One of the most interesting aspects of Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Southampton was the way Mikel Arteta’s players switched formation during the game.
When the team sheet was released it looked like Kieran Tierney would play in his usual left-back position as part of a back four. However, as soon as the game began, it became obvious he’d been asked to tuck in next to Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi whenever Southampton threatened.
That left space for Bukayo Saka, well-versed in the responsibilities of a wing-back, to add an extra body in defence. In possession, Saka pushed up the touchline, offering far more of an attacking threat.
Coming days after Hector Bellerin used passages of play at Brighton to operate as an auxiliary midfielder, Mikel Arteta has shown he’s more than happy adapting roles and responsibilities depending on the opposition.
After the game, the boss explained his thinking, hinting he’s hoping for even more flexibility in the future.
“We will change the game plan in relation to what we want to generate attacking-wise and as well how we can constrain the opponent and how we can better control their strengths,” he said.
“As well, with the players we had available it was the best fit for everybody to play in their position and be more comfortable, more secure about their jobs.
“We don’t have the flexibility that I would like right now to change more things, but it’s part of the process.”
After a tough first week back after the Covid-19 lockdown, this evening’s win against Southampton was most welcome. The boss was particularly pleased with the way his squad managed the game.
“We have to develop and we have to evolve as a team,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that we have to improve, we have to recognise and we have to probably go through in a negative way to learn. But they are so willing.
“They want to do it and the way they follow us is incredible. I never criticise the effort or how much they want it.
“I was a little bit critical about how we competed and how we gave the opponent points. That’s a disappointment.
“There are small details and I know we are a very, very young team with a lot of inexperience but in the Premier League we have to manage these moments. We cannot play the same way for 100 minutes, it’s not possible.”