It’s clearly evident that Arsenal are improving by leaps and bounds after having come under the helmsmanship and guidance of Mikel Arteta, with a noticeable shift in the Gunners’ style of play since Pep Guardiola’s erstwhile former assistant took over from Unai Emery last December.
Arsenal’s win percentage across all competitions has improved considerably, and the lads have even secured a major trophy following August’s FA Cup success. All this marked improvement by just simply doing less. Will it succeed?
The Gunners’ have often been synonymous with attacking, free-flowing football, but Arteta looks to have made the outfit more solid with his “less is more” approach with the statistics showing the Gunners noticeably attacking less, and having to defend less.
Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand believes Arteta’s approach is bold, but it seems to be helping to ease pressure on their much-maligned defence.
“I think Arteta has been bold with Arsenal – not in a traditional sense of trying to play risky, attacking football – but bold in the sense that he’s trying to actually do the opposite, or at least to be more conservative.
“You’ve seen an improvement in form in the likes of Granit Xhaka, plus we’ve seen Mohamed Elneny come back – those are two players you’d probably have thought were done and dusted at Arsenal – and they’ve made what I think is a pivotal signing in Thomas Partey.
“Even in the defeat at Man City we saw the product of what Arteta is trying to do – Arsenal fans will probably be frustrated they didn’t go at City more, but I would ask: has that not been Arsenal’s broken style for 10 years? Completely top heavy? I think they were beaten in the end by City’s own conservative play – it was a bit of a chess match.
“It’s probably helping Arteta that there are no fans inside the stadium screaming at Arsenal to get forward constantly.
“I have a lot of sympathy for defenders who are exposed by their team’s style, and I really believe midfield shape is equally as important as defensive shape if you want to keep the ball out of the net.
“So, naturally, if Arsenal are more conservative, that defence is going to look better. It’s clearly something Arteta is constantly drilling into the side, and also evident in how he’s spoken about having to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to run back last season. It’s something Arsenal fans will have to get used to, but I think it will bring success.”
Sky Sports News’ Ben Ransom has weighed in on the discussion and noticed there has been a clear shift in Arsenal’s mental toughness, particularly evident in big games, following years of appalling, wretched form against big-six rivals, although they are still without an away win over a big-six rival in 28 attempts.
“What’s different this time is that Arsenal are not going to a big-six rival and getting thrashed. If you think back to the years they were going to big-six rivals like City or Liverpool, you knew they were going to concede at least four. It was embarrassing for a while, considering where they’ve come from.
“They’re getting closer. They’ve gone to Liverpool and come through in a cup tie. They have gone to Wembley and beaten Man City in a cup tie, then beaten Chelsea. They are huge games that Mikel Arteta has got right.
“It tells me there’s a mental resilience about Arsenal now; they’ve proved to themselves they can be winners. They’re not far away.
“I’ve been really impressed with Arteta since he’s gone to Arsenal. If you look at what he inherited, and how quickly they were able to win a trophy, it’s fantastic.
“He hasn’t overhauled the squad, he worked with what he had, and he has turned them into something that could win a major trophy. It’s whether now he gets the funds he needs to transform them into genuine title contenders.”