3 Most improved Arsenal players under Mikel Arteta | Premier League 2019-20
Mikel Arteta's appointment has seen optimism return to the Emirates. The football was dull and unappealing under former boss Unai Emery coupled with disappointing results. Under Arteta, the essence of Arsenal which is beautiful possession-based football is slowly yet gradually returning to the side.
The change in backroom staff has also changed the fortunes of many players who were bearing the brunt of the fans' anger due to their poor individual performances. These are the three most improved players under the new boss.
1. Lucas Torreira
We got a glimpse of how effective Lucas Torreira can be as a defensive midfielder at the beginning of last season. The Uruguayan showed his energy and tenacity for the better part of the first half of his debut campaign before fading away.
While such a loss of form is natural for players adapting to the Premier League, Torreira struggled this season as well under Emery. The 23-year-old was constantly played out of position, almost as an attacking midfielder by the former boss. This saw him struggle for form in an unfamiliar role which he is not suited to.
Under Arteta, Torreira has been restored to the ball-winning role he enjoys. He has averaged 3.7 tackles per match since Arteta's first game in charge. He also averages 34.4 passes per game at a healthy pass accuracy rate of 88.7 per cent. Torreira is undoubtedly the most no-nonsense midfielder Arsenal have and restoring him to his best position has seen both an upturn in form on his part as well as the defence being shielded better.
Considering the massive rebuild ahead, Torreira is one player who will remain a permanent member in midfield if he continues playing as he currently is.
2. David Luiz
David Luiz is a difficult player to judge and divides opinion. He joined Arsenal over the summer transfer window in order to add an experienced figure to the defence and replace Laurent Koscielny.
The Brazilian endured a torrid start to his Arsenal career, conceding penalties against Watford and Liverpool apart from generally looking like a defensive liability. Luiz is such a player who requires a system around him that amplifies his strengths and diminishes his weaknesses. In the previous regime, there was little to no protection offered to the defence by the midfielders which exposed Luiz's front-footed style of play.
Under Arteta, the system has completely changed which has enabled Luiz to play with more freedom and brings out his ball-playing abilities. Few players in the world can boast a range of passing as the Brazilian does and his line-breaking passes are especially important in breaking low-blocks and the defensive setups of the opposition. His defensive errors have also significantly reduced in number.
When he makes make a mistake, he has the supporting players to sweep up after him. Therefore Arteta has very intelligently used the tools available at his disposal to aid Luiz rather than just dispose of him as a flop.
3. Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Most people have generally been sceptical of Ainsley Maitland-Niles' ability to play week-in week-out as the first-choice right-back. There is always an assumption that if Hector Bellerin is fit, the Spaniard automatically replaces Maitland-Niles. The scepticism around Maitland-Niles came from his inconsistency and tendency to switch off during games.
The youngster was sent off against Aston Villa this season as well as against Leicester last year. The biggest issue was not of his capability but rather his commitment to playing in a role he does not particularly like.
Under Arteta, Maitland-Niles has raised serious questions about whether Bellerin should be first-choice right-back. The Englishman has been played as an inverted full-back, a role that allows him to drift into the midfield, his preferred position. In this new role, Maitland-Niles has been an effective ball-carrier as well as an extra body in midfield. Such numerical advantages in midfield are essential in order to implement a possession-based style of football. His strength and pace also allow him to do so without compromising on his primary defensive duties as a full-back.
The Englishman's level of performance has been such that even if Bellerin were to return soon, there is no reason why Maitland-Niles should be dropped. He has also single-handedly dealt with the likes of Anthony Martial and Wilfried Zaha in recent weeks, showing maturity and concentration and looked comfortable while doing so.
Published 15 Jan 2020, 04:35 IST