Southgate’s Struggle is Like Arteta’s Struggle And They Both Need One Thing…


Watching the interlull footie over the last few days, I realised again how important system of football is AND how hard it is to change it. The Dutch play 4-3-3 in general and depending on the quality of players available they can make a success of it or not. Most Dutch players know this way of playing inside and out, and this leads to an organised form of football and a chance to make it to the finals of a major tournament. Over the last 50 years the Dutch national team have made it to a final or semi-final in a major tournament every decade, and mostly so on the basis of a 4-3-3 formation.

Southgate’s England are also trying to play an internally well-discussed and trained system of football but, despite the good quality of players available, they remain a work in progress. De Rode Duivels were a bit lucky to score two goals in quick succession, and the England manager needed to go out and attack rather than sit back and absorb pressure in order to spring a counter-attack or benefit from a turnover – as far as I can tell that is the desired way of playing football for England now. Under the leadership of Mr Sexy-Carves, Grealish, and Half-Moon-Face, Kane, England took the game to the Belgians but it all lacked ‘system’, inter-connectivity, and a team-wide intelligence/focus on what needed to be done to crack the easily-surviving defensive walls of the Belgians.

The much loved by the fans Grealish kept probing and dancing in between the walls but should have used the players around him much better imo – I lost count on the number of times he received the ball from Saka but then never returned it back to him. Bukayo made good runs and positioned himself well, but Sexy-Carves had no eye for him it seems. And I wonder how the equally talented Mason Mount felt at the end of the game… Kane made himself available time and again but was not there in the right spot when it mattered, or simply too knackered to take one of the many half-chances that came his way. The right wing of attack was hardly used and it left a neutral like me bored and frustrated. Having said that, it is clear that Grealish is a fine prospect and one who will go places.

Should Southgate change course and develop another system of football, or, the usual response to a loss, get rid of most of the players? I don’t think so. It takes time to evolve a team and make them play a new system of football. If I were the FA I would sign him up for the next 6-8 years and let him build something that will last, just like the Germans did with the fifth Beatle; they really have made a paradigm jump in terms of style of football and developing young talents in the last ten years or so.

There are similarities with Arsenal, of course. Wengerball was no longer fit for purpose after the arrival of Guardiola and Klopp. It does not mean it’s dead in the water but it certainly needs tweaking, and perhaps it is time to play a different sort of football as to compete again with the blue and red football powers of the North-West.

Arteta has a big job to do, and his Russian Dolls approach of building up carefully our team to an all-conquering machine will need a lot of patience. The recent loss against the team of Martinez and Mr Sexy Carves was a painful example that we really are not there yet, and I can sense the impatience getting worse now. And there is a risk it will start to undermine Arteta’s excellent progress until now.

Two trophies and beating Liverpool, MC, Chavs, MU etc should have given us the trust and calm in supporting Mikel unreservedly. He has given us sooo much already. If we really want to get back to being title contenders we need to be patient and stand behind the manager AND all the players.

To have a solid defence is vital in this league; next step is to get the balance right in midfield and Arteta is close to doing just that. I am excited to see what he will do next with the midfield, especially in terms of making the midfield play closer to the attackers. With Xhaka, Partey, Elneny, Willock, Saka, Ceballos, Willian, ESR, etc he has great players to turn the midfield in a fortress that dominates all proceedings. To get the midfield balance right without losing our defensive solidity is THE next challenge for Mikel (and Southgate… and many other managers) and it is unlikely we will get there in one go. The next Russian Doll will be pivotal and it is highly likely Arsenal will both win and lose big games as well as ‘expected to win games’ this season. It will just need time, simple as that and we the fans should stay behind Mikel and the players, as this will speed up the process rather than hinder it.

By TotalArsenal.

27 thoughts on “Southgate’s Struggle is Like Arteta’s Struggle And They Both Need One Thing…

  • Completely agree with Arteta. It feels like he has a plan. You get the impression he needs to move players on and make room in the wages to continue getting the right players.

  • Off topic, but Iโ€™ve just heard that the rumour going around is that William Saliba has lost both his parents, if true then that must have absolutely smashed him emotionally to pieces.

  • I think I read somewhere that thereโ€™s a mural close to the Armoury Store in Hornsey Road by the railway bridge, Iโ€™m not sure tbh?

  • Morning TA– Well, over here still anyway.
    Think you hit the nail square– with the comparison of how the two managers are trying to develop a chemistry, stay defensively stout– and, institute a new-ish formation.

    Arteta’s quandry is a bit different in that he’s managed to stiffen the defensive resolve– but lacks in choice to infuse the necessary creativity between the area back to front– to turn it into points.

    Southgate OTOH is like a Fantasy Manager. He has many talented and exciting parts to plug-in– but not the time to make it work mechanically– in order to develop a chemistry. Example being Henderson and Rice in MF. Just not a lot of front-footed attack in that pair. Maybe with Phil Foden in there with either– might make that engine go.

    Funny. I recall late last season mentioning Arsenal should be in for one/both Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish– as AVL was certainly to be relegated. Got half that right. ๐Ÿ˜

    Mikel has still not had a full season in charge for our club. A club that teetered on anarchy and disarray this time a year ago. Still a ways to go. Progress isn’t always swift when you have to fill in a hole to build upon that same ground.

