Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool: A message from Arteta to those above of the limitations of his team?
Updated: Jul 16
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
When Mikel Arteta walked into London Colney and sat down to do his first interview with Arsenal Media as Head Coach on 20th December 2019, he stressed his desire to play attractive, expansive football.
“You have to entertain the fans and we have to recreate the identity this club once had,” the Spanish Lego-haired magician proclaimed.
Eight months into his short tenure, the two standout results in his repertoire have been achieved in slightly different fashion from what we’d expect from a coach after saying these words. In January, we pulled off a remarkable performance after playing with ten men for over 60 minutes, holding Chelsea to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. We had two shots to their 19. Tonight, against the recently crowned Champions, we claimed all three points, despite building one attack in the entire 90 minutes and sustaining wave after wave of Liverpool pressure. We had three shots to their 24.
Both performances encapsulated very admirable qualities, although were far from the lavish and expansive possession based football we pictured from a side marshalled by a man heavily influenced by Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger. Grit, determination, last ditch blocks and clearances galore. Some may even call it Brexit football. Whilst at Stamford Bridge this style was very much imposed on us by the situations we found ourselves in, this performance felt far more instructed. Arteta acknowledged this in his post-match interview, citing that the attitude from his team was on par with Liverpool’s, and that “other things” could come later. These ‘other things’ supposedly being a more competitive side in a system we want to see.
A short-term approach from Arteta, who demonstrated his willingness to adapt to what he has at his disposal in order to attain results. Having said that, this strategy also felt very pointed. With Edu and Raul Sanllehi in attendance, sat up in their luxury directors box seats, it felt as though Arteta was trying to make a statement. This is what I’ve got, and this is the maximum I can do with what I’ve got. Whilst this got a result tonight, it’s certainly not a very sustainable strategy in the long-run.
This was again reinforced in his interview with Geoff Shreaves at full-time, when he admitted money was a “big concern”, and that you need to improve your squad all the time, there’s “no magic” to it. Very pointed indeed.
Regardless of Arteta’s intentions in this game, we certainly rode our luck at times. Liverpool wasted countless opportunities, either wasteful in their final ball or their finishing, or were unlucky to be denied by the immense Emi Martinez. The low, compact block did relatively well to keep Klopp’s side out, but it’s hard to disagree with the notion that this victory was attained by as much luck as it was as a result of our hard work and organisation.
Our inability to hold onto the ball and create any sort of pattern of play throughout the entire game will certainly concern Arteta, but perhaps it was indicative of where we are right now. We simply don’t have the personnel to combat them in an attractive manner. Technical Director Edu’s job is supposedly to invest in the club’s philosophy and identity over long-term periods, and he must have been struck by the realisation that we really don’t have the tools to match the vision that is in place.
Regardless of the big picture stuff, it’s a wonderful win against a phenomenal team. We’ll have an in depth tactical analysis out tomorrow from Vinay, which will go into the technical details of the game, so watch out for that. For all this talk of style, if we try and play like this on Saturday against City, we will indeed get absolutely destroyed. A more active and aggressive system must be in put in place there if we have any hope of securing a place in the season’s domestic finale at Wembley on 1st August.