Arsenal Needs a Quick Fix. Here’s One.
Arteta’s system has been criticized for the football we play. However, I think it’s pretty good. I’ve only got one problem with it. We lack any hint of a central overload. Our pivot CMs rarely get forward. While this can provide us with compactness in the opposition third, and hide the faults of Holding/Mari defending high, bringing defensive stability, it is not optimal that the CMs never venture forward.
I get that we use wide overloads instead. But we are only really dangerous from the left due to the system’s demands on the right. The system demands a touchline winger on the right who is good at 1v1 and combination play. However, we only have one such plausible profile at the club: Saka. Reiss Nelson, too, but he’s not physically competent. The right hand side in our system is meant to be a creativity hub while the left hand side provides penetration, relatively.
However, we don’t have the players for it. This is why Pepe never looks good there, which is pretty bad for a supposedly superstar signing. Only Saka can fulfill the role at a high level. This means that Arteta’s system is precariously balanced on the availability of Saka.
When Saka does not play, the attack always looks dead on the right, while it looks great on the left no matter what. It is not a systematic issue. It is a personnel issue which Arteta knows about and persists with. Maybe he wants to coach Pepe or Nelson into the role.
The solution for the right-hand side is that Arteta either changes it to reflect the left-hand side dynamics or we buy a competent winger who is good at deliveries, combination and 1v1 play. Since Saka can play as an inside-forward better than Pepe can play as a winger, I’d say that the 1st option is better.
Otherwise, we can use Emile Smith-Rowe as a right-winger. I’m sure he would be better than Pepe at it.
Changing the right dynamics to look like the left dynamics means that the CMs must go wider. Like how Xhaka goes wide to cover Tierney. If both CMs go wide, we will lose central compactness and ship goals.
However, this can be prevented by using a false 9 who can defend in central areas OR by using 3 midfielders instead of two pivots. Of course, this means that you lose the 10’s ability to overload in the 4231.
But by using a false 9 and asking one of the CMs to overload like a 10 per time, you can retain defensive compactness AND your ability to overload. At other times, the 9 should also be able to go wide and overload, leaving the CMs in midfield. But do Arsenal have these profiles?
I believe we do. Partey, Xhaka, Lokonga, Elneny are all CMs. Arsenal only have one 10. ESR. And ESR can play as a wide forward. Lacazette at this point works best as a defensive and false 9. Auba, Pepe, Saka, Martinelli, Balogun can all play as inside-forwards.
The only real profiles we lack for the 433 wide overloads system is the RB and CDM. Partey can play as a CDM, of course, but should only be as a second option because he’s too progressive to be restricted there.
All that is needed is a leggy, dynamic RB like Tierney and a good CDM.
Of course, this is how Liverpool play. But we already play similar to them on the left. I’m only saying that we should do the same thing on the right side.
Why? Is it because it’s Liverpool’s system?
No. It’s because it fits our squad best and our coach can implement it. We are already a team of inside-forwards and non-attacking CMs. We already push high. We already rely on wide overloads to get into the box. We already have Tierney. We already have a low-scoring CF who is useless at everything except combo play, pressing and attacking cutbacks.
Just transition fully into what we are. As it is, this current system requires another 10, a RB who’s comfortable coming inside and combining, a real presence at CF + a touchline RW to work. We do not have any of these 4. Therefore the system looks bad when it’s not.
Our left hand side works. Our right hand side does not. It’s as simple as that. It is not a coaching issue. It is a personnel issue. We simply don’t have the depth nor profiles to attack well on the right the way Arteta wants us to.
As a result, the team looks stilted. So I am suggesting that we simply attack on the right side as we attack on the left side. It would fit all of our forwards and our players more.