The Arteta tactical revolution continues in Fulham masterclass

If you’re like me and you grew up watching Arsene Wenger, Arsenal are tactically fascinating to watch under Arteta. That’s zero-disrespect meant towards the greatest manager in our history. Yet Mr Wenger had such strong principles about how the game should be played he rarely adjusted his tactics, no matter the opposition.

That could be because the Frenchmen had created such talented players he didn’t need to adapt. When you had the likes of Henry, Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp, etc, it allows you to stick to your ethos.

In 2020 our current coach hasn’t had that luxury, inheriting a squad who would go on to finish in their worst League Position in 25 years.

The Spaniard was smart enough to realise not everything he inherited was perfect. Yet he continues to demonstrate that while you might not have the better players, you can still win if you work harder.

His long-term ambition probably isn’t to play a back 5 or allow the likes of Liverpool and Man City to dominate possession, yet he’s found a system to give his current resources the best chance for success.

So, every passing week I feel like I learn or see something new from Arsenal. There’s an identity that we never had under Emery.

I already knew how Tierney has perfected the role of being a centre back yet knowing when the time is right to bomb down the left wing, and we have seen for a while how Aubameyang will start out wide, but time when it’s right to pop up in the middle.

Yet this weekend we again saw the players continue to learn new things. First what was so noticeable was how high we pushed up. It meant that Xhaka and Elneny, meant to be our two DM’s, joined in attacks when Fulham lost the ball. I then saw how Maitland Niles may have been convinced to stay. There was talk he didn’t want to play full back, yet clearly he has been shown that the system will allow him to, when the time is right, move into his favoured midfield role.

It was genius to watch our movement at Fulham. At one point in an attack, our CB was on the left wing, our left back was in attacking midfield, our left midfielder was up front, our striker had come deep, Willian had a free role. The way we moved off the ball made it impossible for the opposition to follow. To get the players to do that, to believe it’s possible not to stick to one position, to alternate between on/off the ball, it all takes man management.

Unai Emery wouldn’t have managed to get players doing that.

I watched the game with the fake crowd noise, but I have been told if you had the option turned off, you could hear Arteta throughout the 90 minutes instructing his players in different languages.

Any of you who think I’m judgemental on our owners, it’s only because I think we have someone special in Arteta and believe if Stan Kroenke had that desire to take that next step, we could do something special with this manager.

So, manage expectations.

Anyone predicting a title challenge will just be disappointed in March or April and suddenly we put Arteta under unfair pressure.

Take little steps and enjoy the gradual progress. Because if we show patience and the Kroenke Family some ambition, we might have someone special in our dugout.



  1. I think just his man management skills alone set him apart from what we have seen before his celebrations with the players after the fa cup victory in the changing rooms was fantastic to see and the players have a respect for him and his ideas .
    Like you say Dan he is getting that bit more out of players that Emery would never have been able to do as we all witnessed .
    He’s been really impressive so far especially having to pick up the pieces left over from Our worst manager in our history so it was always going to take time to turn it back around but he’s done it quicker than anyone expected .
    Yesterday was a great start and it should now give us that confidence to kick on and get a top 4 spot come end of season ,a few more players in (if that’s what he needs )then we could go even higher .

    1. Your worst Manager in history went 21 matches unbeaten in his 1st season. But now we have Arteta and he’s doing a great job. Watching us now when out of possession – versus then under Wenger – is an education in itself.

      1. That was the luckiest run the club has ever had staying unbeaten. We scraped games to draw, threw away 2goal leads and the wins were not convincing at all bar maybe 3 results we played well.

        Emery had no clue what he was doing at Arsenal. Nice guy and not a bad manager just English Football wasnt for him. In spain he will do well as hes Spanish and can give his instructions freely knowing he will be understood.

        Arteta has 10+Years experience as a captain winning player, winning prem titles as assistant manager and already won 2 trophies in his 1st 8months as manager… all in England.

        Experience is key in the Premier League, Speaking fluent English is another and no game is easy from 20th-1st but a club like Arsenal should be doing so much better when we were under Emery. Bottled Top4 when we had it in our hands and bottled EL Final in that same season.

        1. Arsenal would have got top four except for an Aubameyang missed penalty (all players miss, but that was critical) and an offside goal awarded to Spurs. As far as Emery bottling it, what about the players?
          Emery’s biggest problems were his poor English communication skills, the lack of support he got to get the players he wanted and the injury toll.
          It will be interesting to see how Marcello Bielsa, an excellent manager, who doesn’t tolerate fools gladly, fares in the EPL with Leeds United using an interpreter?
          Mikel Arteta is doing very well in his own right. It dismays me that people have to denigrate his predecessor, just to somehow lift Arteta further. Mikel Arteta doesn’t need such support, as he is his own man. Shouldn’t everyone stop looking back and move on, looking to the future.
          Dan rightly mentions that Arsenal must give Arteta the support he needs in the transfer market to obtain the players he wants. Three players come to mind Partey, Aouar and Edouard.
          Ravi and Edu have recently stated that Arsenal has the funds to buy players they want without selling, yet prior to that Arsenal used lack of funds as an excuse for laying off staff, whose total wages amounted to £2 million per year. Why not just state that Arsenal had become over staffed and needed to restructure? Also Arsenal is procrastinating over the €50 million buy out for Partey and the €60 million Lyon wants for Aouar. Who is telling the truth and what is the correct state of Arsenal’s finances?

  2. We have improved massively under Arteta though I could still need some consistence away from home and that’s what I’ll be on the lookout this season Fulham was a good start on to anfield next.

  3. I have no expectations for the season . But to see good football again from our team . Great article and observations .

  4. Good article Dan.It’s difficult for Arteta to switch from a system which is proving effective , although I too feel he will eventually deploy a 4-3-3 set up if he secures the players he is thought to be after.I cannot believe he would have bought the impressive Gabriel with a view to using him in the centre of a back three, but injuries have forced his hand and Holding and Tierney have done well in what is not their natural positions.Like you and many others, I feel we have the right man at the helm.

  5. Watch out for penalties at Anfield. No tactics in the World beat a penalty in the 90th minute.
    It’s about time to find another way to punish fouls in the 18 yard box. Soccer is a game with few goals, and the penalty can change everything in a game, and in the competition for the title. The free kick from eleven meters is obviously to tempting for characters with a “spacious” conscience. Players and leaders.
    For me this behavior is ruin the sport. I always stop watching when one of the Bollywood starlets manipulate the referee to a misjudgement of that kind. The match is over. It’s dead.

    1. Robert, if VAR was properly implemented without the malevolent influence of Mike Riley, diving (simulation) would be properly punished and penalties fairly awarded.
      Changing the penalty rules in force for many generations is not the answer.

  6. The absolute best thing i like with Arteta is he likes 3 at the back and he is taking this team forward with forward thinking. If we get the right midfield we can jump too top four contenders easily, the defence (yes defence) is looking far better all ready and our attack is as good as anyone elses, if it wants to be.

  7. Where is Lehman? Is he still the goalkeeper coach. If you listen to the English commentators when it comes to penalties when they refer to the goalkeeper guessing right or wrong. I believe its not about guessing. Take a lesson from the German goalkeepers. I would recommend to goalkeepers to watch the ball and rely on your reflexes.

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