The high expectations of people can sometimes kill a good vibe. However, it is part of human nature to expect and want more. That being understood, a section of the fanbase tends to forget that progress doesn’t come in a uniform upward curve. There will always be ups and downs due to the lack of certainty, with certain segments of uniformity and stagnation. That has been the case with Arsenal under Mikel Arteta, in his first full season.
Many fans have criticized the novice manager for the lack of managerial skills and vision. They have targetted the fact that the club does not have the ambition to get in an experienced guy for the job. However, some of the facts are different with regards to the performance of the team. Though it is a fact that the Gunners may end the season without a trophy, things are quite contrary to what the #ArtetaOut fanbase thinks.
The Transition From Pragmatic To Progressive Play And How Mikel Arteta Has Finally Got A Formation To Work At Arsenal
The fans would remember the fact that Mikel Arteta ended the previous campaign on a high. After taking over from former boss Unai Emery and interim manager Freddie Ljungberg, Mikel Arteta helped Arsenal win the FA Cup. He did so using a formation that he discovered along the way. It was a transition from a 4-3-3 that he tried initially, which didn’t work well.
That tactic did not work for him, as this was no Manchester City side. Eventually, he converted it into a 3-4-3, that was deployed for the first time against Sheffield United in the FA Cup. The formation was much more compact and it nullified the weakness of the defence and the team as a whole. It depended on Aubameyang making runs to carry the ball forward and play quick counter-attacking football.
Initially, it was a success as the teams didn’t know what hit them. Aubameyang was also on fire, with the appointment of the new manager. There tend to be such managerial rebounds at multiple clubs. That is what the #ArtetaOut fans love to call it, while some call it pure luck.
The Formation With Which Arteta Manage To Beat His Mentor Pep Guardiola-
The formation used to win the FA Cup was a rather tricky one. Though it did work wonders last season, it did hamper the creativity of the team going forward. Most of the dependency for goals was based on the performance by Aubameyang. He scored some crucial goals in the trophy-winning last season.
However, this was not the formation that Mikel Arteta was brought in at Arsenal to play. At the end of the season, Mikel Arteta was waiting for signing his own players. The likes of Houssem Aouar and Thomas Partey were being linked with the north London giants. One would play the role of a defensive midfielder, while the other would add the much-needed creativity. After the Community Shield win, the manager would have hoped to get them both!!
Further, Partey had just come back from an injury and was still getting into his groove. Despite, Arteta’s wishlist having both, by the end of the first month, Arsenal only signed Thomas Partey. That too, the deal was completed on deadline day. Had he been signed earlier, the formational change from a 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3 could have been implemented earlier.
What Happened When Arsenal Switched From A 3-4-3 To A 4-3-3?
Along with Thomas Partey, Arsenal added more quality to their defence. The likes of Cedric Soares, Pablo Mari and Gabriel were added to the list of incoming stars. Further, Dani Ceballos returned to the Emirates on yet another loan deal. To add to that, the Gunners signed a free agent in the form of Willian.
Fans criticized this deal a lot as well, despite a rather warm initial welcome. The reason for the initial welcome by a majority of fans was the fact that Chelsea and Frank Lampard wanted to retain the Brazilian attacker. They wanted the winger to re-sign a two-year deal. Despite that, he wanted a three year one. This pushed him out and he eventually moved from west London to the north, joining his friend and business partner David Luiz at Arsenal.
Whether the move worked out or not, a sale would have still helped Arsenal make money for a player that left for free. This made it a good business deal. Willian took a pay-cut to come to Arsenal, penning a three-year deal worth £250,000 a week – although his base salary was £100,000. The rest of the wages included a large signing-on fee that was paid across the duration of the deal, along with bonuses. However, his addition to the Arsenal team did not help Mikel Arteta’s case. His level of performances was just not the same anymore.
Further, without the presence of Emile Smith Rowe and a proper CAM, Mikel Arteta had to try the likes of Dani Ceballos. The Spaniard was a total failure at the Emirates. Eventually, Alexandre Lacazette started playing as a makeshift CAM that hampered his scoring opportunities. Much like Bobby Firmino, he failed to convert his chances in front of the goal and got a lot of stick from the fans.
Willian failed to run and link up the play as a CAM too. This was really a worry for Mikel Arteta, as most of the attacks came from the wings. This forced Arsenal to play with a four at the back, with the double-pivot slotting in for the full-backs when they pushed forward. The Spurs game (2-0 loss) was the best example of this, with the likes of Bellerin and Tierney in advanced positions. That would push the likes of Xhaka and Partey to slot in and protect the defence by falling deeper.
