Monday, February 26, 2024

Arteta: It’s my job to cause problems for our opponents

Mikel Arteta may have spent much of the summer talking about Arsenal’s need to be more unpredictable but it was still something of a surprise when his first starting lineup of the new Premier League campaign didn’t include defender Gabriel Magalhaes.

The Brazilian had started 73 consecutive league games for the Gunners – a run dating back two years – but had to settle for a place on the bench as Arteta opted to partner Ben White and William Saliba in the middle of defence with Thomas Partey and Jurrien Timber flanking them.

While they nominally lined up as a back four, all of them had a licence to rove as Arsenal looked to find new ways of unlocking Nottingham Forest’s deep block. It worked well in the opening 45 minutes with Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka scoring the goals that would win the match 2-1.

Asked to explain the tactics and his unexpected team selection, Arteta said: “We expected a game that actually happened and we needed somebody else there in midfield to do what we have to do the best, and have more fluidity and occupy certain spaces in relation to how they were defending. I think it worked really well.”

He added: “That’s my job, to create bigger problems for the opponents and the ones that they are creating us, and to play the best possible way to earn right the to win the game and have the highest probability to win the game.

“In order to do that we have to pick the right players every week, not to start only but as well to finish and the players that come in the final part of the game, they really help us as well to earn the right to win.”

Despite dominating Forest for the majority of the game, the visitors reduced the deficit on 82 minutes with a breakaway goal that rattled the nerves.

“We gave a very sloppy one away,” was Arteta’s assessment of Taiwo Awoniyi’s strike. Pegged back, Arteta responded by sending on trusted lieutenant Gabriel to close things out.

Arsenal really shouldn’t have got themselves in such a pickle and while the manager maintained “there’s no question that we deserved to win the game”, he also warned his players that, “we have to be more ruthless and more critical of ourselves to be more pushy and kill the games.”

All in all, Arteta will be pleased to get off to a winning start but it’s clear there’s plenty of room for improvement.

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I for one support being bold and trying out new things, especially if you’ve thought them through and analysed the opponent and constructed a precise game plan for them, as it’s pretty obvious our coaching team has. It doesn’t mean it will always work, but it also won’t always work to be conservative and trot out the same lineup every week.


I think the tactic was brilliant. How many times have we seen a team frustrated by a low block for 70 minutes and then bring extra bodies in midfield. Why not just anticipate it and counter it from the get go?Loved it. The second half was terrible though.


Straight from the kickoff we stationed 8 players on the left half of our defence, as if we were expecting Forest to punt it there from kickoff. And what did Forest do? Punted it long to that area twice, which we dealt with.

Seems like Arteta knew Steve Cooper was getting our intel from Matt Turner and wanted to turn the tables, especially with our experimental starting line-up


I sense I’m in the minority on here but I didn’t think we played poorly at all. Especially playing for the first time in a new formation, with 3 new joiners, against a very capable team. We conceded a late goal against the run of play, that shouldn’t negate the positives that came before, nor how we dealt with their pressure afterwards.


I agree, I think it’s the “same old Arsenal” trauma resurfacing when we concede a late goal and threaten to concede a late equaliser after leading comfortably, which left a bad taste in people’s mouths despite us playing pretty well for the most part. And the fact we invested so much, some people maybe think that should bring immediate results and 5-0 spankings. Nope, there’s still a process to be trusted (which is funny to have to say after a win)

Dr. Gooner

Yes, exactly. In some ways we are taking a step backwards so we can go forwards. We are taking a proven veteran who did the business for us in Granit Xhaka and relaxing him with a very different profile.

Also worth remembering that we don’t hum and purr without Gabi Jesus and Zinchenko in the same way as with Eddie, especially against a deep block.

Dr. Gooner



It feels when we have a lead, we keep the ball to keep the ball, which is fine when pressed but when the opponent sits back we have to always try to score, as if the score was nil nil.


There were times yesterday when we kept the ball too slowly. Slow possession doesn’t get the job does, crisp, pacy possession does.

Man Manny

Would any Arsenal fans be optimistic about winning an EPL game last season without Gabriel, Zinchenko, Xhaka and Jesus in the starting line up?
That is what happened today; it is called, Strength in depth. Another title race beckons, and it is likely to be the new normal for Arsenal.


65 m – Havertz
105m – Rice
43m – Timber

200m replacements for above 3 players


And in a grand irony after all that expense, we put out an attacking trio that cost 6 M between them and our goals came from players that cost exactly 0m.

