Arsenal are creating their own problems – If it’s not broken don’t try to fix it

With a section of the Arsenal fanbase you have to be quite sensitive. Point out obvious flaws in our system after a win and you are negative.

Speak up after we drop points and you are asked ‘why didn’t you say anything before?”

So as much as I praised Thomas Partey’s footballing intelligence in our first two fixtures this season, I did fear that Mikel Arteta was in danger of over complicating things.

Partey starts at right back with the intention of timing when to step into midfield, Ben White begins as a centreback but will time when to switch to the wing to cover Partey, when Partey joins Rice as one of our DM’s, we have two number 10’s with free roles.

When Arsenal needed a left back to replace Timber and Tomiyasu on Saturday, they picked Kiwior.

Yes, the Pole has played there but again the idea of him being chosen was, when needed, he could step across and form a back three.

So, if Partey ventures forward, the Gunners are left with three trained centre backs to defend.

It’s of course meant to sound complex because the idea is for the opposition to find it impossible to man mark any of our players.

You might also recognise how familiar it is to Man City’s system.

The difference is the Champions have better players then us, hence why they won the treble.

Having done his apprenticeship at the Etihad and Pep Guardiola being his mentor, it’s understandable our manager might want to copy from the man who taught him what he knows.

Let me stress it takes bravery from the Spaniard to try these tactics, trusting individuals to use their brains.

A top coach also believes in his ethos and sticks to his convictions no matter what the outside world is saying.

If he truly believes that, in training, he’s seeing a team 10 times better than they were 12 months ago, he should stick to his principles.

The worry is in reviewing how we collapsed in the title race, our boss has over-thought things.

The 41-year-old admitted to being personally hurt by finishing second in a league he had topped for the majority of time.

In reality there not a lot needed fixing at the Emirates.

We didn’t end up runners up because of our tactics or even personnel, we ended up empty handed because we lacked the know-how and mentality.

It was too big a step for one of the youngest squads in the division.

In theory the same group will be better for the experience. You either believe that or you recruit more senior pros. That’s why I think it’s a mistake that Xhaka wasn’t kept as he was one of our few leaders.

Yet at a time when we need calmness, the man in charge may have let last season impact on his thought process, and now is making erratic choices.

Why is a centreback playing at left back the same time Tierney is travelling to Spain on loan?

That’s right, Real Sociedad are not paying a transfer fee for the full back or giving any guarantees they will.

They simply will cover his wages for the season.

Did we really need to lose Tierney just to slash the wage bill?

Meanwhile Gabriel is on the bench. While I have always argued he makes too many mistakes, is our back 4 better now?

Is Partey being right back truly worth not having Gabriel in the team?

The same Partey who we tried at right back in the last few games of last season and it didn’t work!

Man, City are not going to drop many points. The standards they set means you can’t afford to be experimenting while the campaign is going on.

If it’s not broken, why try and fix it?

We won’t win the title by making our own problems.


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Tags Arteta tactics Thomas Partey


  1. I would say Arteta is creating the problems at the moment. Weird selection of players, Tierney exit, no incomings since beginning of July, the whole weird signing of Havertz..

    We had a good starting XI last season with no one leaving and yet we’ve changed our formation drastically playing several players out of position what they played last season. This is on Arteta for sure.

    1. Edit: we did sign Raya recently yes. Good signing but in terms of urgency, I would say rotation GK was not what I would consider a priority..

    2. Explain how Arteta could have played the same with both Timber and Zinchenko injured or not fully fit……

      Arteta wants an inverted full-back and both has been out, the only player that can play inverted is Partey…..

  2. Maybe because Zinchenko was injured or perhaps because we often got hit from counter-attacks from the wings

    The idea was good, but Arsenal didn’t use Havert’s energy, pace and height. If I were Arteta, I would’ve instructed Havertz to press with our CF, to let Odegaard focus on playmaking

    When Odegaard and Saka couldn’t penetrate the opposition’s defense, they should’ve make a long pass to Havertz’s head. It could increase our chance of winning the second ball in the final-third

    1. Gai, Not a bad idea to try a solution to a flaw that cost us epl title. But Arteta formular could have been well practiced through pre season. Evidently, new formation and tactics has their own limitations. If you are not there yet don’t experiment with Epl games it’s too risky. Players like Pathey & Jorginho are better used as DM to get the best out of them. In my opinion Arteta should perfect the formular that put his team in second place and don’t overthink things..

