What are the key areas that Arteta needs to work on?

Some scrutiny for Arteta is required by Gurjit

The first thing I have to say is that I do have faith in Arteta and do hope he can be a success with us, however some pressure and scrutiny may well be what is needed for him to learn and adapt. This isn’t to say that this article is going to be what pushes him to do it, but I would think that the issues I have listed below reflect what is on a lot of fans minds, and will likely be on Mikel’s mind too as things he needs to work on and fix.

Mikel has done some good work with the squad and in particular we have been a much harder team to break down than in the past – there is however a number of questions around his choices and management of the squad – and the result with Aston Villa, albeit a very different Aston Villa to that which we played against under Wenger/Emery, has highlighted how bad some of these problems are (not to say they have not been absent in other games).

Formation – Arteta appears to favour a back 5 (or 3 depending on how you look at it) which appears to be his attempt to nullify the opponents attacking players and you could argue this has (mostly) worked. We do not appear to be easy to break down most of the time, but there are some big drawbacks to his use of the formation, the largest of which being we have very little attacking threat. This is something that could easily be seen in the game against Villa as we were over run in midfield repeatedly (especially after Partey’s departure). I personally have a huge problem with this as it is not our way of doing things – I’m not saying this because of some rigid belief in the attractiveness of football over results, but as someone who has grown up with Arsenal being the side that is going to go out and beat an opponent, not sit there and try nick a win. I would accept the formation in some games, but not as our first choice and not in a way that completely destroys our ability to be able to attack with the ball.

Midfield – let’s put the creativity to one side for now and have a look at how our midfield is meant to be balanced. Playing with a 5 at the back means only 2 midfielders and who is going to be in there – Partey has to be but who goes next to him? Elneny, who I do like, is not progressive enough. Ceballos can have good games but loses the ball a lot and is just not able to do enough in this formation. Realistically that leaves Xhaka, and I’m not sure why he isn’t playing. No he isn’t mobile, No he isn’t the best defensively, No he isn’t the most creative – but what he is, is reasonable mix of attributes that would work well with Partey. He’s a good playmaker and long passer of the ball and is tenacious enough to get stuck into a tackle. We do have options in Willock (good form but doesn’t offer loads) and Maitland-Niles, but I can’t see either of these two with a chances of starting.

Creativity – This is the biggest problem for me, and it is largely down to the formation that we play. Maybe at 27 I’m too young to have seen Arsenal play with anything other than a 3 in midfield, and too old to want this new system that has no dedicated attacking midfielders – but I do not see how we can progress through this season without this issue being solved. There needs to be some creativity from midfield, which is not going to happen with a base of Partey and Elneny, especially with so many of our players being out of form. In our current system the only way I can see us getting goals that are not set pieces is from working the ball in from the flanks – if that’s our only route it’s not going to take a genius to find us out. It’s completely understandable that if you want to play with a back 5 and 2 midfielders that there isn’t room for an attacking midfielder – but why would you want to do that? Is that the reason Ozil has not been included? As I see it, we lack creativity, and I mean to the point where our season is being risked on it, so why is our only option in this position (as Ceballos appears to play better deeper) not even able to compete for the squad? I don’t see how Arteta will be able to fix this in any significant way without a change to a 3 in midfield – this will then beg the question why we didn’t plan to ever play this way with Ozil out and no transfer in.

Front 3 – as much as we have had a problem in the middle of the park the front 3 would realistically stay consistent even if we changed our formation. Perhaps they would be better in that system but that doesn’t get away from what have been some concerning performances from the front. Lacazette can’t score and can’t create at the minute, so what is he still doing in the starting 11? I think he brings a lot to the table and having faith in a player is good, but at this point he should have to prove that he can start and not be guaranteed a spot. The same goes for Willian as he has had more poor games than good – again you could put it down to our formation, but even then, if you are having so many poor games you should not be starting week-in week-out. What front 3 would you play? Fans are calling out for Auba through the middle so why are we not able to try it. I’d go for Saka, Auba, Pepe. Saka had a great season assisting from the wings so maybe the freedom to attack would help him.

Scrutiny is what drives improvement and as much as I do like Arteta if there isn’t improvement in these areas, I’m not sure that my faith in him is well placed. There’s a long way to go and we certainly could improve a lot, but these are the key areas for me that need to be worked on – what are yours?


Tags Arteta


  1. We have not scored a single goal in an open play and you are looking for areas to improve?
    Between Arteta and Ozil we’ll see who leaves the Gunners first.

  2. Here is my 2 cents worth. I think if we step back and look at arteta he has done alot. He changed the mentality and improved defending. I think now is the time for arteta to pivot and oushbforward from what he has done. Lets get the true arsenal back. When we talk about arsenal you think or Bergkamp and Henry who were famous for their attacking football and that is what needs the work now.


