Paul Merson warns Arsenal about their playing approach under Mikel Arteta

Paul Merson is worried about Arsenal’s obsession with playing from the back after the Gunners were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool in their last Premier League game.

Since Mikel Arteta became the club’s manager, the Spaniard has encouraged his players to be fearless in their approach to the game and the Gunners have been playing from the back for much of the time.

They played that way against Liverpool who are solid on the high press and the Gunners struggled to keep Liverpool’s fast attackers at bay.

Watching that game, Merson reckons that Arteta’s side has to change their approach, otherwise when they face top sides, they will be eaten alive.

He likened the situation to walking into a lion cage at the zoo with a lorry load of steaks, which he reckons is a sure way to get eaten alive.

He said as quoted by Mirror Football: “There is some improvement and on the other hand they are playing against the best team in the country and if not the best team in Europe after Bayern Munich.

“When they go after, you just… it’s like going to Woburn Zoo next week and walking into the lions’ cage with a lorry load of steaks. You’re going to get eaten alive aren’t you?

“If you stay in your car you are going to be alright and that’s what it was.

“They are playing that way away to Liverpool, they are the best in the business. If they are going to keep playing that way there is only one result.”

Arsenal has enjoyed some success with their current approach to the game and it is unlikely that it will be changed any time soon.

Tags Paul Merson


  1. I didn’t seem him complaining about it when it got us the goal against City in the Semi.
    Didn’t see him make a fuss when it worked against Chelsea and even led to the goal against Liverpool in the final.
    He’s just one of them Agenda must Agend boys.
    Say crap when it makes them feel good.
    Of course it’s dangerous to play that way against Liverpool because they’re the best at pressing, but it’s stupid to say we need to change that approach even against the rest of the big boys.
    He’d prefer we boot the ball up field every time to the opponent when we have no target man to win the ball?

    Highbury Hero, I’m just understanding your quote the other day “Being dumb comes with the description & requirements of being a pundit”

      1. Bruv i’m being sensitive with whatever I post regarding transfers for now.
        If anything new springs up I’ll post it but nope no update today.
        It’s match day

    1. Eddie I will like to ask you what you think have changed with our playing out from the back, at the end of last season, it worked so well for us, even in the community shield it worked fine, so what do you think have changed now.

      1. I don’t think anything have changed, I think the pressure from fans that something has changed is because Leno is more daring with the ball than Martinez.
        Towards ending of last season, we moved had lots of passes at the back, only thing is pressure wasn’t there because Martinez is someone who quickly let’s go of the ball.
        But under Leno he invites pressure to himself and draws out opponents closer to him before passing.
        I think that’s where the misconception that we’re bad at it is coming from.
        The main point of playing from the back is to draw out your opponents to your box, exposing their midfield

    2. This is how teams play now ,as was said we have beaten the top teams by playing out from the back we all remember the goal against city in the semi final, merson wants us to go route one like a George Graham side but it’s all about possession

  2. Time will tell but even pep used the same approach in his first season at man city and they could make errors which led goals

    1. I did too Sue but it still gives me the jitters at times. I remember when I played (a bloody long time ago) the golden rule was to never pass across your box, and now it’s the done thing.
      Anyway don’t you think it’s a bit foolish letting players go, like Torreira, when it’s unlikely anyone is coming in?

      1. It does me at times, Declan… but that even went back to when Cech was with us.
        I guess teams see it as one of our weaknesses and exploit it (Watford, anyone? 😄). If we stick with it, I’m sure it’ll improve! 🙈😂
        Yes, very foolish, Declan! I can’t believe all this time and the window is almost done…. and nothing!!

  3. I still have some hope, can see minimum of 2 players join Arsenal before deadline. Partey/Jorginho to join Arsenal, watch this space. More hope than fact though lol.

  4. I’d rather put my faith in Arteta rather than Merson thanks. If we want Arsenal to be great we have to expect calculated risks on the pitch (especially if, as it appears, there will be no calculated risks in the transfer market this window)

  5. 6 wins from 11 games against top teams, and 4 wins from 5 so far this season, with a poor squad…I would suggest Arteta’s approach is working very well.

  6. Who would av though Leeds would be out spending us. 35 million and we think we or a 4 top team more like bottom 4 if we or lucky

    1. Tom Leeds had 7 shots on target against city yesterday, had 8 against Liverpool the other day and we only had 1 against Liverpool team b, the players we have are not that bad, we just need to be brave and attack better. I just pray we buy a very strong Dm and we will be unstoppable.