      1. I guess Arsenal would revert to the inverted-LB tactic for the upcoming game, because Zinchenko can play again. Partey could play CDM and Rice could play Xhaka’s role behind our CF for that match

  3. I do believe city have now gone back to a flat back four ,that’s what makes pep and city the ones to beat ,always changing but when they change it still works .
    Maybe it’s time for Arteta to copy his buddy again .

  4. Arteta is trying to find an edge to be at the top of a very competitive league. He is experimenting to make his team versatile and fluid, just like mancity ..

    Advantage: withstand injuries to players, give more players playing time as well as rest time.

    You cannot grow by doing only one thing repeatedly, because other teams source you out and nullify your threats.

    Please, get off the back of the manager and team, and allow them to grow into the season.

    If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Yes, 2 wins and a 1 draw means it’s not broken 🙂

    1. But against which sides and were the wins convincing? When one tries honesty they have to go full in the details not scratching only the surface.

  5. My heart still tells me you are negative especially last season when we were doing so well. But you are proven right more often than not.

  6. For me the main problem is trying to squeez in Havertez & it’s not working. Push Rice there, play Partey & White were they belong, put big Gabi in and we are back to playing electric football.

    In some recent interview Saliba said Gabriel helped him settle in well on the pitch because they both speak French& constantly communicate, why are we breaking up a solid partnership. White – MO – Saka gave us great moments last season.

    Sad to say Spurs are playing a more attractive game right now with less quality. There’s no guanratee our new boring style will bring us success! Atleast fans turned in last season knowing we are guaranteed a proper show from Arsenal.

  7. To be realistic Partey helps in controlling games more so against small teams when he is the middle and arsenal finds it too easy to win games in so doing,zinchenko for one is so catastrophic that he can not be relied on pressing opposition so Tierney usually was a best fit but now you take Partey to defense and later bring in zinchenko who is weak to defend a win it ends up in a struggle

  8. Arteta is certainly the architect of all Arsenal’s problems at this time.
    We didn’t win the EPL last Season because we lost our most crucial defender for the run-in and simultaneously the players who had taken us to the top of the League ran out of steam.In addition we could have possibly done with a more physical CF to bully the opposition when they became more difficult to break down.
    In response to these factors Arsenal brought in an additional defender who could play anywhere across the back line and a Premier League hardened midfielder who could potentially play in either the number 6 or number 8 role.Both of these purchases were undoubtedly much needed!
    Unfortunately he has also sanctioned the purchase of Kai Havertz. A player who on paper might be able to offer Arsenal a new dimension.But as the adage goes…”we don’t play on paper”…and instead we are faced with another case of a player wholly unsuited to the way that this team has been able to successfully play against opposition teams.We won games last Season by overwheming the opposition with our aggressive press and quick slick passing.In the latter part of the season this became less effective as Arteta felt that he was unable to rotate the team and consequently the “deep block” was able to nullify Arsenal’s attacking options.Instead of spending £65m on Havertz I feel sure that Edu would have been better off swapping Balogun plus £40m for Ivan Toney. A player who would really make a difference to Arsenal as we approach the sharp end of this Season.
    Instead this constant tinkering in order to fit square pegs into round holes in an effort to get the most out of a player who has not lived up to expectation for nearly 4 years is unfortunately doomed to failure. I really wish I could see a different outcome and fans can argue all they like that Bergkamp also took a while to fit into Arsenal’s system of play and to recover from his Inter malaise.I would point out that it took a new manager and nearly a full season of mediocrity for Bergkamp to hit his straps and with the best will in the World I don’t believe that Havertz can emulate this Arsenal great.
    In the meantime Arteta needs to revert to a team which features his best players playing in their best roles. This means a return to the Gabriel/Saliba partnership…White reverting to rb…Zinchenko to lb…A midfield of Rice,Partey and Odergaard …and a front 3 of Sakha,Martinelli and Nketiah/Jesus…The ethos of this team must be to move the ball AT PACE through defensive lines… and press and defend with greater determination and concentration.. Only then will Arsenal start winning games again with the authority required and at that point Arteta can perhaps “tinker” once again and attempt to “shoe-in ” Havertz around this hybrid number 8 position.

  9. Yes we have created our own problem in inventing the wheel, luckily its early days and easy to fix, all is required is back to basics.

  10. I agree, in shoehorning Havertz into the side you are weakening 3 positions (Gabriel is a better Centre Back than White, White is a better fullBack than Partey and Partey is our best CDM.

