Opinion: Arsenal needs to play with more freedom and stop being so defensive

One of Arsenal’s major problems, when Mikel Arteta was made the club’s manager, was their defence.

The Gunners had been leaking goals with reckless abandon and because of that no matter how many goals they scored, it was never enough.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 22 goals in each of the last two league seasons and it still wasn’t enough to help Arsenal return to the top four.

This was because as enterprising as the club’s attack was, their defence was also consistently generous.

To his credit, the Spaniard managed to improve the team at the back when he came in.

Arsenal earned some impressive wins during Project Restart against teams like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City largely because of their effective defending.

The Gunners entered this season as a similarly good team defensively but it is now apparent that the solidity at the back comes with a price, which is a lack of creativity that leads directly to almost no goals scored.

I think that Arteta is a good tactician, but the Spaniard’s tactics are stifling our creativity.

Playing with a structure is fine, but when it limits you because you want to stay in shape throughout a game, it becomes a problem.

Arsenal has played with less freedom for much of this season and Arteta needs to loosen things up a little so that the likes of Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock can better influence our games creatively.

An article from Ime

Tags mikel arteta


  1. Watching Barca vs Juve now…

    I think Ramsey has made more runs from midfield into the box in 15 minutes than our midfield has the entire season.

  2. Well we played with our RB in the opposition half for most of the game against Spurs, and as a consequence of his license to roam, we lost the match..Nothing to do with a lack of freedom, but everything to do with a lack of quality in a number of areas.With 70% of the ball we cannot be accused of being defensive, but Spurs were and took advantage of our naivety.

    1. Where was that 70% possession? Square passes, simple passes, pass backs, etc?

      Possession stats,
      Number of shots stats,
      Chances created stats,
      Passes completed stats etc are the most misleading and dead stats ever if you don’t look at them in context. They all look and sound so impressive until you start isolating them individually, then you can see how nonsensical they can be..

      Oh we had this much possession. But where was it? In the opposition area with cutting edge or just hopeless passes?

      This striker had this many Shots in the game. But what type? Shooting from distance? Hopeless shooting, wild shots, routine shots?

      Same goes for the Chances Created stats..

      Same for Passes completed stat etc..

      Just saying.

    2. I fully agree with you here mate, the sooner we accept that a number of our players are very poor and not good enough the better. We need two good CM and a RB soon, then we can do better…

  3. Sue, I saw this stat and it was a surprise to me and I wanna share it. Ronaldo scored only 4 goals in first EPL season, 5 in second season, 9 in third.
    First thing that came to mind is Pepe. He has the talent like Rinaldo did or is having so maybe if we make more Cf and not winger like it happened to Cr 7 who at first he could improve with time like it did with Ronaldo. I have now changed my mind ATM becos of this stat and ready to give him time cos he has the potential.
    Of course Cr 7 was much younger that time but players now peak late so it is not too late for him. What do you think guys.
    On this topic everyone knows the problem only MA does not see it.

    1. Well CR was 18, 19, 20 years oldold during those seasons.. Pepe is already 25.

      CR didn’t cost 72m, nor was hea on 140k a week.

      If anything, Martinelli can follow CRs path.

    2. Sure, Pepe has the pace, strength and skills, all he needs is to be played as CF/CAM, a more central role, where he has more responsibilities and he’ll become the star he’s meant to be.

    3. Over the past 4 seasons Pepe has been scoring in the French League. Last season he scored 6 goals in the EPL with 8 assist . More than Lungberg , Peires and Ronaldo in their very first season. Arteta doesn’t like Pepe and nothing will change that, unlike Mourinho that can improve Ndombele, Arteta and his coaching staff are always micro managing Pepe. I will rather Pepe move on for his mental health and well being.

  4. You stated in the article that you think Arteta is a good tactician. I think that statement is off the mark, i think he is tactically naive and that is causing us huge problems. He makes many decisions that dont work and tactically he has been undone on a regular basis in the prem.

    1. He’s received praise from Bielsa, Nuno Santo and Mourinho regarding his tactical Innovation/flexibility.

      Honestly, us fans attempting to critique prem tactics is like Big Dave down the pub critiquing post-Brexit macroeconomic policy. We all love to have opinions without being humble enough to admit that our opinions are embarrassingly ignorant.

    1. Not so fast…3-2 now with 8 minutes to go. That’s one thing I hate about our present team. As soon as we go behind now, there is no way back.

      1. And another penalty 😳 Now their fans are screaming for Poch!!
        Yes, we’re not exactly in a position to chuckle, as at least they scored twice – I’d give anything for that right now!!!

