Mikel Arteta: A Wenger, a Klopp or a Guardiola? Or?

Ooh to, Ooh to Be…

Yes fine fellow Bergkampesquerers, it is great to be a Gooner again. Imagine being a Spud and having to contemplate travelling to Bulgaria for an EL pre-qualifier after another trophy-less season: BBC a few days ago: “Tottenham will play Romania’s Botosani or Macedonian club Shkendija in the third round of Europa League qualifying if they defeat Lokomotiv Plovdiv.” How sexy does that sound, hey?!

Or put yourself in the shoes of the red Mancs who have won nothing and limped out of the EL competition only a few weeks ago. The Chavs also won nothing and were easily brushed aside by the Southern Germans in the CL and then by us in the FA Cup final. The Blue side of Manchester did win a mini-trophy back in the olden days prior to C19, but have also imploded post the lockdown. Even Pool supporters had little to enjoy since the return of the beautiful game. They already knew they would win the league but their team’s recent performances have hardly set the world on fire. But yes I would swap trophies with them to be fair.

But, since the lockdown, we Gooners have had the tremendous pleasure of beating Pool twice, Citeh and Chelsea in the FA Cup (and fair and square) and picking up a big and small trophy in the process. What looked like our worse season in decades turned into a feast of football in the final stages, which has given us real hope for better times ahead. Nobody had predicted this quick and joyous turnaround during those dark lockdown months.

There is no doubt that beside a few dollops of luck (we always need those in life), we should fully contribute this change of direction to our new manager, Mikel Arteta. We have seen him in action as a manager for about five months now, and I have been wondering who he most resembles: Guardiola, Arsene or Klopp

Pep Guardiola

Mikel has the same sort of attention to detail, tactical nous, ability to motivate his players and at least as good as communication skills with the press. But I have been really impressed with his ability to give individual players confidence and improve their performances, especially with the likes of Luiz, Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny etc. Pep never had to work much with good players who need to be coached into excellent players; his cheque book offered a much quicker solution. And then Mikel has this ability to play a much more defence-minded kind of football and out-think fellow top managers, whereas Guardiola struggles at times to adjust his default style of high press and quick passing football. I have no doubt that Arteta also wants to play that sort of football with Arsenal eventually, but for now other tactical approaches are required. And he gets a 10 out of 10 for tactical adjustments.

Arsene Wenger

Arsene achieved so much with Arsenal and not just in terms of silverware won; he also changed the culture and turned the club in one of the most loved clubs in the world with a style of football that was both easy on the eye and, especially initially, very successful. Despite his young age, Mikel is equally confident and ‘in control’ when speaking to the press as Arsene was, which is really impressive. Arsene liked to give his players freedom of expression on the pitch as to sort out between them how they were going to get the best out of themselves and beat the opponents. He made the broad tactical strokes and allowed the players to do the colouring in.

It was highly successful in his first 10 years in charge but less so when the competition became much stronger and the money ran out. Wenger used to focus hard on the whole culture of the club with a strong focus on values for every employee. It looks like Arteta has a similar total-culture approach, which is great. But where Mikel is fundamentally different to Arsene is in his strong focus on tactical discipline and individual roles in the team. Mikel runs his team and performances more machine-like with less individual freedom and strong focus on a set of tasks and responsibilities. In the process, Mikel can turn players into confident high performing individuals, and that is a quality I associate mostly with two other managers than Pep and Arsene… 

Jurgen Klopp

Yes I reckon Arteta is more like Klopp than his former boss/mentor and manager. They both have that ability to get the best out of players they have and turn them into a very well-oiled machine-players. What Klopp has done with the likes of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Milner is very, very impressive. Yes he also was able to spend big on a top defender and goalkeeper but the majority of his players were good players that were turned into excellent team players by the German. It is early days but I reckon Arteta is just as good in doing this.

They also have in common this ability to focus hard on individual roles and responsibilities within a certain style of football and based around tactical instructions before and during the game.

Klopp is the more extravagant of the two but I like Arteta’s zen-like/Arsene-like calm even more. Klopp like Guardiola, as far as I can tell, can play only one kind of football: total domination, ‘strangling’ of the opponent in their own half, passing them to bits and dealing with any escapees through (small) fouls and fast, big, scary defenders. Arsenal were lucky to win the first game against Pool post the C19 lockdown but in last Saturday’s game Mikel showed us he had found a tactical way in dealing with Klopp: we allowed just four shots on goal, one every 22.5 minutes, and created the better chances ourselves overall.