    What I do believe Arteta getting wrong is that if he wants to play this the inverted full back, it needs to from the left side. The reason this is the case for me is that Martinelli for the majority of the time, wants to take the defender down the line, he therefore doesn’t need the left back to overlap as it takes his space, so the left back can invert and play more central. However, Saka is the opposite. for the most part, He wants to come inside onto his left foot and the overlap from the right fullback is key to take defenders away and give Saka the space he needs to be able to operate in that way! The amount of times Saka recieved the ball and Partey has move into a central position this season I’ve lost count already. So its weakening his ability to be more effective with the ball as well.

    I like the inverted full back idea, especially when playing lesser quality, more physical teams who try to pack out the midfield (Everton/Palace etc) but it 100% needs to come from our left side. and we 100% need Gabriel at the back as he gravitates to the left when the full back vacates better and more naturally than anyone else in the team!

  11. Spot on. Three games against modest opponents, and we looked convincing in none of them. The debacle against Fulham (on the back of them being belted 3-0 by Brentford) should be, but won’t be, a wake up call. If you want to challenge for the big prizes, letting a ten man, depleted, Fulham take an away point is not the way to go about it. People have argued the team has fitness issues. Uh huh. Well why was Tierney allowed to go to Spain if that’s the case? Why is Partey playing at the back while Gabriel is benched? Square pegs, round holes. As Dan says we don’t have the luxury of having a top quality squad built up over a ten year period. As such the manager doesn’t have the squad, or the time, to be faffing about if he wants to challenge that. Up next is Utd. If Arteta plays a disjointed, experimental side against them, we will, as the press are praying we will, lose. What then?

  12. Great article Dan and I really liked the way your first two paragraphs set up the article.

    I’ve been lucky enough to watch every second of our first four games (including the CS) and we have been dire in all but said CS game.

    I find it SO frustrating watching Saka and Martinelli having to go backwards, while not getting the support needed to help them.

    I find it SO frustrating to watch us go forward at a snails pace, along with so many sideways and back passes it takes ages to proceed even a yard forward.

    I get SO frustrated watching a top midfield player like Partey, looking like a lost schoolboy.

    I don’t even blame Havertz for any of this crass football and I believe that, if MA reverted back to his back four of last season, our German international could have been used as a very effective substitute for Odegaard, but he has been introduced into a team that has too many square pegs in round holes.

    Finally, I have to remind myself that we have spent yet another vast amount of money, yet we are playing the same kind of rubbish that we had to endure two / three seasons ago.

    Is this REALLY the next phase?

    1. I’m afraid it is indeed the next phase. I said before the Fulham game that it would be critical to where we end up this season depending on the outcome. Having said that, its interesting to see Artetas army trying to convince themselves that a Fulham side battered 3-0 by Brentford in their last league game, was a ‘hard’ fixture with usual twaddle about ‘no easy fixtures’ in the EPL. Try telling Bournmouth fans that. Their view was and I quote, ‘yes the manager kept us up, but we were absolutely dire’, in the debate over their last managers sacking. Back to the Fulham game. I argued that if Arteta tinkered about with side and got a hefty win against Fulham, the manager would be vindicated. Any other result, including another narrow win, would leave people worrying. Next up is Man Utd. If Arteta messes about with the lineup against them, regardless of how massively over rated they are, we will lose. And badly. If that happens the whole point of the exercise will be lost. If we win, and play well, end of argument. I suspect however, that Utd will relish playing a side that doesn’t know what its best players are, what formation works best, and who should be playing where. Finally this whole, ‘the gaffer knows best’ stuff is a modern invention. Back in the day everyone, from goalkeeper to centre forward, from manager to physio were judged on the day. If they got it wrong, even among 50,000 people, you could hear individuals letting them know…

  13. Interesting article. I suppose you can divide managers into those who play their way regardless and those who try and adapt. In theory those who adapt should be more successful but it does rely on having the players to implement whatever you come up with. City can do that due to the depth and quality of their squad, they just bring a few players in and drop a few out. Arsenal don’t have that depth and quality (neither does anyone else) so a good idea in theory may not work in practice.

  14. Even Man City doesn’t have arsenal’s squad depth right now and we’re wasting it. Check Man City ‘s squared in there last game and you can hardly find a senior player on bench
    I saw this somewhere:
    Havetz is a versatile player , Arteta should start Him wide maybe outside the stadium or on the bench

  15. If the only two players (Zinchenko and Timber) who can invert successfully are injured, then who else can? Partey is the nearest so he played RB. Inverting was what allowed us to dominate and finished second last season.

  16. But they do try to fix it – by buying Eric Garcia! The new Mustafi! Why do you think Pep sold this kid? Arteta is self-destructive. He’s trying to ruin what he just built. The 22/23-team was much better than the team that just got 2-2 against Fulham at Emirates. Embarrassing.

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