    I think we need to go to 433. Our lack of options in the middle is evident and everyone knows it in terms if creativity I mean . So I say we have a quality LB in KT and 2 CBs gabriel and holding/luiz finally rb AMN/HB.

    In terms of midfirls I would play elnany and TP. I would have elnanay doing a demolition job a anchor man who hangs back and makes a back 3 almks even when we have the ball. So he is focused purely on defence and stopping any counter attack where we are often caught out. He should protect that back 2 at all costs.

    TPs roll would be to recycle the ball. He is a great athletic output and can help in both defence and attack and cover elnenay and slowly join the attack. We then have willock/ESR/ceballos. I dont really really ceballos and I think we should be ruthless and focus on our own players with the potential rather than a player who is going to and should leave at the end of the season. He should.be back up unless he can start creating and scoring. Anyway back to the CM/CAM roll. ESR and willock are both very hard working and have the legs to get up and down and join and start attacks . We have seen willock do it in europa and that is exactly what is missing .

    Front 3. Sak auba pep. – saka will have to work less in order to create space and passes etc. He can even start adding some more goals. Auba will finish these chances that lacca cant. Pepe – i think he needs an arm around him and working with. He reminds me of a young TH. Yes king TH did not always score beautiful classy goals at the start. Wenger gradually moulded him into a goal machine and honed his raw talent. And thats what is needed with pepe. We have seen him pull off so much quality and play crap the rest of the game somits definitely in there.

    So over all I think a slight formation change is needed and change in players. For me laccs should have been sold and should be sold in jan. Maybe we can trade him for aour lol. He have Gabrielle and Nketia. I still beleive nketia is on a simular level to lacca but nketia can atleast improve as he is still young. The guy is a goal machine at u23 level and has been solid at championship level. He just needs to transition things. Perhaps another loan is in order with martinelli in the winds.

  3. Nice article. I agree with you on almost everything.
    This selection won’t be bad at all.

    Saka, Aubameyang, Pepe,


    Elneny, Partey,

    Tierney, Gabriel, Holding, Niles.


    This selection should be productive. With a consistent run of games Smith-Rowe and Pepe will improve and they will all click as a strong unit.

  4. I always believe if a top player is given time and space he will create havoc.Thats what Grealish did. Rashford was touted as a dangerman.
    Whenever he had the ball he was quickly marked not by one gunner ,but 2 more lurking near him.
    Our danger men were stifled .Hopefully against LU,they will regain their scring touch

  5. It’s Arteta’s fault.
    He need to stop being too defense minded. This is a new season with new players. Let them express themselves a bit more.
    Being too cautious against each and every team is p!ssing me off.
    He needs to relax for a bit. He looks too tense.

    Come on Arteta.

  6. Arsenal’s biggest problem is the fans.We all know Arteta has improve our defence so far.which was our main issue.I am confident he will improve the midfield and gradually the attack.It doesn’t take one day.

    1. Improved defence, you must be talking about having best defence in league for just 7 games and on right game we lost that too. You lose by 1 goal or 3 goals it’s still a loss and you don’t get points for it. You can not use this statement of better defence as an argument until we have reached the end or have played more then half a season. Because than according to this logic spuds Lecister are EPL winner and South Hampton have qualified for champions League.

  7. How about starting with playing with out the hand brake. We saw that against Man United and in few games last season as well…that we can play beautiful football and put some points in the tabel as well. Why we don’t do this on regular basis is beyond me. MA is too cautious and defensive in his mind set as a result we are not only lossing points but viewership as well. We need to remember why most of us became fan of Arsenal because if the playing style we had, we need to return to our roots. He needs to balance between putting his foot down and giving some slack, he is a manager not a principle of school. I am not against him putting his foot down but he needs to learn when to. Also a lot of the fans do feel he is more inclined in providing chances to his signings or players he favours over others…so he is benching players by saying they are not performing in training and matches where as the ones he is selecting are actually performing worse, how about Willian for an example. MA is under pressure and so he should be …like any manager in world specially at big clubs, you don’t turn up with results you lose the job. I do not agree with arguments he is young and learning, what are we a geni pig? I know everyone learns on the job but you just polish off ur skills not keep learning everything in job and produce nothing. He sold himself as a person to deal with crisis at Arsenal and bring us success as he knew what he was walking into so neither MA nor his supporters can use this as an excuse. You said you can do the job now you need to deliver. We are not here to sit and let him go through learning process while we remain a mess.

  8. MA need to come down to earth and realize that he is just an ordinary human. Success breeds arrogance. The FA Cup made him to be arrogant. The defeat to Villa will instill humanity into him. Learning under Guardiola does not make him Guardiola under 3 years.