Louis van Gaal

This sort of tactical adjustment reminds me actually a lot of, in my opinion, one of the best managers ever, Louis van Gaal. The fellow Dutchman was awkward with the press and struggled with some of the top quality players, but his ability to build teams around a style of play with specific roles and responsibilities for each position on the field was amazing. I never liked the guy and he should never have gone for the nr1 teams in the various counties where he managed at the time, but what he did with Ajax in the mid-nineties with a bunch of average, young-talented and good but not great players, was unbelievable. And what he did with an average Dutch national team in 2014 was equally impressive. Mikel is showing a similar ability in building a team from a mixture of good, young and a few great players, which is very promising.

His Own Man

Mikel is made for Arsenal in the 2020ies. He has the ability to get the best out of individual players, is tactically astute, great motivator for the players on a fair but firm basis and represents the club very well in front of the media. So I guess he has something of all these great managers, but most of all he is his own man. Glad to have him… Ooh to Be.

By TotalArsenal.

55 thoughts on “Mikel Arteta: A Wenger, a Klopp or a Guardiola? Or?

  • Brilliant post, TA. 🙂

    Have you been reading my minds of late? 🙂 It’s not just that I have been working on a piece about Arteta that I plan to send you, it’s also the “turning-good-players-to-excellent-players”-construction I have been using to describe why Klopp is on a higher lever than Guardiola.

    Arteta has one Wenger’s quality that you have missed here – he is a poliglot. That doesn’t make him just a cunning linguist (this one is for Glic! 😀 ) but also a coach who is capable of perfectly explaining his tactical ideas to his multilingual squad.

  • Fantastic read TA!

    General thoughts:

    1) Agreed that Arteta is not Pep as many people assumed and continued to assume he will be. Pep is tactically inflexible as you point out and he’s also not the type to put his arm around your shoulder if you aren’t at your best. There’s a reason why City players credit a lot of their individual development to Arteta.

    2) It’s 100% true that Guardiola and Klopp have a difficult time adjusting if they are not completely smothering you with their tactics and style of play. It’s brilliant to watch when they are getting stymied.

    3) Arteta reminds me a lot of Nagelsmann in that he likes tactically flexible players and will adapt his formation very slightly to suit the opponent (not the general principles and philosophy like Emery frequently did). He also has the gravitational personality that Nagelsmann has and is focused on more than just football when it comes to individual contributions – Arteta tries to view the player as a human and not just as a footballer.

    In doing so, he is able to see how the player will adapt and react to certain situations and can leverage the unique characteristics of each player with individual training regimes with the aim to assimilating them into the team collective. This ultimately helps the player respond and behave in a natural way to the training that doesn’t make it feel “forced onto them”.

    The above can only be successful if Arteta has a deep understanding of the game and a strong understanding of tactics, which he clearly does. This unique combination allows Arteta to merge the functionality of the system with its varied levels of interaction from the individual and the collective. Ultimately, the outcome is a reduction of uncertainty and an environment where creative variability and all individual talent can emerge.

    Is it a coincidence that some of our most successful Managers could both have names that start with the same two letters as our club’s?

  • Wenger and Arteta reflect the prevailing wisdom in management thinking beyond sport of their eras. It’s interesting to see how sport has followed business and been successful in doing so. Sadly as a business manager I am more of a M. Wenger, whereas Mikel embodies the latest management thinking.

  • HH, cheers. An excellent comparison with Nagelsmann skillset. Again I wonder whether the latter also would not be much better off at a club where there are not too many star players but a number of players who really benefit from his talents. Great teams have a few water carriers with golden bowls, but at PSG they all want to steal the show it seems.

  • Great intriguing comment, Ian. I would love to hear more. Arsene still has a skillset that could benefit a club, especially teams where there are a lot of world class footballers, like Barca, Juventus or PSG. I also think he could do miracles with for example the French or Dutch national teams.

  • Strong rumours that Fiorentina are close to a deal with Arsenal for Lucas Torrieira.

    Apparently the Viola will pay a loan fee of €8m for the season and then can complete the transfer by paying €16m next summer, a total of €24m or £21.4m.

    Torrieira is under contract until 2023.

  • TA, I believe from the small sample size to date, Arteta and Nagelsmann COULD be the next two great Managers similar to Pep and Jose.

