3 Tactical Improvements Mikel Arteta has made and 3 he needs to make
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw
Whilst results under Mikel Arteta at Arsenal have been far from perfect, the newly appointed head coach has made several improvements to the team’s performance levels, with defensive issues in particular starting to be resolved. However, there are still several elements of Arsenal’s game that need improving, with chance creation and goal output remaining a huge problem.
Here are three tactical things Arteta has improved and three that still need improvement…
CLEAR POSITIONAL STRUCTURE
Arteta has successfully implemented a clear tactical structure to the team where everyone knows their roles and where they should be on the pitch. From one inverted full-back, to Granit Xhaka playing as an auxiliary left-back, Arsenal slot into a 3-2-5 system when in possession.
The structure has brought the best out of certain players, highlighting their strengths and offsetting their weaknesses, whilst alleviating the enormous pressure that Emery's chaotic mess of a system brought. It has also enabled players to buy into his philosophy, believing in what he is telling them as they each have defined, specific roles. It has also enabled us to control games much more easily, dominating possession and territory, with good distributors from deep instigating this control.
IMPROVED DEFENSIVE RECORD
Since Arteta's arrival, our average xGA per 90 has gone down from roughly 1.44 under Emery and Ljungberg, to 1.19 under the new head coach. Our ability to control possession and dictate the game has prevented the opponent from attacking us and thus reduced the threat on our goal.
This systematic change was probably the first step Arteta had to make when improving this side, and he has done so successfully.
START OF A COHESIVE PRESS
Arteta has begun implementing a cohesive pressing system. Whilst certainly far from perfection at this early stage, the structure he has introduced has allowed pressing in numbers as we look to close off passing lanes in a coordinated manner.
Personnel is definitely preventing this press from really thriving, and this must be addressed in the summer, but it has shown signs of excellence in certain 45 minutes, such as the first against Palace and United and the first against Chelsea at home.
Improvements that need to be made:
OFFENSIVE FLUIDITY AND CHANCE CREATION
Whilst Arteta has successfully implemented a clear structure to the team which has seen us control games via possession domination, we still have issues in the final third, with a lack of incision or inventiveness in our play in these areas meaning we struggle to create high quality chances and an abundance of chances all together.
Personnel is certainly an issue in this aspect, with Mesut Ozil's creative assets seemingly declining and certain other players under performing or struggling to impose themselves in this league. However, having built the defensive foundations, Arteta now has this winter break to work on these offensive combinations and how to unlock defences with effective interplay- the players he has at his disposal are certainly much better than what they are producing.
Our xG per 90 has gone down from 1.31 under Emery and Ljungberg, to 1.25 under Arteta. Offensive improvements have been sacrificed in the short-term for defensive improvements. Work needed.
PASSIVE DEFENDING NEEDS ERADICATING
A symptom of Emery's odd tactical set-up was our suicidal passive defending, particularly in wide areas. Whilst Arteta has gone someway to reducing this by encouraging more proactive and aggressive defending, this certainly still plagues our game.
This has been evident in certain goals we've conceded recently, including Jordan Ayew's equaliser at Selhurt Park and John Fleck's equaliser at the Emirates. It will take time and new personnel, but this certainly has to be worked on.
IMPROVEMENTS IN PRESSING SYSTEM
As stated earlier in this piece, Arteta has clearly worked on introducing a gegenpressing system. The 3-2-5 formation the side drops into when in possession means that when we lose in the ball in advanced areas, there are several players high up the pitch to form these pressing chains and cut off passing lanes for the opposition.
However, there are still too many occasions when our press gets played through and we are left outnumbered and exposed defensively. Once again, part of the problem is the personnel not suiting an intense pressing system, although there are still systematic problems in the press that can be worked on.
This remains a hugely challenging job and one that will require time. Mikel Arteta has begun the rebuilding process, but the most difficult work is yet to come.