sound for this pattern of play I believe our left flank should look like this imagine Tierney/nasri type. S,Rowe is a fraction of arshavin and lack the predatory instincts of the little Russian, imagine what this type of eleven will do to anyteam in the pl. Leno, max Aaron, white, Gabriel, Tierney, partey, Gilberto, carzola, nasri,saka,auba, I believe this is what a propal Arsenal’s team should look like, the core will be partey and Gilberto, while the technical ability of carzola, nasri,and saka will create enough chances for any striker to bed

  8. Wish we tried to emulate the counter-attacking team at the start of Wenger’s career w us.

    But we dont have the players for that, in fact I am not even sure what I’d do if I had these players.

    Really dont get Arsenal anymore, to me is like a team of strangers sticking to a basic game plan of “try keep the ball, no crazy shots or creativity” and crossing their fingers for the best result.

  9. few things survives the test of time……….sadly tactics aint one of ’em……..we need somethin fresh.. somethin that can lead us back to our glory days………..arteta aint got the balls to do this……opinion though

  10. I’m expecting one surprise name to come in this window. What would folks think of Luka Jovic from RM on loan with option to buy? He has been pants since joining Real and is on big money but had an impressive stint in Germany and is still only 23. Feel like he could get on the end of some of those Tierney crosses.

  11. I’m curious to know how going for a manager like Comte”is going against everything Arsenal fans stand for?”having said that it is good to know that you worry about the club’s values but it might be a tad late considering the abuse personal attacks .. Arsène Wenger Emery and some of our players have received don’t you think?what about Arsenal values/DNA on the pitch?

  12. Also it took over 20 years for other teams to find out Wenger’s football compared to 20 weeks for Arteta’s!how is that for a tactical masterclass?

  13. One poor night at Brentford doesn’t make us a bad team. I think Arteta is working with the hand he has been dealt. Could it be a better hand, yes of course, but it’s taking shape. The average age of the players is coming down and some of the football we player towards the end of last season was great. However its going to take time, something Arteta doesn’t have.

  14. Just hoping for the best of the situation. Arsenal has to be back to solid winning ways and back to top 4 not even top 6.

  15. Arteta has signed 9 players so far in his tenure. That is a 82% of a first eleven and 36% of the whole squad. And he has a direct hand in ousting and devaluing a lot of talented and valuable players.

    With those wholesome changes we should have at the very least seen just a glimpse of that tactical masterplan instead of the mashed potatoes we are currently witnessing the difference being mashes taters are very tasty and nutritious. Maybe I should apologies to mashed potatoes for that unfair comparison.

    Do we have to replace the whole team with Arteta wanted players for him to show a little bit of direction and tactics that can be seen with a naked eye? Even PSG and Man City combined cannot afford to do that.

    1. Well said HH, any manager who takes over a team never gets to have whole team replaced. Players at the moment playing in our first eleven or the ones Arteta utilises on constant basis are either bought by him or he has kept them by choice while he plays them by choice so it’s his fault if they fail not previous mamager. Because we know when it comes down to players he does not like they have been kicked out of club in one form or another. So this Argument of not having his players is all but an excuse constantly given by pro Areta supporters.

      1. Haha ,when I read tactical master plan ,I spat my breakfast out .
        We have already had one fan say he’s better tactically than Wenger 😂

        1. I guessed from the title of the article that artificial intelligence has struck again.

          My favourite part is the new discovery that has eluded me for almost 20 months: “so much so that Pep Guardiola, a famous control freak, left some games under his hands.”

          And to utter Arteta in the same breath as Klopp, Pep, Wenger, SAF and Mourinho is hilarious.

          Traditional coach – Mourinho??? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  16. When I see a true Arsenal fan that understands what Arsenal means, I know. This is the best writeup I’ve ever read from anyone concerning MA.
    Why are Arsenal fans Who are known for their inexplicable virtue (patience) all of a sudden become impossible?
    We are a team and a group that don’t joke with values which had stood us out amongst others and that’s why out of envy, the media decided to always hypnotize our fanbase with all manner of negative narratives and surprisingly, we buy it hook, line and sinker.
    Arteta took this job as a rookie coach which is risky on its own but the good thing was that we already knew he is never a Pep, Arsene, Ferguson or Mourinho but our former captain who was a loyal apprentice under the best manager in the world if you ask me.
    He won us the FA cup in just 6months of being in charge and won us the community shield and he did that beating the top teams in Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool, yet we still feel he should go just after a little above a season.
    We don’t have the kind of quality at Man Utd yet Ole hasn’t won a spoon but he’s being backed, Tottenham with all their ‘finishing above Arsenal’ haven’t won anything despite all their spending but this guy have won us trophy (ies) if you are not among those who belittles community shield just because it’s Arsenal that won it.
    Can we give this man what he said he needs and allow him ‘fail’ or otherwise. He loves this club and wants the club to progress. Let’s not always think we are the only ones that cares about Arsenal.
    And please let’s stop allowing other fans get into our head with all manner of negativity about Arsenal. We are a good club, we are a top club and nothing will change that. We can do better in backing our players and coaches and not always find fault in what they do. Our negativity is so disheartening and it’s time it stopped

    1. 👍👍👍👍👍.