Finding The Perfect Formation That Gave Balance To Mikel Arteta’s Team- 4-2-3-1
Though Mikel Arteta had realized that a 4-3-3 was not his best formation for this team, the lack of a proper CAM was quite evident. Lacazette was a temporary solution and the likes of Ceballos and Willian were no good. To add to that, Aubameyang’s poor form and personal issues kept draining him out. He was not just in it this season.
Nicholas Pepe looked a bit better in the Europa League, while the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock came and went within a few Premier League games, in which they failed to impress. A proper solution was needed to the problems in hand, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Tierney and Partey were just too injury prone and Gabriel and Elneny were struck by the disease.
Mikel Arteta was trying to play a 4-3-3 while attacking, which would transition into a 4-4-2 while defending. Lacazette would be deep out of the front two, with him becoming the feeder. The inconsistency of the players like Hector Bellerin and co. didn’t help the team’s case as well. Tierney, when fit was barely managing to have games and Mikel Arteta, being over-protective and over-emotional at times, put him as an LCB. Mesut Ozil was just having fun on Twitter all this while, after being shut out of the team completely.
The Silver Lining Amid The Choas At Arsenal
The only positive amid all this was Smith Rowe had slowly returned to training and was ready to be picked once again. He was introduced as a substitute in the 75th minute of a Europa League group game against Molde (second leg). Arsenal won that game 3-0, with late substitute Balogun scoring a goal, with Emile Smith Rowe getting onto the assist sheet.
The playmaker started the next game against Dundalk FC in the final group game. The game ended in a 4-2 win for the visiting Arsenal. Smith Rowe did enough yet again to impress Mikel Arteta. He got another assist in this game and it was time for the last formational change of the season.
It was high time that Mikel Arteta finally had a fixed starting formation, with dynamism and progressive football helping him counter the opposition tactics. This started off with the introduction of Smith Rowe and pushed the club to bring in Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid in the January transfer window. This was amid a lot of deadwood being released from the club.
Though he was still quite young, The Croydon De Bruyne managed to improve the overall football. He brought a bit of life back into the team’s play. His overall play not just pushed Arsenal to better performances, it also helped improve their league form.
The Loss To Villarreal And The Europa League Exit That Halted The Work-In-Progress By Mikel Arteta
The #ArtetaOut fans mocked Mikel Arteta in a recent interview, where he said that the team was progressing. He said that though the start had been bad, things were getting better. This is actually a fact, as per the stats on results since Christmas. Yes, the league position of the team is not the best at present. Fans can surely express their unhappiness about it. However, here are a few numbers that they need to look at as well.
These are points won by each team since Christmas 2020. Arsenal still ranks in third place, only behind the two Manchester clubs at present with regards to points earned. Imagine, Thomas Tuchel who gets so much credit for reaching two cup finals this season already and Brendan Rodgers (tagged a great replacement for Arteta by many) are lagging behind Arteta at present. This is the same time when the Spaniard finalized his formation to a 4-2-3-1 and started using the likes of Smith Rowe and co. more often.
It is really understandable that the fans are upset as this will be a bad finish for Arsenal. It will be yet another bad season in the history of the club. Further, the fact that Unai Emery knocked us out of the Europa League will be a hard pill to swallow for many. However, when you attacking players don’t take about 5-6 clear chances to score, winning any game is impossible.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post twice in the second leg when all Arsenal needed was a single goal to go through. On the other hand, Emile Smith Rowe missed an open goal when the opposition keeper was down. Bukayo Saka had one of his worst games of the season and Nicholas Pepe was the worst player in that match for Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta has already shown that the team now knows what formation it wants to play. A 4-2-3-1 in attack, transforming to a 3-4-3 in defence is the best formation for these players. However, the manager knows that a lot of these players will be leaving in the summer.
Due to this one key reason, the Kroenkes need to back this manager. The players that suit his system need to be brought in and the patterns of play need to be finalized with the better quality stars coming in. The #ArtetaOut brigade says that Mikel Arteta is a YES MAN and that he is liked by the board and management at the club.
This makes the argument rather simple. If the manager is liked by everyone at the club, like Edu and Vinai, there is a better chance of him being backed. The likes of Emery and co. would never be backed properly, as he was an unknown anomaly.
Keeping that in mind, if Mikel Arteta fails to get his signings, then the owners must surely go. If they do manage to add the much-needed reinforcements and he fails, then the fans have the right to get rid of him at the end of the season. Patience is the key virtue here. One thing this fanbase needs to remember that Arteta may not be the BEST we can get. However, he cares and has a higher probability of being backed for two reasons- the FA Cup, our 14th and Josh Kronke and co. wanted him here when Le Boss Arsene Wenger left Arsenal FC for good. Let’s wait and watch now!! #COYG