    It remains to be seen whether Nagelsmann can handle big personalities. German Managers are often spoiled with the footballers bred in their country that adopt a disciplined team mentality early on in their careers and understand that together than can achieve more than on their own. However, I believe Nagelsmann’s personality will allow him to handle stars quite well – there’s a reason Real Madrid had him as their #1 candidate before they eventually brought Zidane back (they wanted him to gain more experience and build his CV before taking on Madrid).

  • Kev that’s good news about Torreira. If we know we aren’t going to use him, we can’t afford to have such a valuable asset as a super sub. That’s a luxury of the big clubs with better owners. In a tight race, a guy that good, to come on and help protect a lead adds points for sure. When it comes to his specialty, I don’t think there’s anyone better. Hopefully for him, in Italy, he’ll be used as a starter, classic dm.
    If we didn’t see his best, blame Emery for trying to use him as a box to box player. I think he’s quick and talented enough for that, but he would’ve needed a better coach to help in the transition, and in this case, language communication was not an issue. Emery had to go because nobody knew what they were supposed to be doing in the team, except Leno. We’re lucky he didn’t find a way to mess him up too. I don’t blame him for Xhaka, because Arsene did that first. What a difference in Granit under Arteta!
    The manager must want a more versatile midfielder, so the decision had to be made. Lucas deserves to feature. If we want a late game energetic, defensive sub, i hope Mikel can teach someone young how to do it right. It is not as easy as it seems, and that’s a lot to do with the subject of the post.

  • J, I’ll be sorry to see Lucas depart but I just don’t think that his skill set and physique was up to a 38 game Premier League season. Serie A will suit him better and I’m sure he’ll be a success for whoever he plays for there. On top of that I don’t think his wife settled in England and if your partner isn’t happy then you’re not going to be either.

    I actually think when Ceballos re-joins that we’ll be comfortable in centre-mid with Dani, Xhaka, Willock, Elneny, AMN and maybe Guendouzi.

  • Hi Kev,

    I think you’re probably right about Lucas. On the midfield I’m not trying to be negative, but I’ve been uncomfortable for a while, and we had better pray that we add to the names you just listed. There are two professional midfielders in Xhaka and Ceballos. The rest are not players that a serious (top four contending) premier league club would count as midfielders to be used in anything but carabou cup matches. ….

    Willock is a child in a footballing sense. AMN hasnt played midfield hardly at all recently, and I’d like to see his talent worked in to MF, but looks like fb wb is where he’ll be needed. Guendouzi, i like the talent, but your guess is as good as mine. If he doesn’t get playing time with the team soon, he’s of no use in the near future. Elneny….. I love this club and every guy that works hard for us like he does, but we are all deluding ourselves in trying to find positives in the fact that he’s played most minutes so far. I think he had two forward passes in the whole 90 minutes last weekend. Now someone will say his job is to keep shape and shield the back four. You need to make good passes and move the ball up the pitch. He is basically a warm body out there taking up a spot where there should be a skilled footballer. Just having him on the bench for matches makes me genuinely sad.

    ….. Of our two quality midfielders, imagine one injury and look at our options. That’s why I’m praying for a midfield addition.

  • Great topic/question, TA, and good answers as well.

    I don’t know Arteta that well to pick a side, so my approach is rather a wish-list.
    I would like Arteta to be a bit like
    – Arsene: being a likeable, humble person and a father/brother-like friendly authority to our players
    – Guardiola: having a wide acceptance from all stakeholders and a strong buy-in from the team
    – van Gaal: bringing the most out of the lads and mastering the art of “the whole is more than the sum of its part”
    – Klopp: reaching the top from an underdog situation; challenging and exceeding clubs of seemingly unlimited budget
    – his true self: staying unexpected and doing unforeseeable from the opponents point of view

    On the other hand he shouldn’t be entirely like
    – Wenger, as he don’t have to revolutionize English football, not even Arsenal itself
    – Guardiola, as his job is not to keep sitting on the top with a group of stars, but to reach it with a bunch of success-hungry players
    – van Gaal, as he shouldn’t antagonize key players in our squad
    – Klopp, as we can (or at least should try to) reach the top without breaking word records in transfer history
    – Mourinho, as we don’t appreciate bus-parking defensive football, nor being a genuine arrogant asshole

  • Re Torreira

    I agree with Jnyc almost to every word, but absolutely on his take on Willock, AMN and Guendouzi, and when I’m not overly optimistic on Elneny as well.
    It is not a disaster though having midfielders on the team that our not (yet) on the top 4 contender level, as we have the cup games and the EL league group stage matches to improve them and bring them hopefully at the highest level. Yet it is true that with 2 top CMs (or rather 1.5, as Ceballos’ return is not yet finalized) it is difficult to compete for CL places.

