Mikel Arteta says he’s aiming to get Arsenal playing in a 4-3-3 formation but says he doesn’t currently have the right personnel in five to six positions.
When the Spaniard joined from Manchester City just under a year ago, he was quick to set-up his side with a four-man backline. He’s since tinkered with the use of wing-backs, toyed with midfielders dropping into defensive positions and again returned to a (sort of) traditional four.
While he’s stressed a desire to become more flexible and to adapt to the threat of opponents, in recent weeks – with results going south and creativity drying up – the switches, have looked a bit more desperate; almost like he’s searching for any set-up that might flick a switch in his underperforming players.
In an interview with Dazn journalist Nacho González (snippets of which have been translated from Spanish by @elspanishgooner), Arteta made clear that formations are not the be-all and end-all, although he does have an end goal in mind.
“For me the way we occupy space and who is going to move in there is more important than the formation,” he said.
“And from there we have some very similar players that are not used to play in those positions so we have to keep changing the formation a little bit.
“We want to move to a 4-3-3 but for that, you need a lot of specificity in every position but now in five or six positions, we don’t have it.
“The aggressiveness, the effectiveness, the amount of steals we make in opposition half I think we have been very steady against some big clubs.
“I think that what we miss is in the opponent’s area and the last part of the pitch. We have to find the key in the attack, that last decision, that last pass, that last cross to create a goal situation, a goal, a shot, a corner, etc.”
The boss went on to outline his plans for the club in the long, mid and short-term.
“Long-term being able to compete for every important tournament we play, play on the Champions League consistently. Mid-term to experience an improvement in the way we play, our style and the DNA of the club.
“And short term to keep competing like we have in every game and improve every phase of the game and that’s the minimum we have to sustain now to aspire at the end of the season to be close to the other big clubs.”
One thing is clear, for Arteta to stand a chance of implementing plans beyond this season, he knows he has to withstand the imminent pressures that have come with a rapid tumble down the table. A drop in player confidence in him could be disastrous.
He’s taking heart from Pep Guardiola’s first season struggles at Manchester City and the fact that even when things look bad from the outside, they may not be a true reflection of the progress being made.
“For me the most important when you are building a new project is that you need to have very clear what you want to do and the people around you have to know what you want to do, believe in that and be willing to defend that for a sustainable and reasonable period of time.
“Change to what we want has risks and the way we want to play requires a lot of precision, a lot of game lecture. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We have very clear where we are going and in this path, there’s going to be times when the project is going to suffer.
“There we have to be stronger than ever, keep our idea and keep trying to bring the players we want, keep the players we have and evolve them. For me, that’s the main secret.
“At Man City in our first year, which was complicated, I saw the reaction of people around Pep, the people in the hierarchy…they didn’t have a doubt, they knew the path to follow – this year something has happened – but we are going there, the following years it was different.
“And I think that’s the most important, to make the people around you believe [in you and the project].”
We suspect more will come out from this interview – judging by the original link the content has been pulled by DAZN or his geo-blocked. But in the meantime, thanks again to @elspanishgooner for taking the time to translate and to Nacho for eliciting some interesting answers from Arteta.