  7. Can the so called pundits leave Arteta to be the coach of Arsenal with his playing philosophy please, when Arsenal win they say nothing about our playing style but when we lose they too vocal. Win or lose i say we stick to the same playing style…they can all go jump in the sea for all we care

    1. malesela, and Mikel Arteta will be judged on his performance as Arsenal manager, not the pundits. It’s his decisions which count, not the pundits. How many of them have been successful managers?

  8. Paul Marson was absolutely right in warning the defence, or Leno or Arteta or the bench on their insistence in deploying such a suicidal approach to building from the back in all circumstances. Shenel also said so much against this system a couple of days earlier advising that, playing out from the back is costing us, and putting us under unnecessary pressure. I agree with them in it’s entirety based on my hindsight & foresight dimensions . If their warnings on the disaster lurking in the corners to happen with this approach is yet to happen now, we must not loose sight of such disasters that happened in the past & it’s bound to happen if they persist. As we saw in the past, this approach cost us some goals under Peter Chek & perhaps Leno too under Unai who insisted on its usage, whom it was, that introduced that unsuitable strategy to Arsenal. It’s therefore not correct, as some people insinuated in their write ups, that, that suicidal & brainless so called modern style of building from the back was Arsenal’s style of play. No. That’s never been Arsensl’s style before the coming of Unai. Recall, Peter Chek was very very uncomfortable with it, especially when it came to using his legs in passing the ball to his defense. Leno however, on taking over had a better use of his legs. Agreed that Arsene Wenger’s teams did build their attacks from the back, right through the midfield, but it was definitely, not anything close to this brainless suicidal fashion. I stand to be corrected though. We should also all recall that it became quite apparent that we did not have the defensive players that could comfortably execute such a system when it was introduced by Unai. It instantly became unsuitable & disastrous, because Arsenal lacked the kind of defensive players that were suitable for it’s adaption. You need to have very solid defensive players, who are not only physically & mentally strong but possess the skills & above all else, self esteem & solid confidence in themselves. So it was a disaster under Unai as the players from Chek to other defenders were usually very uncomfortable, with the ball, jittery & lacked the mental ability to move the ball out of their 18′ with precision. Bad story to tell for Unai era. What has been the situation under Arteta? Did anything change in the use of this strategy under him? I can’t see much. Initially, it appeared Arteta wanted to drop it’s use, when he took over as we didn’t see it’s rigid application, before now. It wasn’t so much enforced on the players particularly when Martinez was deputizing. There was less pressure on the defence, since he made sure he varied it’s application to suit the occasion on hand. We were always very comfortable with him in goal. Whatever that happened or dramatically changed since Leno took back his seat, is best known to him & Arteta for ferociously going back to Unai era in the use of that unsuitable strategy. If truth must be told, we still don’t have the kind of back for that system. With tentative defender as Holding in there, & slow David Luiz, it’s just a matter of time. The LiverP match & other matches since Leno took over did not enthuse any confidence in anyone, due to his insistence on applying the strategy even when it was glaring that the situation was not right. In the league match with LiverP in which we lost 3-1, their players pinned our players deep into their defence line almost without any space in the 18′ for the Arsenal players to comfortably push out or manuever the ball with precision out of their defenceline, it was therefore, very crazy & naive for Leno to insist on that suicidal approach. Simply put, Leno should have used his common sense in such tight occasions to play out the ball into or behind the midfield for our strike force to connect. In the second match, the Carabao, I could observe that Leno applied some modicum of common sense on some few occasions by playing the ball wide, but none of such kicks ever reached their targets to be of any use. My take in all this, therefore is that while not calling on Arteta to outrightly jettison the use of the so called modern system of building from the back, in its entirety, if it’s his wish, I will admonish that it is not rigidly or religiously applied by Leno as he did in the LiverP matches. It was quite brainless of him. Martinez was smart enough to know when to apply the breaks. It would appear, though, the defence was on strict instructions from the bench to apply it in whatever circumstance, as I observed that as soon as Leno was about to initiate play, two defenders would pronto take their positions at the back with LiverP players not far off waiting to block their paths, for possible commitment of forced errors by our players, which they most often did. What is going for Leno is his exceptional reflexes. It’s just a matter of time that these forced errors could however lead into goals as they did in the past.

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