Tag Archives: She Wore a Yellow a Ribbon

Mikel Arteta more Rafa Benitez than Pep Guardiola

Each manager is his own person, has his own style, his own way of doing things. No two managers are the same, although many are similar in terms of philosophy.

Take Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola.

Both have a similar outlook on the game. Passing football heavily influenced by Johan Cruyff’s Ajax and Barcelona teams.

In Mikel Arteta, we assumed we were getting a man cut from a similar cloth.

Arteta had come through the Barcelona youth system, before a career that saw him play in 4 different countries.

He would play for, and captain, Arsenal under Wenger before joining Guardiola’s coaching set-up at Manchester City.

It is therefore a surprise to many that Arteta’s Arsenal more resemble a George Graham side rather than a Wenger.

Tough to break down. Defence first. Few chances created.

As well as Graham, Arteta’s playing style is very similar to one of his and Guardiola’s countrymen – Rafa Benitez  .

Throughout Benitez’s career, his sides have sacrificed attacking flair for solidity.

Benitez’s squads are usually renowned for their defensive nature and low number of goals scored against them.

With just 7 goals conceded this season, Arsenal have the best defensive record in the league. A huge shift from conceding 150 league goals in the previous 3 seasons.

Benitez  would set his team up to exploit opposition weaknesses, something which Arteta also does and has seen his side beat Liverpool 3 times, Manchester United twice and both Chelsea and Manchester City once.

Benitez would also play key players in unorthodox positions to suit a formation. Think Steven Gerrard playing as a winger.

Under Arteta Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been used predominantly as a winger, whilst Kieran Tierney has played as centre back. Winger Bukayo Saka has played more in a full back or wing back position than in a forward role.

At this point, some fans might be feeling a little down, a little cheated. That we have potentially recruited a Rafa Benitez rather than a Pep Guardiola.

But that is unfair on Benitez.

In a 12 year period managing Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli, Benitez won 12 trophies including the Champions League, 2 La Liga league titles, 2 UEFA Cup’s, 2 domestic cups and 5 super cups.

If in a dozen years time, Arteta has that sort of trophy haul whilst at Arsenal, his name will rightly be mentioned alongside the likes of Herbert Chapman, George Graham and Arsene Wenger.

The key difference between Benitez and Guardiola is the elder Spaniard very rarely found himself in charge of the richest side in the league (bar a spell as Real Madrid manager).

Benitez had to adapt to make Valencia competitive in Spain, winning 2 La Liga titles.

Liverpool made 2 Champions League finals in 3 years under Benitez, winning one. It was during a period when Liverpool had fallen away from being a European powerhouse.

Likewise for in Italy he never managed the richest sides in the league (Juventus, AC Milan) but still won 3 trophies in 2 years.

In just 11 months, including a break for Covid19, Arteta has already led his side to 2 trophies.

It might not be the free flowing Guardiola / Wenger football we hoped for, but there are many ways to skin a cat. Many different ways to win a trophy.

I am still confident that as our improved defensive stability continues, we will begin to improve at the other end of the pitch.

And if playing Benitez style defensive football does become Arteta’s trademark, then so be it if he continues to lead his team to trophies.

No one complained about George Graham’s Arsenal when we were winning titles!

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Gentleman’s agreement opens door to Monreal exit from Arsenal

The news that Nacho Monreal is off to Real Sociedad is a surprise for many after he started all 3 of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season, but there is a clear and obvious explanation in his departure this summer.

Monreal quietly renewed his contract for an extra year earlier this year. There were rumours that it was done, but no announcement, no fanfare.

It was only really confirmed on the last day of the seasons when the club said goodbye to Pete Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck. Monreal did not get the big goodbye.

There seems to be an agreement between the Spaniard and the Arsenal hierarchy when he signed on for another year.

Arsenal were targeting a new left back, but wanted Monreal to stay on just incase they could not secure their man.