    He must first of all accept that he does not know all.

    His stubborn attachment to some players even when they are not delivering is a show of naked arrogance.

    Willian and Nketia aren’t delivering. Why the stubborn attachment to them? Tierney is an RB and Saka is RW. Auba is CF. Why the exuberance in playing in make shift positions?

    Give Pepe the chance to express himself. You can even see when he scores that he is not happy. Allow him to drift into the middle and 18 area where he is likely to be unmarked and more deadly.

    MA’s micro-management style is killing the boys. Allow these boys to be themselves within certain parameters.

    Until MA realizes that the game of football does not start and end with him AFC is doomed.

  9. A most readable article containing much thought, whether or not we agree with all it says. Mostly I do and would certainly now drop LACA – HE HAS HAD MORE THAN ENOUGH CHANCE TO SHOW HIS WARES BUT HAS COME UP SHORT, AND I ALSO WOULD TRY TO OFFLOAD HIM NEXT SUMMER.
    As for Willian, I feel he is caught between his natural attacking instincts and the team ethic of putting defending as the top priority.

    We need far more creativity and though Ozil is a NOT sensible option, as he is way past it(which his private fan club , stuck in the past, will never accept), we do need someone to picks passes as he used to do “ONCE UPON A TIME”! I know this, as a student of ancient history!!

    I’d play SAKA behind Pepe as central striker with Willian wide right and Auba left.

  10. Quite simply Arteta manages like he played; overly cautious, slow scripted movement, and low risk build-up. Very static based positioning rather thanfreely expressing talents and attacking football.
    It’s the comfortable approach he’s comfortable with, and he’s as risk adverse of a manager as he was a player. Control is what he understands, and unleashing the players means he can’t script or control flow and he avoids it.

  11. Rely on different players and take some risks. ESR should be in Europa games, but instead he seems to just not be in the picture. Saliba decision making has been disastrous. Willock hasn’t been given a proper chance this season. He’s the only midfielder willing to run into space and move defenses around. I dont think Arteta is completely working with what he has. And he’s got to let the players on the pitch just play. I konw he likes to should during the whole 90 minutes but maybe this is doing more harm.

  12. A well presented article which covers the areas of concern.A switch from the current 3-4-3 system is top of my personal agenda.Whether this involves a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 set up matters not as long as we are not outnumbered in midfield where the game is invariably won or lost .Arteta has a number of talented youngsters at his disposal who could bring, skill, pace and energy to the team and I do hope the likes of Saliba, AMN and the impressive Willock, are given an opportunity against Leeds..Like JonF, I too feel the time has come to leave out Laca and Willian who have failed to perform thus far.

  13. Arsenal should not buy any more new players for a while. Arteta should try to figure out how to manage the game better, try to move the ball forward instead of passing side wise or back wards. Drop Lacazette and play Pepe. Do opposition research to determine strengths and weaknesses. Communicate with players for their input and develop strategies accordingly.

  14. So many tacticians here yet non applied for the job when it became available. If tomorrow Arteta put in Ozil and we got bettered, you all will turn an blame him. For gods sake how many goal has Ozil created for the past 3 seasons? Who is the creative midfielder in Liverpool?, Arteta is trying to find the best balance between defense and attack and while he’s doing that, he wants to remain competitive. Open up too much and he will score goals and also concede loads. The league is not like before. All the teams now have good players and managers and the quality of our players is not far from that of Westham and Aston villa. So let’s stop wallowing in the past . we have to be patient and allow the man to work. We are not going to win the league this season or next. It will be a long journey back to the top.

  15. I am afraid Leeds could be a Villa repeat. They play very well and without inhibitions. They score goals and if they have a good defensive day we are in for a fight.
    Arteta needs to get off the control freak wagon and let the players do the talking. He can provide organization and structure when we don’t; have the ball but we need to play better with the ball to create chances. The Wenger teams were a machine at creating chances and if they had some defensive prowess we would have 5 titles like Chelsea . Too bad Steve Bould could not coach the way he played.

  16. The problem is in Arteta’s character. He is suffocating the players. In trying to control every aspect of a match the players have become devoid of spontaneous self-expression. Arteta free yourself and you will free the players. Be spontaneous.

  17. A good article and to the point. We need to express ourselves, attack freely and break the shackles. MA needs to take the responsibility for this and the buck stops with him. He cannot make excuses now. We need to play 433 formation and go for it, the Arsenal style. My line up would be:
    Bellerin Gabriel Louis Tierney
    Partey Elneny
    Pepe Auba Saka
    Unleash the attack and see what the players give you. They will give you goals and points. MA should change the formation asap.

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs