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Tactics Explained: Mikel Arteta at Arsenal

The Arsenal faithful have been very much full of praise since Mikel Arteta took over in December 2019. 

After watching Pep Guardiola’s influence on Manchester City and Mikel Arteta playing a massive role as the assistant of the Spanish master tactician, the hype from Arsenal fans has been real, but let’s have an in-depth look at how it is getting fans excited at the Emirates stadium.

Since taking over from Freddie Ljungberg, Arteta’s standout result has to be beating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates. We saw a similar pattern of play from Pep Guardiola’s Man City, when Bosnian left back Sead Kolašinac entered the box to pull the ball back towards Nicolas Pepe for Arsenal’s opening goal. This was an example of what Arteta worked with at Man City with the likes of Leroy Sane & Raheem Sterling acting as inside forwards and being there when City’s full backs progress into the opposition’s half. 

In a starting 4-2-3-1, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal look to build in a 2-4-4 with the centre backs at the base. As a line breaking pass is about to happen, the typical front four often sees Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette drop off the line and the wingers push high and wide, resembling more of a 2-2, thus creating more diagonal passing lanes to help with ball progression. Once they’ve gained enough territory, Arsenal transition into their 2-3-5 attacking shape, much like Pep’s City. Whilst the shape is the same, there are differences in the roles.

In the absence of a progressive defensive midfielder, Arteta has used David Luiz as his main ball progressor, allowing defensive midfielders Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka to focus on their respective ball winning and playmaking responsibilities.

What’s interesting is the 4-2-3-1 which shifts to a 2-3-5 with the front five made up of the left back, an inside forward, a striker, a playmaker and an inverted winger is exactly what Pep Guardiola is starting to implement more and more of at City as he looks to evolve his side.

Against Aston Villa, Pep’s front five rotated with both De Bruyne and David Silva taking in turns to move into the front five.

Will Mikel Arteta be successful as Arsenal manager?