Saturday, February 24, 2024

Arteta: Games aren’t going to be fluent when there’s nowhere to run

Are Arsenal less exciting to watch this season? The eye test suggests so and the stats mostly back up the theory. 

But why is that? Is Mikel Arteta setting up his side with a more defensive mindset? Is attacking fluidity, or lack thereof, down to personnel issues? Or is it simply because opponents are more wary of the Gunners’ threat compared to last season? 

In truth, it’s a combination of all of the above and more. 

Ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with Lens, the manager was asked how Arsenal can improve when it comes to breaking down sides playing with a low block.

“By practising, like everything,” he said. “Obviously, when there is less space and more density, it’s more difficult to score a goal. 

“I think we attacked much better [at Brentford] than we have done in other moments when a team defended with that block. 

“There are certain things that we are insisting a lot to do, to create more issues for opponents. The more we practice, the better we will be. 

“Sometimes we don’t want to provoke that but we will because the team wants to do it. It’s about finding the right key to unlock the doors in relation to what the team wants to do.”

The manager also believes that his side’s lack of early goals this season isn’t helping with the perception that they are not as interesting to watch. 

“Game state is a big thing. Last year we scored a lot of goals in the first minutes of the games, and then the game becomes different,” he said. 

“The opponent becomes more open, the opponent has to do many other things and we haven’t been able to do that that often. So when you compare the time we’ve had in winning moments last year to this year, it’s different. 

“But the league is different, expectations are different and the players are different. The important thing is we keep winning.”

Given Arsenal sit top of the Premier League table and can seal first place in Champions League Group B with a win on Wednesday, it’s fair to say he has a point. 

That the Gunners have developed a reputation for being strong at the back, certainly isn’t to be sniffed at, although the boss isn’t focusing on that per se. 

“The satisfaction is where we are,” he clarified when asked about being defensively solid.

“We have to find a way to be where we want to be, and this is exactly where we want to be. 

“It’s not going to be as fluent, it’s not going to be as hectic, because there is no space to run. When you are sitting in traffic, you want to go 100mph, but I have three busses and 55 taxis around me, so it’s tricky. 

“We need to get where we want to get to and in order to do that we have to be really solid and I think we’ve been really solid so far.”

He added: “I think game state is a big definer of that, and you see that time and time again. In the league and in Europe, because in the Champions League what happened? Against PSV we were really exciting, because we scored early. Against Sevilla it was the same. That’s a big thing.”

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Gervinho is Driving

Clive makes some good points on the latest AV about using diagonal crosses to our penalty box specialists, both as goal threat and to loosen up the double marking on our wingers. Will be interesting to see how this plays out considering that Jesus is available again. Chaos merchant through the middle; Havertz or Eddie pulling defenders to the back post; suddenly Saka has a yard of space.


Our xGA in 23/24 = 0.91 (best in the league); in 22/23 = 1.21.
It is clear that we’re an absolute defensive juggernaut and this was something we thought we were close to last year, but have taken to another level this season. This data right here points to the EXACT reason why Raya is preferred over Ramsdale. It is all about preventing chances and we’re excelling at that.


What exactly has this got to do with Raya?
We’ve just spent 100m on the best defensive mid in the league. And Tomiyasu, one of our best defenders. Is playing nearly every game. Both of these have had a far bigger impact on our improved defence.

Celebration Police

So much actually. It’s about control. When you deny your opponents the ball, they can’t attack you. That’s the point of having a keeper that can play from the back. You have only 50% of retaining the ball when you punt the ball upfield. Your chances of retaining the ball is up to 80% when you pass the ball from the back. It’s not too much about making saves, it’s about preventing chances. Our season went down the drain last year due to not playing from the back towards the end. Ramsdale played a part in that and Saliba injury… Read more »


Nevermind. The agenda is clearly set against Raya. Best defense in the league? check! Big decrease in xGA? Check! Superior in basically every statistical category to Rammers (including post-shot expected goals vs goals conceded)? Check!

But, he sucks and is doing nothing to help the team.


giving raya sole credit for the hard work of all eleven players on the pitch seems a bit hyperbolic and is completely ridiculous


Right. Lots of those stats come from games where Ramsdale was playing. Keeper’s effect on xga is not that great


Let me check what I wrote again… Nope no mention that he’s the sole reason for improved defense, but certainly a big contributor, which of course is very hard for some to acknowledge.


you’re not wrong, but raya makes our defence look a lot more solid passing the ball out. you can hate all you want – but the data backs it up.

Reality check

Perfectly put. With the football management acumen people like Caragher and Naville have, they can’t even manage a pub team let alone an elite PL football club. We are going through a faze where we are learning to deal with parked busses. That’s the highest compliment your opponent can give you and the highest level of domination a team can reach. It’s all about sustaining the progress now and become the winners that we are so close to be.


Did Mikel really used the ‘retarted unit’?! Or is it what living for 20 years in the UK does to you? Forgetting the far superior metric system….


might wanna check the use of a specific word in your post there

A Different George

Yeah, as Arteta often stresses, it’s how you play in the two 16.5 metre boxes that matters.

A Different George

“Against PSV we were really exciting because we scored early.” Yeah, but we scored early because they were one of the only teams we have met this year, in the league or in Europe, that tried to actually play. I am looking forward to the Liverpool match.


villa away will give you a taste of what to expect against liverpool

Man Manny

I am not sure Unai Emery will make it a good ebening for us by coming out to play.

Mr Dob Bobalina

He will

Ödegårds Magnifika Fot

Did Arteta just call some of his opponents fat (three busses)? 👀


Ultimately positional play is about the outcome; less shots on your own goal and more shots on the opposition goal. Pep and Mikel just take it to the extreme. Making the opposition work extremely hard to cover all the gaps will eventually yield a chance. What I would wonder is if premier league is the practise, and that is mostly against compact back 5’s, would we lose the fluency in attack due to lack of practise in match situations. Would we lack fluency vs better teams in the champions league? The Big change in personnel is actually Thomas Partey. He… Read more »


When you are sitting in traffic, you want to go 100mph, but I have three busses and 55 taxis around me, so it’s tricky.
Another quote to file under “the knowledge” tab

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