    The only disagreement I have is about Torreira. He is a far better player than the most of his replacement alternatives (Diawara, Soumare, Nzonzi) as he has an undisputed place in a strong Uruguayan team. He is currently the 15th most valuable DM, but his worth before the decline of the Emery regime would qualify him for the #5 spot.

    The funny thing with him is he is the only player that is performing on a lower level under Arteta than Emery. (Sokratis is only playing less, and Guendouzi was never playing particularly good, just only well for a 19-year-old.) But when Arsenal had a 22-games unbeaten run under Emery, Xhaka and Torreira created a great partnership at central midfield, which was promising even for a CL qualification. Torreira’s bad luck was the emergence of Guendouzi, that forced him to the bench many times, and when he partnered Matteo on the field was often even worse.

    So generally I would be in favor of keeping Lucas, assuming he has the motivation to play under Arteta, and hoping to find the best way to utilize his talents. If we sell him though, we indeed need a high profile replacement to midfield. I would rather have Aouar than Partey, as Thomas is 5 years older, worth 80% of the French kid according to TM, but mostly as his weekly 200.000 salary demand really pisses me off. But if we get him at the end, I’ll try to be happy. Still I would go for Teun Koopmeiners, he is the real deal DM, guys. 🙂

  • J, yeah I get what you say and it’s makes perfect sense and in an ideal world we’d get Partey and Aouar in and it would be happy days but it’s far from happy as it stands and I just can’t see Arsenal committing to the amount of dough we’d need to sign them both up, getting one of them could be difficult enough.

    I guess my optimism regarding our present group of midfielders is based on who we have in the managers chair and my faith in him being able to get a quart out of a pint pot and whilst there is no doubts that Willock is far from the finished article and that Elneny is limited from an attacking sense I really don’t think we should judge them to harshly from a game vs Liverpool where we were defending for the majority of the time. If we can’t get Partey and/or Aouar over the line then maybe we can revisit those deals in January and maybe get them on more favourable terms?

    Personally I’d pretty much given up on Guendouzi but if we can’t shift him then we’d better use him and even if he still wants to leave at least it would afford him the opportunity to put himself in the shop window.

    Could Willian do a job a la Santi alongside a Xhaka or a Ceballos?

    It’s odd, but a year ago I thought our squad was dysfunctional and full of bang average footballers who I had no fondness of, now I’m excited by what is basically the same group and what they can achieve under Mikel…

  • Fine post TA and some excellent comments, I’ve been indisposed for a few days hence my low participation, nothing serious – just old age issues.

    I don’t have any the deep knowledge of the managers other than Arsene Wenger, but if I were to break Arteta into parts I would like him to be:-

    50% Wenger – for Wenger ball and his overall ability to get both the club, playing staff and the players all believe and get behind his vision = total unity.

    30% Klopp for the desire, energy and passion he instills into the players.

    20% Guardiola for the tactical nous he brings.

  • Ceballos may be more keen on forward passing but the value of it is overrated. In terms of defensive discipline and controlled passing, Dani can learn a few things from Elneny. Pool had eight shots on goal when he played next to XhakA, and half that when Elneny was partnered with the Swiss. If you find that insignificant, then that is OK with me. 🙃

  • PB, I think Torreira lacks the prerequisite qualities to play under Arteta. He’s absolutely not fit for a midfield two (his medium and long range passing is not very good, his dribbling ability/ball control is mediocre, he lacks pace and height etc.) and is really only a viable option in a midfield diamond (like he played at Sampdoria) and as a CDM in a 4-2-3-1. In a 4-3-3, he’d also be quite exposed since he lacks the prerequisite qualities to play as a #6 or a #8.

