Mikel Arteta Implements Tactical Changes in Arsenal’s New Season

Mikel Artetas Arsenal is undergoing tactical adjustments in the new season following a substantial summer investment of over £200 million. While the fundamental principles remain intact from the previous year, Arteta has introduced subtle shifts to the team’s setup, aiming to evolve and enhance its structure.

With seven points earned from three matches, Arsenals start to the campaign appears steady, although there are murmurs of discontent within the fanbase regarding the teams current sharpness and creativity. The recent 22 draw against Fulham, in which Arsenal conceded two avoidable goals, has particularly disappointed supporters.

Here, Telegraph Sport delves into the modifications Arteta has introduced to the team, the potential rationale behind these changes, and their effectiveness after three games.

Revised Defensive Shape
Last season, the arrival of Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City led to a system where the left-back moved into midfield during possession phases. This was possible due to the presence of Ben White, William Saliba, and Gabriel Magalhaes anchoring the defense.

However, Zinchenko’s absence due to fitness concerns this season prompted Arteta to invert this approach. Thomas Partey has assumed the “Zinchenko role” from the right side, partnering with new signing Declan Rice.

Nevertheless, alterations have occurred in the defensive structure behind Partey when he ventures into midfield. Last season, Saliba and Gabriel often formed a defensive duo in the center. In contrast, the current system features a solitary defender, usually Saliba, during these instances. White has continued his forays down the right flank, and the left-back (different in each game) widens on the opposite wing.

The potential vulnerability of this new setup was evident in the opening minute of the Fulham match. As Partey advanced to midfield, White drifted towards the right wing for attacking support. Consequently, Saliba found himself as the lone central defender. A turnover by Bukayo Saka allowed Fulham’s Andreas Pereira to exploit the significant gap in Arsenal’s defense.

Comparing average positions against Fulham in the corresponding fixture last year, the tactical changes are evident. Arsenal’s average positions show a noticeable shift, reflecting their adaptation to the new shape.

The exclusion of Gabriel from the lineup, amid speculation of Saudi Arabian interest, has prompted questions. Arteta maintains that this is a tactical decision. The rationale is evident: Gabriel complemented the left-back’s movement into midfield last season, whereas this season, the right-back adopts that role. Consequently, Arsenal requires a different type of player on the left side of defense.

Despite its seemingly high-risk nature, Arsenal’s new shape has showcased defensive solidity in their opening matches. The team has conceded only seven shots on target thus far, indicating control and limited threats from opponents. The defensive concerns against Fulham were primarily attributed to individual errors at crucial moments, rather than structural issues.