Arteta may need to rethink Arsenal’s tactics as we approach the deadly fixtures in April


Arsenal have finally restored a purposeful range of 5 points on their closest rivals to the title, Manchester City with 12 games to go.

Wins against Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Everton have restored the belief around the Emirates stadium and around the world for Arsenal fans.

But it hasn’t always been this way. The Arsenal is just withering a huge storm that threatened their most promising push for another title 20 years down the line.

Arsenal’s first loss of the season was on September 4th 2022 against Manchester United away, where they lost 3-1. During the match Arsenal had scored the first goal through Martinelli which was ruled out. However, a report in December 2022 on VAR’s 48 interventions that far, cited that goal as one of the six that had been wrongly called. There is no telling how the match would have turned out if the goal had stood, but Arsenal gave a good account of themselves in that match and the result looked harsh.

While opposing fans were quick to predict the “usual collapse” of Arsenal’s title challenge, Arsenal were back in business showing the loss was just a blip, beating Brentford, Tottenham, Liverpool and Leeds to silence the naysayers. Arsenal was to lose two crucial points to Southampton, but were back to winning ways, quickly beating Nottingham Forest and Chelsea.

Then, Arsenal was knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Brighton and suddenly it looked like the predicted collapse was about to set in. However, Arsenal was to beat Wolves away 0-2 to cool nerves before the World Cup break.

The 2022 World Cup Qatar was so unusual, coming in mid-season, and there was no telling what the effects would be to Arsenal’s trophy challenge. The doomsayers predicted it would be calamitous as Arsenal lost one of their star performers – Gabriel Jesus to injury. The saving grace was that there was the January transfer window and Arsenal could sign replacements.

Yet, again, it looked like Arsenal had gotten the short end of the stick during the transfer deals, suffering loss of hot pursuits in not just one but three occasions. There was their earlier pursuit for Joao Felix, on a half season loan, which Chelsea were to win; Then Arsenal looked to have won the pursuit of Mykhaylo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea struck again, stealing the deal on the nick. Arsenal also pursued Moises Caicedo from Brighton so much so that it looked like this time it would be different but Caicedo would eventually remain at Brighton. Arsenal However signed Leandro Trossard from Brighton, Jorginho from Chelsea and Jakub Kiwior from Spenzia.

In December, after the World Cup, Arsenal seemed to have continued where they left off and beat West Ham and Brighton before the year turned. January 2023 was billed as Arsenal’s January by naysayers to mean that this is when Arsenal suffers.

And they had a run of matches that looked to confirm this premise as Arsenal would face a resurgent Newcastle, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City in the FA Cup. Arsenal drew with Newcasttle, won all the rest of the games and lost narrowly to Manchester City.

Then came February where Arsenal lost to Everton, drew with Brentford, and lost at home to their main title rivals and defending champions – Manchester City. Suddenly it was looking like the wheels were coming off and the title challenge was going to be exited.

But somehow, Arsenal found the will power to win again and have gone on a 4-match victory coming from behind to beat Aston Villa 4-2, executing a tough protection of a slim lead against Leicester and surviving a defensive masterclass in the first-half against Everton to emphatically seal a revenge victory of 4-0, and of course the amazing comeback win against Bournemouth.

Already, Trossard and Jorginho have made their contributions into the title race. Trossard has weighed in with a goal and two assists and Jorginho has helped in replacing Partey, as well as helping himself to a goal to the good and turning the tide in the Aston Villa match.

It looks like the title race will go to the wire and April will be big. Arsenal must be ready to finish the title race on a high. Arsenal must negotiate successfully past Fulham and Crystal Palace in March for the Premier League. March also has the two clashes with Sporting Lisbon for the Europa League to complicate matters.

Then comes April, with Leeds United, a resurging Liverpool away, West Ham away, Southampton, Manchester City away and Chelsea. There will be the small matter of Europa League quarter finals if Arsenal goes past Sporting Lisbon.

A big April will require Arsenal to get results away, in some of the grounds Arsenal have recently faltered. So far Arteta has deployed the same pattern of play in 4.3.3, and used almost the same players. Arsenal has an almost predictable line-up which makes it easy to plan a play against them.

Maybe it is time for Mikel Arteta to play some of these games with a 3-man defense to tighten the midfield. This is especially so with Arsenal now in possession of players like Emile Smith Rowe, and potentially Gabriel Jesus both returning from injury, and the likes of Jorginho, Trossard and Zinchenko who can execute powerful wingback roles to perfection plus the likes of Xhaka who can support the defense when needed,

I think Arteta should start drilling such game variations to prepare in time.