Dr. Gooner

Money is one thing but player development is another investment of resources and time. That’s essentially what you pay for when you buy a player from another club. Ajax did with Timber the same thing we did with Eddie and Bukayo, and West Ham with Rice. But the types of profiles are different. A player with Rice’s combination of physique and mentality only comes along once in a great while, and you only have so much control over what types of profiles your academy produces. So to me Gabi and Eddie and Bukayo are not free money. They’re the expected… Read more »

Dr. Gooner

I’ll have to watch it back again to be sure but it looked like it was primarily Thomas going inside when we had the ball and Rice had license to go box to box almost as if he was playing the left 8. That made it awkward on the left because Martinelli, Havertz and Rice are all direct players and they were kind of getting in each others’ way, especially Rice and Havertz. Meanwhile, Timber largely sat back, so there wasn’t much width on that flank. It’s worth remembering these three guys are coming from vastly different types of clubs… Read more »

Dr. Gooner

This was definitely a Zinchenko game and I still think he unlocks us on the left hand side with his penetrative passing better than anyone else, but it’s nice to have options as well. Up to Arteta to find the right balance now for the right scenarios.


Yes, he links up very well with Martinelli

Though with him, we could not have played 3 at the back

Dr. Gooner

It would have been Timber at RB probably if Z was fit.

Teryima Adi

I believe the boys struggled with this formation. But the most important thing is the points in the bag.


The urgency wasn’t there for most of the second half. We let the momentum we’d built up before the break dissipate, and the closing period was nervy and anxious as a result.. Hopefully we’ll learn from it and become a bit more ruthless in the upcoming fixtures. A bigger cushion would have allowed us to make changes earlier too.


Didn’t cause Forest many problems. Havertz was non existent


You should have gone to Specsavers.

Sanyo’s Thigh Grab

We scored 2 goals, I would call that a problem for Forest.

Cranky Colin

Don’t completely overthink it Mikel.
For me, Gabriel and Saliba start when fit

Only one Dennis Bergkamp

We needed the points, we got them. And we played well for the most part, even with a new (and slightly surprising) line up. And now we really have the personnel to mix it up and ‘be unpredictable’ that the manager really wants.


This was a complete crazy unacceptable lineup from Arteta. Partey at right back is utter waste. Plus last season our greatest undoing was saliba injury and Arteta ended up playing holding in his place. If Arteta could play White at CB today, it was even more essential to do the same last season. Just cannot understand Arteta’s thinking. Also havertz in midfield a waste too. Has to play in the false nine position.


Last season Tomiyasu was injured at the same time as Saliba. Cedric was at Fulham and Maitland-Niles at Southampton. Zinchenko and Tierney are too left footed to play at RB. Who would you have selected there if you’d moved White (who had a superb season at RB) to CB? Just asking?


I think our starting lineup and tactics were fine. It was more our failure to adjust to Forrest’s changes. When Awoniyi came on for a midfielder in Danilo. I think that should have been our cue to bring on big Gabby. We need to react quicker to the tactical changes of the opposition


Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with the win. It’s the trying tinkering with formation for no reason I don’t like. Let’s be honest, every team has an idea of what the other team plans to do. Stopping it is usually the problem. I don’t think anybody believes teams don’t know that Haaland is going to score. If you have quality players who are better and fitter than the opposition, you win most times. I am not discounting tactics but I do feel coaches get too much credit sometimes. I feel a coach’s best impact is the mentality he… Read more »


This is going to be the death of Arteta. Trying something new just because he wants to get the credit of being “smart”. It’s Nottingham Forest at home. Any conventional line up would have beaten them. Why do we start the season with Partey at RB when we have Ben White and Timber? I don’t know if Tierney was injured but I don’t believe he isn’t good enough to play for us. What then is Arteta doing with all this tinkering that only seems to be about how brilliant of a coach He is? Why don’t we save this for… Read more »

Public Elneny

I think the plan to overload the midfield worked quite well in the 1st half, probably caught forest by surprise. The issue came in the 2nd where Forest had adapted to it and started causing problems out wide and on the counter. 2 goals up and lacking threat out wide, we could have really done with White playing the conventional RB role. Forest adapted but we didn’t Making some tactical changes is essential over the course of a season to prevent predictability, but changes need to be timed right and the issues they create for us have to be weighed… Read more »


Partey’s ability to withstand pressure on the ball was severely tested towards the end of last season. His physicality dropped off. It was a good idea to allow him a soft landing and have other players surrounding him take the pressure off. Timber with his intelligent decision making. What a great player we have on the books btw. He really helped morph the team decisively between a 2-3 or 3-2 in buildup. And then Partey in buildup, positioned at right back. And the Sheffield united style RCB becoming a RWB and Partey dropping in to cover as a RCB, but… Read more »


Cooper summed it up pretty well “We setup with a back 5 and kept a mid to low black and try to hit with fast transitions” And basically said they did the maximum they could do. Just didn’t know what hit him. That it was all about position and trying to get a fortunate goal. But really every team who came last season and thinking back 5 thinking it would work this season will be picked apart. We have multiple players who can quarterback: Zin, Saliba, White, Partey & Rice And there is one more to come… That one will… Read more »

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