Monreal was happy to stay, but also wanted to play. If a new left back came in he would be 3rd choice, with Sead Kolasinac staying at the club.

So an agreement was struck.

Monreal would sign a new one year deal, but if Arsenal signed a new left back, they would accept any reasonable offers for their loyal servant.

Once Kieran Tierney was signed, time was ticking down on Monreal’s Arsenal career.

At 33, the curtain is clearly coming down on Monreal’s career. But he still wants to play football.

The easy option would have been to stay at Arsenal for another 1 or 2 years, not playing and banking millions. But Monreal is a proper professional.

Signed from Malaga in January 2013 for £8.5m, Monreal quickly became a fan favourite.

A defensive full back in an era of attacking players, did not have the pace of a Gael Clichy. However he was a better defender and put in a better cross.

He saw off the challenge of Kieran Gibbs and has played 250 times for Arsenal.

Even when Kolasinac came in, he never complained. He raised his game, regained his place and even reinvented himself as a central defender on the left of a 4 as Arsenal won the FA Cup.

He returns to Spain knowing that he made the most of his talent. He leaves with his head held high knowing he was heavily involved in 3 FA Cup wins and 250 games.

The fact he agreed to a new deal despite knowing Arsenal were trying to replace him shows his character.

He was willing to sacrifice a move to Spain to help the club out. To delay things for a year just in case Arsenal couldn’t sign a defender. It would have been easier to turn that contract down and move.

I wish him well in Spain in the twilight of his career and he leaves knowing that he has contributed to The Arsenal and is always welcome back.

Nacho, thanks for the memories.


Why haven’t Arsenal signed a senior centre back?

“We need defenders” is the reply by many to posts about Nicolas Pepe.

Some Arsenal fans are confused as to why we are spending big on one of the most exciting attacking players in Europe whilst neglecting a creaking defence which still contains Shkodran Mustafi. The answer is simple.

Arsenal need to sell before they can buy.

We do not need to sell because we need the money; we need to sell because we have too many defenders.

Shkodran Mustafi
Rob Holding
Laurent Koscielny
Calum Chambers
Kostadinos Mavropanos

As it stands, we have 6 central defenders in our senior squad.

Now you can moan about the quality of those, and any moaning would be justified, but the problem Arsenal face is were we to buy a new face without selling, it would leave us with 7 centre backs. Last season we had 5.

In a balanced squad, you do not need 7 central defenders. Five is probably the maximum.

Last season we went into the season with 5 centre backs: Sokratis, Mustafi, Holding, Koscielny & Mavropanos. Chambers spent the season on loan at Fulham.

Mavropanos played just 4 games all season, despite Holding & Koscielny both having long absences and Arsenal going to 3 at the back at times. Holding started just 9 Premier League games.

We clearly do not need 7 centre backs.

So Arsenal need to sell before they can buy, which is easier said than done.

Before pre-season started, Arsenal would have been looking to move on Chambers and Mustafi – the pair would have commanded over £40million between them.

This would have left Arsenal with 4 centre backs – Sokratis (who would start), Holding (who is injured), Koscielny (who is a faded force) and Mavropanos (unproven), leaving us plenty of space for a 5th choice to partner Sokratis.

Fast forward a year, Koscielny leaves and William Slaiba comes in to replace him.

And then Koscielny decided he no longer wanted to play for Arsenal, leaving the best laid plans in ruins.

With Koscielny likely to leave, it means Arsenal have to keep hold of either Chambers or Mustafi. The clubs preference is likely Chambers as he is:

  1. Home grown
  2. Younger
  3. More versatile

The problem is no bids have come in for Mustafi, and this is what is causing the club staff a head ache.

If Arsenal could get rid of Mustafi, they could then go ahead and sign a new central defender. That would then allow us to give Koscielny his wish – a return to France.

As it stands, Mustafi is going nowhere, which will leave Arsenal having to sell Chambers or, worst case scenario, keep both and lose Koscielny