I would personally love to see Gabriel Jesus on the Front line, Martinelli on a free role supporting all the attacking departments, Saka on the right, Odegaard attacking, Trossard on the left wing, Partey and Xhaka in the centre and with Xhaka on extra role to defend the spaces at the back, then in defence Saliba on the right, Gabriel in the centre and Tierney in the left back.

It would be a brave lineup. In the second half, he can remove Martinelli, bring in ESR to continue the overload in attacking spaces and bring in Zenchenko to offer even more overload all over the pitch where needed.

It’s a variation that I feel if we had started with against Manchester City, we should have seen a different result. It’s a courageous line-up but a variation that can spring a surprise or two in the tough grounds of Anfield and the Etihad. Imagine if Arsenal won in both these grounds in April?

It is what Arsenal must be ready to execute to deliver on the promise this season has been.

Nikko Gunners

Tags Arsenal tactics


  1. It’s so exciting isn’t it. Before the season started I didn’t think PL 🏆 was on the cards. We have been leading the whole season but we need to hold on for a couple more months. We can do it. Jesus returning would help


  2. Removing Zinchenko from your new formation is trying to attack one’s own article. It’s unimaginable to leave out Zinchenko

  3. Arteta knows what he is doing that’s why we are top of the league. I will support his decisions

  4. I think you didn’t pay attention to our 3-2-4-1 formation shape when we had the ball

    We’ve actually been playing with three CBs when we are possessing the ball and the formation will transform into 4-3-3 when we are defending

    Better not change our tactics, until they become ineffective

    If you want us to follow Conte’s or Potter’s 3-4-2-1 wingback tactics, ours is currently way better. We just need to tweak it a bit, to exploit the half-spaces more

  5. A fascinating piece that shows real thinking ability by the writer. What it shows us all, is how much managers know – though some managers far more than others of course- that many of us do not have a clue about.
    I do agree that we need to vary our often rather predictable tactics to combat teams who are, in general, BEGINNING TO WORK OUR PLAY OUT.

    I see interchanging positions of our attacking players as being a key area we need to work on. It is happening now, to an extent, but needs to increase, IMO!

  6. Zinchenko is our ‘Ace’ in the whole, because of him our formation switches from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 and even 3-2-4-1. Its good having a playmaking LB who goes into the left side of the midfield and opposition area with threatening purpose any time he pleases , and he is effective too.
    I wouldnt change a thing if I were Arteta except to adapt to unanticipated circumstances .
    If it aint broke dont fix it as the saying goes.

    1. I think all we need to do against teams Anfield and Etihad is to replace either Odegaard/Xhaka with Trossard, because we need that extra player with speed and stamina, just my thoughts.

  7. I honestly I see your point. And even more, I can relate with your proposed lineup and gameplan.

    I want to belief you truly have a football mind. You’re are well inclined tactically.

  8. Pound for pound we are not bless with the abundance of talent as Man city, so our approach have to be slightly different.

    So am not in agreement as to change up our style of play, the gaffer had tried that before and the result was square pegs in round holes.

    What we need is stick with what we knows best or that which we are alteady doing well at and hone it in even doing better,

    When a set of players are drill together for an extended period of time to play in a particular way, they can take a part any mightily assemble team.

    The legendary Frenchman did master that heart, there was a time in our history the then gaffer had his B team playing together some of the most beautiful football , though the team was very young, it was even suggested from some quarters that the B team was actually better than the A team.

      1. First teamers

        Van Persie

        B team

        Vito Mannne
        Carlos Vela

        The B team was use mainly during the preliminary rounds of cup games, and one and two players may have represented both team during that time but kept to a minimum.

        Please note, there was a steady injection of the B team members into the A team over time

        There were the early years at the Emirates and remember it’s long over a decade so one or two maybe misplaced, but am just trying to furnish you the members to the best of my memory

        Just to mention something here Abou Diaby is the most technically gifted player , had seen at Arsenal.

        1. I’m not sure which year this is from – 2008? Flamini left in the summer of 2008, though, along with hleb, and Rosicky would still have been here.
          I’d say several of the players you listed were more technically gifted than Diaby – fabregas, van persie and Nasri for sure. I actually think vela was as technically gifted as any of them as well, certainly his first touch was.
          I don’t think I’ve seen many players had the combination of technical ability with physical size, strength and pace that Diaby had – he was fairly similar to yaya toure in playing style, and probably would have been a significantly better player had he not suffered so much with injuries, but one can only speculate, sadly

  9. Bro… Just rest. Why change a formular that has earned you so much success and still is?

    Leave that to Arteta.

