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3 important tactical changes Mikel Arteta has made at Arsenal

Published Jan 12, 2020
Jan 12, 2020 IST

Arteta-Turning things around?
Arteta-Turning things around?

Arsenal, under new boss Mikel Arteta, have been worlds apart from Arsenal under Unai Emery. While the Spaniard may have won just one game in the league, it is clearly evident how Arteta has had a positive effect on Arsenal's mentality and tactics. The Gunners are now looking to dominate the opposition again and begin games on the front foot.

While they were unlucky to lose against Chelsea, they put up an impressive performance against Manchester United. There are still undoubtedly many issues for Arteta to correct but in just three weeks since his appointment, his philosophy is slowly taking shape at the Emirates Stadium. Here are the three main tactical changes Arteta has made to steady the sinking ship.

Utilization of Maitland-Niles

Maitland-Niles' heatmap against United

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is not a natural right-back and the Englishman has been very vocal of the same. However, he is forced to fill in in that position given Hector Bellerin's injuries. Under Arteta, Maitland-Niles has emerged as one of the most reliable players in the side. Naturally a midfielder, Arteta has found a way to make him cover at right-back but also utilize his skills as a midfielder by playing him as an inverted full-back.

Maitland-Niles frequently moves to midfield and takes up a narrower role when Arsenal are looking to dominate. This helps to create numerical superiority in the midfield which in turn enables the left-back to push forward more. Niles also has the recovery pace to get back into position and defend against the opposition's winger.

Restoring the double-pivot

Under Unai Emery, Arsenal's midfield was the biggest problem. The constant chopping and changing left Torreira frustrated, Granit Xhaka booed off by his own fans and the defence completely exposed. Arteta has sought to re-implement the standard double-pivot in the midfield comprising Torreira and Xhaka. The duo have their strengths and weaknesses but Torreira's discipline has played a vital role in protecting the defence and giving Xhaka more freedom. The Uruguayan's terrier-like presence has been solely missed in an already error-prone side and his reintroduction has seen Arsenal look slightly more compact and comfortable defensively.

While there are still doubts about Xhaka's capabilities, he was done no favours by being played as a singular deep-lying midfielder which exposed his lack of athleticism even more. Arteta has very simply restored the players to their best positions in order to extract the best out of them.

Freeing Mesut Ozil

Crystal Palace v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Crystal Palace v Arsenal FC - Premier League

Few players would have been as relieved to see Emery go than Mesut Ozil. The mercurial playmaker hasn't been at his best for well over a year and a half now but has shown signs of revival under Arteta.


As mentioned before, Arteta has very simply restored the players to their best positions and this means playing Ozil as a number ten. The German has been tasked with playing between the opposition lines and been given a bit more positional freedom. By doing the same, it has also created opportunities for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Nelson to make runs in behind the defensive line trusting Ozil to find them with his trademark through-passes. Ozil is undoubtedly the most talented player in this Arsenal side and even though he may be past his best, still has plenty to offer in terms of his creativity and execution.

Arteta has no easy task at Arsenal. They are still leaking goals and making errors. However, the impact he has had in a short period of time bodes well for the future of the club. Drastic changes take time and Arteta has opted to simplify things and make the side play as a team again by restoring the positional links and positive mindset among the players. His side is slowly going into games with the belief that they can win, something that completely vanished as Emery's reign progressed. Arteta is bound to be successful if this trend continues.

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