Arsenal DNA remains key to Mikel Arteta rebuild despite defensive foundations taking limelight


Mikel Arteta has been insistent on changing the energy at Arsenal since arriving in December, but after building on last season’s positive momentum with 3-0 win on the opening day at Fulham, he isn’t getting carried away.

Kicking off the campaign at Craven Cottage – bar a moment of indecision between Gabriel Magalhaes and Bernd Leno in the first half – the Gunners controlled proceedings comfortably. Attacking patterns of play designed last season returned in the build-up to goals as did the pressing work of the forward players which led to an all-round convincing display.

Heading into this season after an eighth placed finish, those on the outside weren’t expecting much from Arsenal. Wins over Manchester City Liverpool [twice] and Chelsea rubber stamp the improvements that have been made under Arteta. Despite this, the Spaniard is still waiting to see whether these performances can last over the course of an entire campaign.

“What we have to find is the level of consistency throughout the season. We’ve done it in one match, [there are] still a lot of things to improve collectively and individually. We have another week to train and next week go again.

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“But what I can see is that they are not happy with the last two trophies, that they want more, they want to speed up this process and hopefully they are enjoying it as well.

“I want to get the team to a level to perform as high as the team can perform and be the best we can be. Then time will tell where we are at the end of the season but my only aim is to get things right for next weekend and keep winning.”

Arteta faced one of his toughest tasks as Arsenal boss when football resumed in June, beginning the restart with two straight defeats at City and Brighton. This prompted a switch to a 3-4-3 system which has been maintained since, but also led to accusations of the Gunners taking a defensive approach before countering teams.

Goals have come as a result of the Gunners’ defensive work. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Norwich, Eddie Nketiah vs Southampton, Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson vs Liverpool are examples of this.

On the other hand, Arteta’s Arsenal have regularly put together free-flowing attacking moves that begin with the goalkeeper and end in goals. Aubameyang’s goal at Fulham was the latest example, but his openers in the Community Shield and FA Cup semi-finals stand as proof that these patterns are worked on to allow the Gunners to express themselves in possession.

When asked about the move the led to the goal, Arteta hammered home the point that this is how his views Arsenal playing in the long-term, but there also needs to be room to adjust to their opposition.

“It’s the DNA of this football club and how I was raised as a football player so I don’t see it in any other way,” he added.

“But as well, we have to be efficient and we need to adapt. Sometimes we can do certain things against certain opponents and another match we have to do something different because the thing I love most is winning.”

Key to the opening day victory was Willian. Making his debut, the 32-year-old claimed three assists but impressed with his all-round performance.

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Arriving in the latter stages of his career, a deciding factor was the experience and approach to football which would help Arteta speed up his Arsenal rebuild. After such an impressive debut, the Brazilian’s response made Arteta believe in his new signing that much more.

“Some players when that happens [a good performance], they have a full stomach. With Willian I got the opposite feeling, that he wanted more. He wanted a different club and get to the level he was at, at the previous one. So I’m really pleased because he showed how much he wants it and how much he’s going to try to achieve that,” he explained.

“We expect it [to rub off on the team]. We need a mix. We have a lot of young players with a big talent and big future but they need some role models. I think Willian is a really good one to have around the place. He doesn’t talk much in the dressing room but he always talks on the pitch and that’s a good way to do it.”





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