  10. This is not the time to experiment. This is the time to perfect what we have been doing from the start of the season. A sudden change in tactics could affect the understanding between players and prove costly. The time to experiment will come – it’s called Pre-season

    PS : It seems many people on this site have Tierney as a favourite and are fixated on having him in the starting line-up yet the manager clearly thinks differently. No matter how good we think Tierney is,he’s clearly not suited to playing as an inverted fullback . We just have to trust Arteta on this!

    1. I love all the analysis, and every one has an opinion of what they expect Arteta to do which is fine and I do sincerely appreciate your concerns, it shows we are all worried about how the team will perform from now till April. My major concern is how Arteta will manage the big games with city, Liverpool and Chelsea. We had a great game against city, dominated the first half and played better when city was leading by 3 goals to 1. My worry is, Arteta wants his team to dominate game’s even against the likes of city and Liverpool, these are the kind of games you play caution but if you must dominate, you have to be perfect because, the big teams like city or Liverpool will always create chances and take advantage of the little spaces behind while on a high line and that’s where we are always cheated. The first game against man united and man city, we played well, dominated and still lost. Every game at this point is equally going to be though but the big games can quickly break or make your season a perfect one and at this point, Arteta should find better tactics for these kind of games. A win or draw is not a bad result against likes of city, Liverpool and Chelsea.

  11. It’s funny how much of twinkling have been suggested on this site simply to accommodate Tieney. Even if we are to play 3 CB, the guys to use are already playing week in week out (ie White, Saliba & Gabriel)

  12. I think the way we are trying to play football will ultimately be our undoing. At the moment, my thoughts are irrelevant because upto now, we have been imperious. My problem is i see chinks when we are under pressure. I HOPE I AM WRONG!!!!!!!!

    1. Reggie Have you not yet worked out that fans of ALL clubs see so called “chinks,” meaning signs that worry them, in their team? Our fans are not different in that respect. Of course we all see chinks but so what; perfection is not possible!


  13. The suggestion that Jorginho and Trossard can operate as wing backs baffles me as,to the best of my knowledge neither has ever played in that position?

    1. I think trossard might have for Brighton tbh – never saw that, but pretty sure I read it
      Jorginho, no, definitely not

  14. Thanks for your response.
    Yes it was around the 2008 period.

    Happy you mention Cesc as one of those highly technically players, it was he who had stated during those times , Diaby is the most technically gifted player he had ever played with as even in training you can’t get close to him.

    Yes , you are right about Diaby , at best he was glorious to watch a footballer with a unique combination of both incredible athleticism and impeccable technique.

    He was capable of controlling games, dictating the tempo, going on those rangy long runs like Yaya.
    What a shame we never get to see this lad full capabilities

  15. Nikko keep your day job!!!
    i would no tinker too much with what has been very succesfull. The considerations here would be
    1. See what Jesus brings back to the group
    2. Find a way to protect the space that Zinchenko vacates
    If you look at Liverpool past weekend those are the spaces that were able to exploit and put 7 past whining Bruno’s pals

    1. CFA you just made the point I have been reading to find.
      On the lead against big teams like City or liverpool though I would like to come to that time where I see a Jorginho, Partey combination in midfield when the pressure mounts and see how that fare.
      Arsenal will need some crazy approach when situation demands in April if they will win this league

  16. There are some very narrow minded comments here about keeping things the way they have been when its clear for all to see that we were a lot more effective in overall performance in the first half of the season. Our wingers were lethal and our ability to rapidly pass our way through tight spaces seemed to be honed to a T. Now that opponents play a deep block, have more than one player on our wingers at all times and find quick balls upfront to create deadly counter attacks in the face of our overwhelming possession we need to develop a new strategy. If we dont change formation then we need to be more threatening from wide overlaps to give Saka and Martinelli more options other than trying to take on their man. We need to regularly swap our three forwards positions more as we start to identify which areas of the opponents defence were we can exploit by adapting the match ups. We need to improve position awareness in the face of deep blocks and learn to release the ball early and smartly, through lobs to beat the defence line and quick passes to less populated flanks. Recently against deep blocks we just seem to slow the game down too much in the final third or back pass when we should be alert for developing spaces. That’s just my evaluation from watching our recent games

  17. The writer basically told Arteta what to do exactly in a match that he has no responsibility of. So, there’s no point.

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