    Sometimes when evaluating rumoured players coming in, it’s less about what their CV currently has and is more about the fit for what the Manager/Coach wants to do. Soumare, for example, is a Patrick Vieira type player in the making but needs to have more consistency and his current situation with Lille was not helped because of off field stuff with his entourage pushing for a move away. Soumare has incredible defensive ability, an amazing motor, the passing range to play any ball, the dribbling ability to drive a team forward and the pace/runs to break down opposition lines. He would fit brilliantly as a #6 or a #8 in a 4-3-3 and would also be a great fit in a 3-4-3 or a 4-2-3-1 – that level of tactical flexibility is exactly what Arteta is looking for.

  • TA, Ceballos is able to control a game better than Elneny. If you give Ceballos the ball, he’s more likely to make something happen out of nothing, which we’re severely lacking in midfield right now. Ceballos acts as the engine/hub of the team right now and dictates the tempo from the midfield. He’s also able to intricately dribble out of most situations and can beat a press with that ability, something Elneny is not able to do.

    Elneny is still a tidy midfielder and one that could be very useful as a rotational option under Arteta. I’m hopeful he’ll get a chance to stay here since we’ll need at least 6-7 midfielders if we’re to survive the compressed schedule and cup competitions.

  • HH, he has potential and I happily see him grow at Arsenal for another year but I see him and Elneny as nr2s to XhakA and ANother. Against top teams I much prefer Elneny next to XhakA out of the two.

  • TA, disagree on Elneny being anywhere close to Dani in skill and potential, but agree that Elneny is better is shielding the back against top opponents and in moving the ball quickly.

    Dani hasn’t been used to the best of his ability and was forced into a more defensive #6 like role under Arteta due to a lack of personnel last season. At Betis and with Spain, he plays more like an advanced #8 and has thrived in that role, pulling the strings.

    In an ideal world, Xhaka is your 4th midfielder and you trot out a midfield three of Partey, Aouar and Dani. I like Xhaka, but he’s neither a true #6 nor a fast enough #8.

  • I’m more of a common sense and number guy than a football theorist, so when you say, HH, that Xhaka is neither a true #6 nor a fast enough #8, then I cant argue with that. But I can challenge that this attribute being vital, as I see Xhaka not only the best midfielder in any of the past 3 managers’ Arsenal team, but also one of the best managers in the PL. I would never swap him for Gündogan, Wijnaldum, Keita, Henderson, the Ox, Kovacic, RLC, Barkley, Fred, McTominay, Ndombélé, Lo Cielso, Winks, Tielemans, Praet, Davies, or Gomes. And not because I’m loyal to him, and not for his leadership abilities only, but because his flexibility (slots to LWB when Saka moves forward), his excellent long range passing and his powerful long shot and direct free kicks.
    As far as I’m concerned (though I admit that is not much), whoever we sign should be the #2 behind captain of the Swiss national team.

    Regarding your Ceballos vs. Elneny debate with TA, I cannot take part until I see if Mohammed can perform on his new level or a consistent basis, or this was a one-time shining. Nevertheless I share your admiration of Dani, and what he brings to the control of the game as well as defensive and attacking contributions. And while I would be interested in a 4-3-3 with a Xhaka-Ceballos-Aouar midfield trio I won’t be disappointed if we play 3-4-3 with Granit and Dani in the center.

    On Torreira, I agree with you that he indeed lacks pace and heights, but his job is to destroy the (counter)attacks of the opponent. When he played along with Xhaka during the best run of Emery’s reign, he didn’t have to provide long passes or dictate the tempo, but he made series of vital interceptions, and did show up in the second/third wave to surprise-support the offense. He indeed doesn’t look compatible ahead of 3 CBs, but he is a great little (effective) pitbull, and it would be a shame (and a signature Arsenal lame move) to sell him far below his purchase price after playing 5300 minutes for the club in 2 seasons.

  • PB, I’m not saying Xhaka isn’t vital to our current starting 11 as it is right now. What I am saying is that if you bring in the ideal players that Arteta wants (very unlikely we’d get both Aouar and Partey anyway) that his skill set would be less of a “prerequisite”.

    Xhaka’s absolutely crucial for what we need right now given that he commands the center of the pitch, is good at breaking up play, and acts as our metronome in switching the play from side to side to start attacks. But, if you get a Partey in the midfield, Partey then could command the center, break up play and protect the back, while Dani could dictate the tempo in a similar way to how Xhaka has, and yet offer even more in creativity, ball control in tight spaces and pace.