    GN5– if you would sir!
    Tottenham v Manchester City = Home
    Manchester United v WBA = Home
    Leeds v Arsenal = Away
    Liverpool v Leicester = Home
    Fulham v Everton = Away
    Aletico Madrid v Barcelona = Home


  • That is sad to hear Kev. I had heard that about William Saliba losing his mother awhile back this year. And– why I was hoping that Arsenal wouldn’t loan him out– but keep him close for that reason. As well of course him being a young man in a new country. Then top it off with what else 2020 have wrought.

    Keeping the young man close and in the fold with the club– seems to be the decent thing.


  • Great analysis Total,

    I’m not a great fan of International football as England have been wannabe’s for far too long. I think you are quite right in your assumption that three things are the main contributors for this, 1) change of managers 2) constant change of systems 3) lack of time together as a squad.

    I don’t see anything changing these three factors and therefore I see England’s future chances of winning a competition as nothing more than a wish and hope, hence I can’t even be bothered to watch their games..

  • Gooneris I haven’t got your predictions for this week ends games, and LEGALL if you are still reading the blog it’s never too late to make your choices.

    Tottenham v Manchester City
    Manchester United v WBA
    Leeds v Arsenal
    Liverpool v Leicester
    Fulham v Everton
    Aletico Madrid v Barcelona

  • Cheers JW.

    Arteta could well be waiting for another arrival to enable to next stage, we will have to see. I rather think we have the players but he is struggling to get them to play the way he wants in a natural way, which I would fully understand. And Partey only had a handful of games with us so it is too early to say whether he could make the difference Arteta is looking for.

    It is true though that Southgate has so much choice albeit that they all need to carry an English passport. Drilling and executing a different system of football is just very hard. It took Wenger also quite a while to get there back in the mid-nineties.

    Fine comment by the way.

  • Cheers GN5, the lack of time together is indeed an extra problem (JW mentioned this too). Football really has become more complicated and challenging in recent years and those countries that have an established system of football can go far as long as they also have some decent footballers.

  • I am worried about LeGallos, he has not responded to my email, which may have ended up in his spam mind you, and he is clearly not visiting here anymore. He is either upset about something or not well or interested to respond anymore. I hope he is well and will give us a shout soon.

  • When I become frustrated while watching our anemic attack, I try to remind myself to be patient, as TA would counsel. Also it’s good to remember that Artetaball has brought us a couple wins against a couple big teams, and also, easily forgotten, we were in for a chance for draws against Man City and Liverpool recently. No need to remind any of us of our results against big clubs for the past few years.

    So I’ll hope Arteta can makes some “tweaks” .. I do think they are overdue at this point.

  • Good comparison and insights, TA.
    I’m working on a post here that resonates to your article above. So I rather not copy the third of it, but send it to you, if interested.
    It might be slightly less optimistic, but as constructive as I can get. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • By the way, I’m watching the fifth Beatle right now. Doesn’t look too happy. They’ve done this to many other teams, so it’s good for their humility.

  • Cheers J, it may come down to a tweak indeed. Maybe Joe will help the midfield to connect with attack better. Say we play 4-3-3 with XhakA-Partey-Willock pushing up high in midfield. It may just make all the difference.. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฟ

  • Yes J, a real sacking of the Germans tonight. Shame I missed but Tuesday is British Bake Off night and Mrs Total is a big fan… Tomorrow is The Netherlands v Poland though ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ

  • Good read, TA and fine comments all round. I fully expect Arteta to get it right some time soon, as he looks like a man on a mission. Until the Villa upset, we were the side with the least goals conceded in the EPL. That was not an accident but rather the result of a plan; that Villa result must have hurt, even though Arteta didnโ€™t give the media the pleasure of seeing his hurt. I wonโ€™t be surprised if we never suffer such a scoreline over the next 10 games because he will return to the basic drills again. For me, it should have been AMN for Bellerin, just because he knows how to keep skillful players quiet, better. Thatโ€™s in the past.

    I feel (and I know I have said it here before) Arteta wants to build from the back to the front. He (thought he) had fixed the defensive frailties; the midfield, to a good extent; next stop, will be the creativity and offensive play. I also agree he may be looking at a couple of newbies (Auoar, for one) to set up as he desires.

    As it relates to the England set up, I would yield to the views put forward by jw1.

    Finally, thatโ€™s such sad news on Salibaโ€™s parents, if confirmed. That young man has gone through a lot this year. May the souls of the departed Rest In Peace.

  • Thanks for the predictions game update, GN5. Kev is on a roll, I see. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    My predictions for the chosen games:

    Tottenham v Manchester City โ€“ Home
    Manchester United v WBA โ€“ Home
    Leeds v Arsenal โ€“ Away
    Liverpool v Leicester โ€“ Draw
    Fulham v Everton โ€“ Away
    Aletico Madrid v Barcelona โ€“ Draw

  • Your 4-3-3 with Willock sounds worth a try, T, but many of us would try anything right now. I still say the obvious Auba at cf — so another skilled player like Saka wide left can help create chances for him. Not to be negative, but i was in the sell Lacazette camp because of his contract winding down and younger options coming through. Especially in the system Arteta is playing, he seems not to fit.

    I’ll be watching your boys against Poland tomorrow, and I love cooking themed shows too.

  • J, agreed, a shift up front seems to be required.

    Not sure whether they will play again but if so, have a good look at the Dutch midfield of Wijnaldum, Klaassen and F de Jong. This is the way forward for Arsenal I reckon.

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