Mikel Arteta has widely been lauded as brilliant by some of the finest minds in football.
While Pep Guardiola has sung his praises, more recently and more importantly, David Moyes has also waxed lyrical about the young manager. Unfortunately, Arteta’s style and overthinking is emblematic of the former and it is this aspect of his strategy that must be phased out if Arsenal is to progress.
The season got off to a tumultuous start. A difficult run of fixtures was marked by a match against Manchester City at the Etihad, one that illustrated Arteta’s obsession to out-think his opponent. While Man City are unplayable when on song, this defeat was one that was especially bitter given the starting lineup.
Eager to surprise his former boss and mentor, Arteta thrust Willian into an false nine role. It was utterly shambolic. Willian had already begun to decline and utilizing a formation unfamiliar to both the player and the entire team all but confirmed an Arsenal loss.
Arteta has also failed to fully unleash record signing Nicolas Pepe. Much has already been said and, to be fair, the Ivorian has produced more consistently this season and has showed remarkable improvement. It is the case of two steps forward, one step back.
Mikel Arteta’s overthinking at Arsenal could cost European football as well as further points in Premier League.
While Pepe has contributed from the left, his output from the right has been restricted due to Arteta instructing Hector Bellerin to tuck into midfield. A more traditional full-back (like a certain Portuguese) would allow Pepe to cut inside as well as get in the box and put the ball in the net.
His tinkering with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has also left thousands of fans scratching their heads. In the game against West Ham, Arteta deployed the Gabonese international on the right. The striker was ineffective the entire game but he hardly touched the ball in the opening period before switching flanks. The pacy forward has been tried on the right countless times but he has never been productive there.
📊 Mikel Arteta's first 50 games vs Emery & Wenger's last 50 games
Arteta – 42%
Emery – 49%
Wenger – 54% pic.twitter.com/2S9xUIMSOA
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 3, 2021
Against Liverpool, the tactical reasons why he was on the left bore no fruit. Opting to change his lineup almost biweekly, the horses for courses mantra adds to the suggestion of over-complication, even if injuries haven’t been kind.
Additionally, planting Aubameyang on the right would mean moving Bukayo Saka to the left. Saka has been exceptional from the right and has provided the impetus needed to drag Arsenal through the dark periods throughout this season.
While Saka has produced from the left hand side, particularly last season, moving the team’s best player from his most productive position should not have been attempted.
However, Arteta is still learning his trade. He has a solid foundation and has received responses from players when it seemed like they were all-but out the door. His habit of overthinking and tinkering with tactics, however, will cost the London outfit valuable points this season.
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