    The price on Torreira is yet to be formally decided. The reports coming out yesterday that we agreed a deal with Fiorentina were false and talks are still underway with a few Italian sides. I’ll reserve judgement until the deal has been finalized, but I’d hope we’d at least make our money back in any sale. I think Torreira is a decent footballer with considerable limitations – it’s probably those limitations that make him less of a fit in Arteta’s system, as he doesn’t have as high of a need for a pure ball winner that only breaks up play and sits in front of the defense.

  • HH, we agree in almost everything.
    But I don’t think Partey would squeeze out Xhaka.

    Thomas played third fiddle behind Niguez and Atletico’s captain Koke. He was never really charged in commanding the center. He indeed made more tackle and interception than Xhaka, but the Swiss made more clearances and blocks (in 90 minutes). Compared to Partey’s 47 passes league games passes (at 83%) Granit produced 63 – 34% more – at a 88% success rate, including more key passes than the Ghanaian. I don’t think he would replace Xhaka (neither think that he would be an upgrade on the Swiss), but only time will tell.

  • PB, Atletico fall apart without Partey in the middle. Ask any Atletico fan and the evidence of this was in the CL quarter-final vs. Leipzig. Koke is used as a wide midfielder in the 4-4-2 to accommodate for Partey and Niguez in the middle.

    Partey is better than Xhaka in every aspect of the game except for passing accuracy and ability to spray the ball across the pitch. What statistics don’t tell you is how often teams simply avoid Partey in the middle (this is the problem with stats in general) – he’s literally a game changing force that makes opposing teams play completely around him.

    Partey is not a key pass maestro. His value lies in breaking up play, engine, forcing teams to play around the middle of the pitch, in driving teams forward with his dribbling ability, and in making runs to help break opposition lines especially in low blocks. Xhaka could barely hold Partey’s shoes if they were on the same pitch and that’s coming from someone who likes Xhaka a decent amount.

    Go on ask any person who watches La Liga and ask them what they think of Partey. I watch a lot of La Liga and the Prem and there’s simply no world where Xhaka comes close to Partey in transforming a team’s midfield.

  • There is only one vacancy at Arsenal left and that is the position next to XhakA. If Partey joins it will be for that position, I reckon. XhakA is the brains of the team and shape protector, sits deepest and is a sort of Koeman like ausputzer. Partey plays then more box to box but with key role in creating a defensive wall with XhakA. Willian or Saka in the hole to provide the creativity and goals from midfield. Bob’s your uncle.

  • PB, great quote from your comment….

    “Torreira. He is a far better player than the most of his replacement alternatives (Diawara, Soumare, Nzonzi) as he has an undisputed place in a strong Uruguayan team. He is currently the 15th most valuable DM, but his worth before the decline of the Emery regime would qualify him for the #5 spot.”

    …, we don’t really disagree, PB, he was s superb pickup for Arsenal and highly valued by football scouts. He does so many little things right that most people dont appreciate, like getting his body in positions where the opponent can only foul him and can never win the ball. All I was saying is that I am resigned to lose him, because we aren’t using him, and can’t afford to sit a valuable asset while we need a starting midfielder, and we have no decent owner to do the right thing and invest during a rare event. If Torreira plays regularly again for a team, his fans and teammates will adore him.

  • If we brought in both Partey and Aouar, Xhaka would eventually not be an undisputed starter. Of course, that won’t happen, but I was using that to illustrate a point.

    The current system is used to support Xhaka’s weaknesses (pace, poor decision making under pressure, lack of creativity, one footed). In a more expansive 4-3-3, the demands change and he isn’t a 6 or 8. Until we get there, if we ever do, Xhaka will be crucial.

  • I would put it differently. Every Arsenal manager has been keen to have XhakA as the pivot of the team, because of his great organisational skills, leadership and sharp distribution of the ball. To get the full value out of him the team needs to be well balanced. Arteta is getting this right now but further improvement would be even better.

  • Kev, it seems to me that we are in almost exact agreement about our midfield, the only real difference is this……. you are good guy, and don’t want to be harsh when talking about our players. I generally am constructive, too. It’s only a glaring weakness in our midfield, that makes me speak up. I don’t want a key midfield position occupied by a Southampton level player. I assume we are going to get someone so that we don’t have to rely on Elneny to start.