        1. Sue Man/Utd had more penalties than any other team in the EPL and last night there second goal should never been allowed OH sorry it is Man/Utd

    2. The only way for Arteta to survive and win back the fans is to play aggressive football without fear. Most of the time you watch Arsenal play and it feels like we are playing to save Arteta’s job, I think the message he has tried to get across is first option is not to lose for that if we have to draw the games then be it but in actual it has back fired as players are playing with fear and they try not to take risk hence most of them use the safe option when passing or no one wants to take responsibility on the ball so he can not be blamed. What he needs to do now is give players more freedom to express them selves, let them play with out fear n tell them to go out there enjoy their game n not think about the result. He also needs to stop controlling the game and shouting instruction too much from touch line. I am not saying he needs to back off completely but he needs calm him self a bit n stop being so control freak.

  5. I dont see why there cant be a balance, a good manager would find one.

    Is Artea good? Maybe, but too inexperienced at this level imo.

    I dont think he can turn it around and expect a bad December followed by his sacking.

  6. Thank you very much. This has been my cry since the season started. Most of us understood why he was playing too defensive and cautious when he came on last season. It was needed to steady the ship.
    But I thought this season would be different, he had had a half season last year and a full preseason at the start of this season, bought in a few of his own preferred players etc..

    We should be seeing a much improved team or a visible style of football he is trying to implement. We thought he had improved us defensively but even that has disappeared. Losing 3 home games in a row again the likes of Leicester, Aston Villa and Wolves is very concerning. These are the type of games we are supposed to pick up points. If you are not picking up points in Home games against the likes of Villa, Leicester and Wolves, then where do our next points come from? Away game where we have been struggling going as far back as Wengers later years here?

    We are in trouble if Arteta does not rally his troops as quick as possible.

    Lets see where we are come end of January.

  7. MA should trust the youth more, they have more hunger and passion to win the games. Play AMN, Elneny and ESR in the midfield, play Nelson, Nketiah/Balogun Auba upfront and see the difference it makes. Also in the central midfield, Willock/CEballos can come on as subs. He should allow players to express themselves freely and fully.

    1. How many times have we seen fans tell Arteta what he should be doing, only for him to implement that change with equally poor results? Play Auba down the middle, switch to a 4-3-3, bring in a solid DM, drop Laca, play Pepe, drop Pepe.

      When you’re not held accountable for your opinions, it’s easy to solve the world from your armchair. The simple fact is, 75% of the first team are barely premier League standard.

      1. Sorry sue your correct he has one more game to go, I think Pepe would make a great nó 10,he would have a lot more room and time on the ball he has a lovely left foot…

          1. Hope so sue, I’d like this team tomorrow night…. 4-4-1-1
            New GK
            Cedric mustafi mari. Kolas

            Nelson Amn Willock ESR


  8. I wonder how we would perform against Burnley. I don’t even know what to expect.


    Saka, Smith-Rowe, Nelson,

    Elneny, M-Niles,

    Tierney, Mari, Gabriel, Cedric,


    This selection can’t do any worse against Burnley.

    1. Let’s face it, if MA puts that squad out and gets mauled with another loss, he’s in for another hiding from the fans!!

      As much as we all want to see change (for the better), changing the team structure to that degree is dangerous. Although, unless you try you never know, I agree. But MA can do no right by everyone and is completely damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. We just have to except what he does.

  9. Feel for Arteta.

    In his opinion, as manager, in the last window he needed 2 further additions to the squad – Partey and Aouar.

    Only one was sanctioned.

    Klopp when faced with his particular dilemma he needed 2 additions to go straight into his first team- a central defender and goalkeeper.

    Both deals were funded and the players brought in.

    The rest is recent history (of course Liverpool had a much firmer base to build upon than we have).

    With the Partey deal done (M A clearly wanted Aouar first) the CLUBS COFFERS ran dry, leaving the other stone wall deal dead in the water as funds would have to have been provided from another source…… hmmmnnnn.

    Aouar was in the bag, and ours to loose- we did.

    We now bemoan a total lack of creativity.

    1. Completely agree!👍

      Our midfield is flat. MA neede Xhaka to stay because there was no one else. Xhaka was the best of a bad situation. Xhaka is not right for an attacking line up.

      1. If we have to depend on ‘creativity’ from Ceballos and Willock we really are in trouble. Willock is a hardworking player but I wouldn’t exactly describe him as creative. Imo Ceballos has done very little to justify a second loan spell at a reported £150k per week. We need a proper attacking midfielder like Szoboszlai particularly as we now have a world class DM in Partey but does he suit MA’s tactics? Probably not.

    2. They funded the players because they could sell Coutinho for £140m. Arsenal cannot even give away the crap at the team. I still think Arteta should have sold Xhaka and kept Torriera to partner partey. Even Guendouzi is an improvement on Xhaka.

  10. It’s about following orders, otherwise those who doesn’t follow the orders can be sidelined. How can we score goals whilst everyone is defending? If everyone has to defend, then it means that defenders are not good at their jod. Arteta is not a good tactician as you say

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