On the December 20, 2019, we saw Arsenal move to appoint the Manchester City assistant coach Mikel Arteta as their permanent head coach.
Prior to this appointment, in 2018, the Spaniard was reportedly in contention for the post before the Gunners board eventually opted for a compatriot in Unai Emery.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
The period between the appointment of Emery and his eventual departure in November 2019 saw the stock of Arteta as a coach continue to rise.
Stories began to emerge from Manchester City of his ability to coach and develop players on a 1vs1 basis and of his tactical acumen.
Despite his complete lack of experience as a head coach Arteta was still seen as a popular choice amongst the Arsenal fanbase. In part due to his playing career with the club.
Since the appointment of Arteta, there has been an air of positivity around the north London club.
Mikel Arteta has built his midfield around getting Mesut Ozil back to his best
Under Emery, the style of play from Arsenal was often slow and boring with little in the way of effective attacking intent. Indeed, despite having the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack there were still matches in which they struggled to mount any serious attacks.
The brief, in that case, was clear for Arteta, to start to put together a more effective game model that would start to unlock the attacking potential of the squad.
We should, of course, also bear in mind the fact that he was coming into a situation where the squad was built for someone else and for a very specific style of play.
In order to pass any sort of judgement on the effectiveness of Arteta at the club, we will have to allow him to evolve the club over at last three transfer windows.
What we can do, however, is now begin to analyse and break down the tactical system that he has used so far with the Gunners.
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The attacking structure
When Arteta was appointed as Arsenal coach a large part of the excitement from the fanbase came as fans believed that the Spaniard will bring with him some of Pep Guardiolas tactical blueprint.
To an extent, this has been the case, but only when we look beyond the tactical structure of formation and consider the ideas behind the way he has Arsenal attacking.
Guardiola is, of course, famous for his use of the 4-3-3 structure but so far we have seen Arteta preferring a 4-2-3-1 with Mesut Ozil, frozen out under Emery, operating as the key player in the 10 role. 
When Manchester Cityattack we generally see the two 8s move forward to occupy the half-spaces with the wide forwards retaining their wide position.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was an ideal tutor for Mikel Arteta
This movement, along with a tendency from the full-backs to move inside, creates something approaching a 2-3-5 shape in the attacking phase.
Arsenal, under Arteta, are achieving the same structure with a slightly different set of movements.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been moved to a slot on the left of the attack with summer signing Nicolas Pepe on the right. Whilst the latter tends to retain his position wide on the right Aubameyang is far more likely to drift inside to occupy the half-space or the central areas.
Ozil then shifts to the right half-space and the width on the left-hand side is provided by the left-back who moves quickly into an advanced position.
This movement from deep has been further enabled by the decision to move Bukayo Saka back to play as a left-back as opposed to a left-sided attacker.
We see an example of this structure above with Saka wide on the left-hand side.
The central striker, left-sided attacker and 10 for Arsenal are all occupying the half-spaces or central corridor and this movement has forced the Newcastle defence into a narrow block.
This movement from the opposition full-backs inside simply creates more space that can be exploited wide with Saka, on the left, and Pepe, on the right.
We see a similar situation here, on the opposite side.
While Saka, on the left, tends to move high to stretch the width of the pitch we usually see the right-back, whether Bellerin of Maitland-Niles, moving inside to the half-space to connect with the two central midfielders.
This movement is effectively a function of control with the line of three offering a constant option for the ball to be played back and recycled.
The attacking players then occupy the five key attacking zones, the two wide areas, the two half-spaces and the central corridor. This spacing across the front line makes is exceptionally difficult for the opposition to defend effectively.
Bukayo Saka has dazzled for Arsenal this season
Ball progression
It is all very well for Arsenal to occupy the attacking line effectively but if the ball does not move through the units to reach the front line then it is largely pointless.
In order to progress cleanly from back to front, there are some key functions that we see from Arsenal. We have already discussed one of these above with the movement from the right-back who inverts in towards the central midfielders.
As Saka, on the left, moves high almost immediately when Arsenal transition to attack there has to be a movement from elsewhere to provide the ability for the defence and the midfield to connect.
This tends to come from the left-sided central midfielder, often Granit Xhaka, who moves back into almost a left-sided centre-back position to allow the ball to be progressed cleanly.
We see this movement in the example above as Xhaka drops deeper in order to receive the ball.
In forming a back-three it makes it very difficult for the opposition to effectively press the ball before Arsenal can move it forward.
In these areas, as the midfielder takes possession of the ball, the play can move forward and then through the midfield line to find the attacking players, who will typically look to receive possession in space.
Defensive issues
For all Arsenal have improved so far under Arteta in the attacking phase, this still comes at a cost in the defensive phase.
The Gunners commit resources forward consistently and attack in a 2-3-5 shape. This, naturally, leaves space that the opposition can attack easily when they transition into their own attacking phase.
These spaces tend to be primarily in the wide areas and Arsenal lack any central defenders who are comfortable when they are pulled out wide and isolated against a single attacking player.
In the more established defensive phase, we also see the opposition manage to isolate and overload the Gunners full-backs too easily.
Above is an example of this from the recent match against Chelsea.
The ball is passed out to the wide player for the opposition and Hector Bellerin has to move to close the ball down.
As he does we see Willian make an attacking run on Bellerins blindside and a simple pass around the corner puts the opposition into a position to threaten the penalty area.
None of the three attacking midfielders are well known for their defensive work-rate and as such the full-backs, in particular, can be exposed.
A similar situation here on the opposite side of the field.
The first pass moves out to the wide player from Jorginho and as the Arsenal player moves across to engage the ball carrier and press the ball we see a Chelsea star make a run around the back to access the space.
This run and movement makes it easy for the pass to be played down the outside and once again the opposition have bypassed the Arsenal defensive block.
Conclusion
So far, it would be fair to say that Mikel Arteta has made a positive start as the coach of Arsenal.
There are early signs of an impressive game model although, of course, results and performances have not been perfect.
There are still gaps in the squad that have to be addressed through recruitment but given time I believe that the Spaniard will be a success at the club.
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