    Ceballos being official gives me some relief. He is a good player, and has Arsenal level skills. To be honest, I haven’t seen enough of the players linked to us to say who we should try to buy, but we employ experts to do that. I think we’ve accumulated some great talent up front, and potential in defense, and I love our keepers, leaning towards Emi. That’s why I’m focused on midfield, with no Ozil, and Torreira probably being sold. I never thought it was wise to totally wreck any value that Guendouzi had, to a point where he’s hard to offload, and we still won’t get any benefit because he’s not playing.

    That’s just creating another Ozil situation. That one is a disaster really. Guendouzi is not as expensive, but he’s probably under contract longer. So a salary to a player for a couple years, who isn’t helping, on top of Ozil, is frustrating, and should be worked out to avoid this nonsense. In this case, intransigence is not a virtue.

  • If you look at the poor quality we’ve had in CM over the years, you will see why Xhaka was crucial. Xhaka thrives in a midfield two and in a 4-2-3-1, but would not be an ideal fit for a 4-3-3, IF Arteta decides to go in that direction.

    At the base of a 4-3-3, the pivot needs to be very athletic, have passing range, win the ball back quickly and shield the back four on his own. We know that if Xhaka is left to defend on an island, he would be exposed. We also know that Xhaka is not athletic and his best comes when he has time on the ball to make decisions, which is also not ideal in a 4-3-3.

    Every midfielder in a 4-3-3 needs to be an all action midfielder capable of running up and down the pitch tirelessly, while also having the athleticism to press relentlessly, which would not play to Xhaka’s strengths.

    Again, none of this is important if we don’t move to a 4-3-3, but when the best teams in the world have shifted to that model or some variant with all action midfielders, it’s hard to argue against it. Arteta could be quite innovative though, so we will have to wait and see. I don’t think Xhaka will he displaced from the starting 11 this coming year because we won’t be able to bring in two new CMs on top of Ceballos.

  • Cheers HH, I have said everything I have to say about Xhaka and his importance to the team. Arteta convinced him to stay and is building the technical side of the team around him. You may think that is because he ‘wont be able to bring in two new CMs on top of Ceballos’ and I believe it is because he has so much to offer and Mikel recognises his former self in him. I think we will see three or five in the middle this season – 3-5-2 (3-4-1-2) or 4-2-1-3 – and let’s how that will go.

  • Jnyc, I mostly agree with you on Torreira. He was really useful and handy under Emery. I wonder that his decline in performance could be explained by
    – the tedious experiences of the late Unai-era of playing BtB and even AM positions
    – difficult adaptation to the English language, weather & culture
    – possible other personal reasons
    – unfortunate psychological reaction to his decline on game time (due to the arrival of Ceballos)
    – as HH suggest his skillset is indeed more suitable to support/shield a back four, and less effective in Arteta’s favorite 3-4-3
    – he was never particularly great to begin with, just had a lucky sequence of good games

    Based on the real reason there could be future for him in an Arsenal shirt (first 2 explanations), or it would indeed make sense to sell him and sign a DM/CM of different profile (last 3 explanations).

  • HH, I agree with you in a some – including but limited to Xhaka’s pace, being one footed, lack of high pressing skills, as well as the 4-3-3 formation needing “all action midfielders capable of running up and down the pitch tirelessly, while also having the athleticism to press relentlessly” – and disagree with some: mostly on Xhaka’s (lack of) creativity and athleticism.
    I don’t expect to be moving for the 4-3-3 as we have too good wingbacks (Tierney, Bellerin, Soares), and as you stated, not many suitable midfielders. Without Partey we could promote AMN and Willock to box-to-box midfielders, but Ainsley a mediocre and Willock is a poor passer, and sorry to say that: last season they were the weakest links in Arsenal. I see little chance to sign 2 (expensive) midfielders for the sake of playing 4-3-3.
    We are doing surprisingly good with 3-4-3 as well as 4-2-3-1, both using a midfield dual pivot. For that system to work effectively we might need a 3rd world class central midfielder for rotation purposes, and unless Arteta settles with Torreira or reinvents Guendouzi we might be indeed in need to splash the cash.

  • PB, two bombing wingbacks are incredibly important in a 4-3-3 – however you must have two CBs and a CDM that can all defend on their own, along with two CMs that are willing and able to cover the entire pitch.

    With the way Arteta plays his RB/RWB at times, he’s borrowed tactics from Pep there in the sense that the RB/RWB becomes a CM in the build up and offense. I wouldn’t say Bellerin is a good passer of the ball either, while I do believe Mainsley could improve further there given his CM roots.

