How Mikel Arteta uses different shapes for attacking and defending

Arsenal has enjoyed some success this year since they made Mikel Arteta their latest manager.

The Spaniard has brought back confidence and, even more importantly, a trophy to the Emirates.

He has changed the club’s approach to games since the days of Unai Emery, and the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are now thriving under his management.

Danny Higginbotham recently wrote on Sun Sports about the changes that Arteta has brought to Arsenal tactically and how it has made the Gunners a strong team to defend against and to score against.

He wrote at length about the changes that Arteta has brought about, including finally finding a system that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette can work together successfully.

He hailed his Frenchman for his selfless work that helped Arsenal to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

He then wrote about the tactical flexibility at the club now which allows the team to set up differently when they attack and when they defend.

He wrote on Sun Sports: “…It is also worth mentioning that whereas previous managers struggled, Arteta has found a system to get both Aubameyang and Lacazette into the same side.

“And don’t forget, it was Lacazette’s unselfish run that created the space for Aubameyang to score his second.

“I have also been very impressed by the tactical flexibility shown by Arteta.

“They played a 3-4-3 when attacking, but seamlessly switched to a back four without the ball. So when defending you had Kieran Tierney (No 3) tucking in alongside David Luiz (No 23) and Rob Holding (No 16), with Hector Bellerin (No 2) dropping in at right-back.

“Tierney had the licence then to go and join the attack, allowing Ainsley Maitland-Niles to become a winger — causing Cesar Azpilicueta all sorts of problems.

“Key to all of this are the two sitting midfielders, Granit Xhaka (No 34) and Dani Ceballos (No 8) — two more examples of players showing restraint for the good of the team.

“Under Arteta they are finally changing their ways, content to ask questions by sitting deeper.

“To create this identity in a short space of time will have taken hours of work on the training ground — something that Arteta deserves huge credit for.”


  1. How refreshing to have a coach that not only concentrates on attacking but all aspects of the team, now we have discipline.,character, a dogidness about us

  2. Such a shame we didn’t get hold of Arteta earlier , i imagine we would have got top 4 -top 6 at the very least .
    The club wasted 18 months employing Emery and it as now set us back .
    Positive signs are now coming to fruition and it looks so bright with Arteta in charge ,I would never had imagined us lifting a cup this season but he has brought a new lease of life to the club and players that were not deemed good enough .
    We beat Liverpool ,city and Chelsea in the space of a few weeks with a squad that fans said was a middle table team .
    Onwards and upwards let’s just hope he can get a few players to take us to the next level .

  3. This (good)article should have been written and posted a long time ago,to explain to those fans who are writing that MA is experimenting, doesn’t know his best first XI,he is tinkering…from the first day he said that he would use different tactics and players depending on the opponent also he wanted his team to be able to switch between systems easily but like it was pointed out in the article it takes time and many hours on the training ground,I agree we need a settled spine but changing 2 or even 3 players here and there is barely tinkering or experimenting,look at Liverpool this season and City in the past,you barely see a drop in performances when they make a couple of changes to their line up but for that you need squad depth quality wise and again time!

  4. DH is correct in his tactical analysis, but to suggest we switch”seemlessly” from a back three to a back four is stretching his imagination.On numerous occasions on Sunday Bellerin was caught up field when Pepe lost possession.This left Holding exposed to the pace of Pulisic and Mount and of course he was left for dead on 2/3 occasions.Thankfully Chelsea failed to capitalize but the gaps appeared and on another day we would have paid the price.I believe MA has done very well whether he won the Cup or not, but in the longer term I feel he will switch to a 4-3-3 system providing he can recruit more pace and athleticism through the spine of the team.This is a very important transfer window for Arsenal in terms of moving out mediocre players and the likes of Guendouzi to enable MA to bring in players who will fit his requirements.

    1. You know your football. Not only that, Mikel Arteta is a tactical master, what people don’t know about ceballos and xhaka is that they both sit deep for you to come meet them. They are slow in movement but very quick in passing and having improved their passing ranges under the tutelage of Mr Mikel Arteta.. If you watch Arsenal games of recent, many teams fall for the trap of trying to attack those 2 [ xhaka and ceballos] now very smart deep lying midfielders who will pass the ball around u and set u up for a quick counter attack… Arteta just needs a box to box no 10 [ creative] or an 8 [ attacking] that can help break the the play incase the opposition decides to sit deep like in the case of the Aston villa and the Tottenham game. The Tottenham game showed me that there are lapses to Arteta’s 3 – 4 – 3 system as the Tottenham players just glued themselves to auba, laca and pepe giving them no space to receive a lot of balls and always pressuring them to pass the ball around which brought ceballos out of the midfield to try and help in attack, leading to Tottenham trying to beat us on the break and making the defenders not being able to build up with short passes to the midfield. This made our defense start playing long balls which we weren’t really successful with as Tottenham have good aerial players and when we try to build on short passes, son and Kane were ready on the move to counter any passing mistake from our defense cos we can’t build up. But if there was a 10 or an 8, in the middle of the park with ceballos and xhaka, while the strikers are being marked, that 10 or 8 can break through the middle or wing, causing problems for the opposition defense and even taking shots on target which will now relieve the strikers.. A good example is coutinho who can play on the wings or in the middle of the field of play… So despite the fact Arteta has done well, he’s just a few signings from actually making Arsenal a nightmare for other teams. I’ve been studying him and I like what I see.

  5. From where we were to where we are now (league table doesnt show the progress of this team) since Mikel took over the results have been good bar one or two blips, we beat the 3 top teams in England and deservedly won the FA Cup in the space of a few weeks.

    The progress has been nothing short of brilliant as we were in a terrible way with no identity, not knowing what we are doing to playing like we havnt saw in years under the most inexperienced manager in the league speaks volumes and mind this is is his 8months ever in management.

    He has learned and soaked up all Info Wenger, Pep etc, have gave him over the years. He is a mix between the 2 and we will see the rewards if the board backs him. He sees thing others dont, came from Peps mouth that statement.

    Was a good captain and now a pretty decent manager from what we have see so far. Only Capt to be manager of the same club to win FA Cup at Arsenal. Hes is the history books now already.

    1. You’re 3rd paragraph completely sums up Arteta 👍👍 Sean .
      Watching the locker room highlights after the game you can see how much the team respect him ,still a very young manager in his first job and wins an FA Cup .
      Always 14 forward .. quite brilliant

      1. Agree with both of your comments completely – the change in tactics, morale, player accountability, vision and actions is unbelievable.

  6. Porchetino, who was mate with MA in PSG, would be excited right now. He has high opinion of MA, he saw his capabilities on football tactics from France. MP would only wonder, how quickly successful he got, like everyone else who had underrated his inexperience leading team as coach.

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