Mikel Arteta says he’s keen for Arsenal to dominate possession, press higher, create more chances and concede fewer goals but for the time being he’s happy setting up his side in a way that suits the players he has at his disposal.
In games against high-calibre opposition – this week, that took the form of two games with Premier League champions Liverpool – the Gunners have been happy to sit in a low-block, to cede control of the ball and to spring fast-counter attacks in the hope of grabbing goals.
The tactics have brought a new solidity at the back and led to some eye-catching goals but have also hinted at limitations on the creative front.
Has Arteta moved away from the principles of Johan Cruyff on a permanent basis or is this a practical deviation while he gets to grips with his Arsenal personnel.
“I think it is a mix of both,” he told his pre-Sheffield United press conference.
“I think the game about innovation, that you have to be able to adapt, most importantly, I have to be able to adapt to the players that I have.
“To try and to give them maximum security, comfort, and ask everything they are able to do at the moment.
“And obviously, when you play against that type of opponent [Liverpool] at the moment, which is probably the most dominant team or one of the three most dominant teams in Europe, you have to know and be realistic and play the game that you are able to play against them.
“Not the game that you want to put in the magnets or in the video. It’s actually the game that we have to play against them.
“If we are able, we will compete against them and we will give our ourselves a big chance to win that game. And this is why we have to go game by game, don’t forget where we want to go and how are we going to make that process and evolution.”
Keen to stress that he has a bigger vision for his side, Arteta added: “I want to become more dominant. I want to press even higher than we do. Like you could see on Thursday night how aggressive the team is, I want to have 55 shots on targets. And I want to concede zero goals every game. This is the aim of where we want to get and how we’re going to evolve.
“And in relation to against who do we play, we will adapt to make it difficult for them and give ourselves the best possible chance. But we cannot deny as well, the way we try to play, the goals that we score making 40 passes using the goalkeeper doing the build up from goal kick and scoring some great goals again, some of the best opponents in the country as well.
“But at the moment, we need that mix. We need that adaptability and then unpredictability to attack and defend teams.”