Rightback Signing Will Tell Us Everything We Need to Know
Fans are not, for the most part, tactical visionaries. They simply want their club to win irrespective of the coaching. But Arsenal are trying to get back to the top next season and the coaching will have a lot to do with it irrespective of who we sign.
Ironically, signings also inform coaching. If you have Mohammed Salah at your club, then we know that you need an overlapping fullback to maintain the width and a defensively capable midfielder to hold things together. Mikel Arteta is an obvious tactical nut. His signings will be carefully calculated to fill in carefully calculated roles in a carefully calculated scheme. Of course, most coaches are like that nowadays. They play specific systems and want specific players for those systems.
This is where things get a bit murky with Arteta. Given the state of the club he inherited in December, midway through the season, one can say that he has not executed his full tactical vision yet. He only signed 3 players in his first full season. Now, the rumours are that we might sign as many as 5 players. This is the season in which he will have a solid chance to execute his tactical vision in full.
Mikel Arteta first used a 3-4-3 system which later changed to a 4-2-3-1 system. Since then, we have also seen a 4-3-3 on several occasions. It is not controversial to say that the most successful system so far has been the 4-2-3-1. It is also not controversial to imagine that Arteta likely wants a 4-3-3, given his education at La Masia, under Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger. But this begs the question: would you ditch the successful for the new at a club where your job is on the line?
It must be noted that the most successful clubs in the world mostly employ managers who have historically preferred a 4-3-3. And if Arteta thinks that is the right move for us, then we will move forward with it. However, the current 4-2-3-1 system is a specific system that demands something special from our rightback. It demands that he moves in field and protect the space left behind by the No. 10. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calum Chambers have both functioned in this role. In a 4-3-3, this is not needed as we’ll be playing with two 8s instead and the fullbacks will provide width down the flank.
Our rightback signing therefore tells us all we need to know about Arteta’s preferred system for next season. A player like Tyler Adams who is a central midfielder we have been linked to who plays at rightback tells us that we stick with the system as it is. While a link to a dynamic, overlapping rightback like Kieran Trippier tells us that we are moving to a 4-3-3 system.
I suspect that Arteta wants both options, however.