2 weeks under Mikel Arteta – What has actually changed?

Structure

The biggest criticism of Unai Emery’s Arsenal was the lack of structure.

He chopped and changed the formation so often that it was clear that he did not know how he wanted the team to play. And this translated onto the pitch as players did not know what their job was.

Our game lacked structure. Where we playing counter attacking football? Possession based football? High pressing football? A lack of cohesiveness led to gaps between defence and midfield, midfield and attack. We could not defend. We could not score goals.

Just a couple of games in and it is clear what Mikel Arteta is doing.

It starts with the formation. 4231. And then carries through to style of play.

Arteta clearly wants the team compact in defence with the team pressing as one. Not much space between the forward line and defence, it squeezes the oppositions around the half way line.

It takes energy and high fitness levels; something which will be addressed over time as players adapt to what Arteta wants.

Once Arteta has sorted out the defensive structure of the side, he can then move onto the way we attack.

Desire to win the ball back

Under Unai Emery it was too easy to get to Arsenal’s back 4 and get a shot on target. When we conceded as many shots on target as we did, it would only be a matter of time until one flew in.

The biggest problem is we did not defend as a team. There was not a desire to win the ball back from the forwards through to the defence.

Manchester City and Liverpool are successful due to their ability to win the ball back. The opponents can not score if they can not get out of their own half. Win the ball in the opponent’s half and you are already half way to goal.

From Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up top through to the midfield and defence, every Arsenal player is now putting in 100% commitment to win the ball back.

A key change has been the return of Lucas Torreira in the middle of the park.

Getting Ozil ticking

It is only a couple of games in and we know Mesut Ozil can turn his form on and off like a tap, but in the last 2 games against Chelsea and Manchester United Ozil has performed well.

Ozil is clearly an emotional player and needs a manager who will put an arm around him, tell him that he loves him and that everything will be OK.

His big drop in form came off the back of heavy criticism playing for Germany, much of it with an undertone of racism.

At the same time he went from having a manager who spoke his language and cared for him in Arsene Wenger to Unai Emery, who comes across as a very cold manager.

A big criticism of Emery at PSG was the way he treated his star players. He struggled with Neymar’s ego (but who doesn’t?) and quickly lost the dressing room. Emotional intelligence is clearly not Emery’s strong point.

Arteta has clearly learnt from the likes of Wenger and Pep Guardiola as to how to deal with players. And it is working for Ozil. For now.

Players feel wanted

It is not only Ozil who feels wanted, but it is clear the entire squad have also bought into Arteta.

Man management is as equally as important as good coaching. The No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. In football it is not easy to quit, so players tend to down tools, their performance drops.

To be a success players and management need to be working in unison.

After every game, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola make a point of going onto the pitch and shaking every players hand as they come off. An arm around the shoulder of a player disappointed with his performance. A high five with a player who has done well. It makes players feel wanted.

If you want to be a success, players need to buy into what you are trying to do as a manager. They will only do this if they have bought into you as a person.

The way Arteta has got the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles playing well in such a short period of time shows that the players like him. They believe in him.

The way Arteta spoke about Granit Xhaka after the Manchester United game sums it up. He has made the Swiss man feel wanted again. On the verge of leaving, Arteta rates him, thinks he is a key player, and has made his feelings clear on the matter.

Gone are the newspaper rumours that senior players were unhappy with Arteta’s appointment, everyone is pulling as one.


We should not go OTT over Mikel Arteta. The Emirates crowd had a similar positive bounce following Unai Emery taking over from Arsene Wenger. But the signs are good,

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