      Fans here keep screaming for the coach to buy this and sell that, like the players are potatoes in a market shed. Like all he has to do is say “I want Auba sold” and the next morning he will be gone and say “ I want Lewandoski” and the next morning he will be at Arsenal.

  17. I always love to read you bro. Always a joy to read. The fact that you don’t write based on emotions is what makes it even more beautiful. Keep saying it as it is.

  18. You do have a point, but I think that time is a luxury. He does not have time to achieve the type of football we need. He is still relatively very inexperienced and so I doubt he has enough upstairs to implement the desired type of football with the Time mangers are afforded this days. We have a powerful squad but arteta has made fundamental mistakes that has created stagnation.

  19. None of these signings didn’t excites me, even odegard. He is with us half a season( 1goal and 2 assists in 14 pl games and 1 goal and 0 assistin 6 eu games) and still we finish 8th . When you have to improve your squad you have to sign the best players not the deadwoods of other big club, in coming season we can’t even sell those players ( like willian, ), the coach is clueless he is not the right man for this job and edu has to go his transfer dealings are shit

  20. I feel we should give Arteta time till December and with the transfer window still open lets see.

  21. The best suited striker for our team someone who can hold the ball up, bring others into play, provide an aerial threat and also stretch defences, I think DCL ticks these boxes. Yes he’d be expensive but at only 23/24 he’s got room to grow into a real threat up top.

  22. Thanks as usual Agboola for an excellent article – I learned a lot. Whilst I disagree with your final conclusion that “the project” can succeed, the technical aspects were fascinating. Many of the criticisms here are based purely upon that conclusion rather then the bulk of your piece, and I feel you have not been given the credit you deserve. And of course your efforts will as usual cause more healthy debate than practically any other posters, which is surely healthy!

    OK – what are my issues with your support for “the project”? Many have been voiced already:

    1 I am sure there are many managers that admire, understand and could theoretically implement “juego de posicion”.
    It is a proven successful model, so why aren’t they rolling it out?
    a) because as you stated it requires a particular type of player. Technically gifted, highly confident, committed, very fit and unquestioningly disciplined
    b) most players do not have this skillset, and it can rarely be taught to a sufficiently high level required by elite teams
    c) players having these skills are highly prized and expensive
    d) Unless already a jdp team, managers rarely inherit a squad with more than one or two such players
    e) Even ignoring ffp rules, most clubs do not have funds to purchase 8 or 9 such players for the first 11, let alone a squad
    f) The whole system fails without 100% of participants meeting the standard
    g) the result when this happens is Arsenal’s current style and position – slow, pondorous, nervous, mistake ridden football
    h) so not has there been a large outlay to start the process, but performances have nosedived
    i) Completion of such a project, even if successful, requires therefore huge resources and 3 or 4 years under ffp to get the players in. Meantime fans are unhappy, teams get relegated, drop out of Europe, lose revenue, lose the fanbase. And that’s if it works

    2) Football tactics evolve. Teams learn how to counter all tactics over time, and they certainly will this one by the time we have it perfected. So the whole thing could be a waste of time, money and success

    3) It needs big cash. Arteta should never have been given the go-ahead without a guarantee of large investment. This has evidently not been forthcoming.

    4) We are now stuck in an awful limbo, with us trying to jettison the majority of players who can’t adapt, but without the funds to get the players we need to effectively play the system

    5) More attention should have been given to bringing in offensive players to at least give fans some early signs of hope. Bad mistake

    6) Whilst Arteta doesnt want them, we have to continue using players who will never fit. The result? Numerous fall outs and drops in form. We all like to feel wanted.

    The answer? I don’t know. We have burned a lot of bridges already, so going back is difficult. But to continue this way for years longer is a very very tortuous road, with freefall a real possibilty and no guarantee of success.

    1. Such a wonderful and eye opening post regarding tactics it can even stand as an article. Well written and points very well arranged. It is a long post but the way you have written it makes it an easy read while at the same time driving home the points you are making.

  23. Let’s call a spade a spade. Not a tool for digging the ground.
    Arteta is a manager in training. All that is doing is hype, intimidation of players and bold face.
    He wasn’t a top notch player. He was an assistant couch in training under The manager in Manchester City. Basking under the sunshine of another who called the planned strategy and took decision and responsibility.
    He was not in the driver’s seat and calling the shots.
    He is a smoke screen. Not real. The earlier is OUT the better for the players and the fans

  24. At times I wonder if the “Trust the Process ” Arteta supporters are only out to provoke a reaction from realistic fans. The semifinal clash against Villareal showed Arteta’s incompetence and arrogance.

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