    If there’s a route into the starting lineup for Mainsley, it’ll likely be at RB/RWB with rumours of Bellerin being interested in a move away for a fresh challenge. Mainsley’s individual 1:1 defending, pace and ability to kick the ball into space and run onto it will be more effective there.

  • PB, Torreira doesn’t want to be here and has never adjusted to life in London, which can often happen with South American players (in the sense that they move to a place and love it there and never want to leave; for Torreira, that is Italy).

    In the 22 game unbeaten streak last season, we were incredibly lucky in that run, evidenced by the poor underlying statistics, along with the eventual regression to the actual seen in the latter half of the season and beginning half of this season. It was during that spell that Torreira truly thrived, but the luck ran out and teams began scouting us more and Emery failed to adapt. Torreira and Xhaka are not ideal players for playing the ball out from the back under pressure from a press, and teams exploited that a lot.

    All that said, it wasn’t just pure luck that led to Torreira being so useful. Torreira still has the ability to be a very good midfielder, but when a player isn’t happy with his environment (club or country he plays in), it’s very difficult to perform at your best. Torreira is also better suited for Serie A where the game is a slower and more defensive than the high octane, physical and bigger Premier League.

  • I’m going to my son’s home today to celebrate his 45th birthday, I’ll be cooking an English roast beef dinner, along with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips and lots of other veggies.
    There will be 12 people for dinner but I’ll only be catering to 7 the carnivores, my son’s lady will look after the vegetarians.

    I’ll catch up tomorrow after the Italian F1.

    Have a great day and most of all keep safe – especially the travelers.

  • Nice one GN5, I had my mob around with me today which was brilliant as it’s not often I get my lads together at one time. Like you I was the chef, liver, onions and a medley of veggies, it was fantastic…

  • Great time for the old-timers, or so it seems.
    Alan, my grandson was born Thursday night, 22:36 GMT, so much so that I’ll be on family duty tomorrow too.
    Haven’t been thinking much about the menu, to tell the truth – I guess pasta/spit-roasted chicken will do.
    On the other hand, a couple of tantalizing champagne bottles are cooling up in the fridge, and I’ve had a very hard time not bursting them open. Fortunately for the guests who would have run on empty otherwise, I have a fairy by my side, who’s been jiminycricketing me into being (just a little bit more) reasonable.
    Been (distractedly, tbh) watching the England game. Kane’s goal being disallowed was a Mike Riley piece of bullshit refereeing, but how can an England manager NOT pick Alexander-Arnold, and NOT be sacked right away, is beyond me.
    I was happy to see the Ward-Prowse lad play, though. He’s not having the best game of his life (no one in the team does), of course, but I’ve always liked him a lot, I think on a good day he has a genuine touch of class for a (roughly) BtoB midfielder, and I’ve often been surprised he’s never been mentioned as a possible buy for The Arsenal.
    Anyway: GN, Kev, very happy for you, and I do hope all BKers are having as enjoyable a week-end as the three of us.

  • LG, congratulations ami.

    I watched about 7 or 8 minutes of the England tedium vs Iceland just after the red card, it’s off now.
    I’m watching a film.

  • Allezkev, thanks for sharing that story on Charlie! Coincidentally, I was just searching the other day if there would be another CM academy prospect like Wilshere so I’ll enjoy following him in the coming years.

  • HH I had heard about him form Jeorge Bird earlier last season, so I knew the name but nothing about him regarding playing style etc so yeah that was a good piece and I knew a few on here would enjoy it. Comparing him with Liam Brady is a big call HH, if he turns out like him then we truly have a star on our hands.

    The group of 16 year olds he’s coming through with are thought to be among the best we’ve produced at the club in several years so more to come from them I hope.

  • Allezkev, really high praise indeed! I liked the little bit I could find on Patino on YouTube, a very intriguing talent indeed.

    For the coming season, I’m really hoping ESR can breakthrough. He’s got the size, is homegrown, has pace, is creative and can drive a team forward. He just needs to stay healthy and get a run of good games to get his confidence up. If he can do that, I believe Arteta can harness his potential and he could be the solution to our creativity issues in midfield!

  • A nightmare start for Zak Swanson last night. MVV lost at home to SC Cambuur 1-7! 😦 Zak played 83 minutes as RB and will want to forget that game immediately.

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