Possession football? Attack? Counter-Attack? Press? Counter-Press? Long balls…?

6 football tactics that changed the game as we know it | FourFourTwo

FGG and GB were having a debate on our tactical approach:

  1. Under Wenger, we were clearly attack-minded and towards the end, with a clear leaning towards possession football;
  2. Under Emery, we were tactically like a cameleon – changing according to the opponents but the idea was clearly based on quick transition football;
  3. Under Arteta, we are still unsure. It started quite brightly as a counter-attacking team but since then, there has been vague attempts at various types of football

Ultimately, the point was that whatever the brand of football chosen, you need to also have quality players and in the last few years, our squad is not as competitive as it used to be in comparison to other EPL squads. Man City, Chelsea changed the EPL with heavy investors and Liverpool followed suite together with Man Utd. Now, other teams like Leicester, Tottenham, Everton are also investing more willingly and all of them have improved their scouting capability…At one point, we were the best at unearthing talent especially from the continent and we were also very popular because of Wenger and his type of football and his care for young players…now this has gone…

So we sit, as a team that is yet looking for its identity under Arteta. It is full of promising players but they may never fullfill their potential/talent or may decide to export it elsewhere…Who Knows? The point is that maybe, finishing in the Top 6 would be actually a fair target for us – ambitious enough but not too ambitious…Would you be surprised if:

  • Tier A: Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd finished above us?
  • Tier B: What about Leicester, Tottenham, Everton, West Ham, Aston Villa, Leeds and Wolves?

We clearly are a notch down from the City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd at the moment but what about the other 7? Can we beat them to a top 6 finish? Is our squad in terms of quality better than the Tier B teams?

On another note, seems Arteta may be willing to play with a back 3 and would be happy if he stuck to this idea for a few months…

Is that our most solid team:

Ramsdale – Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel – AMN, Partey, El Neny, Tierney – Saka, Laca, ESR?

Leno – Chambers, Holding, Mari – Soares, Xhaka, Lokonga, Tavares (Soares) – Pepe, Auba, Martinelli

I still can’t see where I would play Odegaard in a 343 set-up…but Arteta knows and hopefully it will work out


19 Responses to Possession football? Attack? Counter-Attack? Press? Counter-Press? Long balls…?

  1. RA says:

    Hi RC,

    Excellent read.

    You are right, at first Mikel brought in a classic formation with whole team pressing and/or defending that gave the team cohesion and a sense they all knew what was expected of them.

    Somehow the all-out attacking introduced midfield uncertainty, and that in turn introduced some really shabby defence, and we have rarely seemed comfortable against teams that pressed us instead.

  2. RC78 says:

    I hope he won’t try his funny 433 with Ode, Partey, ESR as our midfield three…I was surprised by Ode’s defensive woes in that set-up. He can be a real value addition further up and he can be good at pressing but he does not seem to be great at closing spaces nor at breaking play…the same is also true for ESR so let us make use of their skills further up the pitch 🙂

  3. fatgingergooner says:

    I think that sometimes it’s actually easier to be a new coach of a team that is low on confidence and struggling, than it is to implement a style of play and mould a confident bunch of players (as proven with a certain Sam Allardyce). The players were so happy to see Emery leave that they were willing to run their blood to water to win for Arteta because it was new. The way that Auba played as a LW during those first few months was extraordinary and something we probably haven’t seen since. The formation at that point was just about stopping the others scoring and trying to nick goals on the break. Any manager can implement that if the players are willing to run.

    What we then had though was a disrupted summer due to Covid, and a mixed group of players with some new to the club and some having been signed by a different manager. I think it became more difficult for Arteta to implement his ideas to the team last year. Let’s not also forget that there was a big turnover of coaching staff aswell, which must have also had an impact. Some players were still at the club who knew they weren’t wanted, and others were loan signings who knew they were leaving anyway (something I’m not overly keen on tbh). The team was a mixed bag of personal situations.

    Hopefully, now though, Arteta has 95% of a squad that he has either brought in or who are used to his style and happy to play for him. This is Arteta’s team now, and he and his coaches have now had time to settle and show their ideas. The discipline has been tested with Özil, Geundouzi and Auba, and the players know where they stand. There is absolutely no excuse now for Arteta and his staff, and there is nowhere to hide. Time to see improvement and positive results. I just hope Arteta has a clear idea in his head of what he wants them to do. So far we’ve seen all different kinds of formation and tactics, but I’m just hoping that those changes were out of necessity rather than being Arteta’s endgame.

    From what I’ve seen so far, I suspect we are looking at a 4231 but with players who are capable of shifting into a back 3 if and when required. I also think balance is key (something that people seem to overlook when talking about Xhaka). Having left footers on the left half and right footers on the right half (with the exception of the inverted wide forwards) gives us the ability to spread the field.Tommy and White can play right side of a back 3, Gabriel, Tierney and Mari can do the same on the left. Xhaka as a left footed CM is vital to keep that same balance in midfield. Then it’s left footed wingers off the right (Saka, Pepe) and right footed wingers off the left (Auba, Martinelli, ESR). This allows for great overlapping options with the full backs able to cross first time on the outside with the WF creating the space by coming inside. Add a high press into the mix (something Odegaard did well at times last season) and we have some kind of Arteta-ball.


  4. LB says:


    A first I think……………

    Loving the optimism.

  5. GoonerB says:

    Thanks RC. I think there are very few players in world football as midfielders who can be accommodated to not have to do both defensive and attacking duties. Only really a player like Messi would you say dont worry about defensive duties, just do what you do at the other end, and then set up the team to accommodate said player.

    The modern midfielder in a top team is generally expected to do both. Using City as an example they have basically made sure that attack minded players do their defensive duty.

    This is where someone like Ozil is more yesterdays midfielder and the game has moved on from him to midfielders that are more hybrid to offer defensive and attacking input.

    Players like De Bruyne and Sterling never shirk this. De Bruyne often gets the odd yellow tracking back and getting stuck in to win the ball back.

    Similarly City demand midfield players that are more defensive minded start offering a threat in the box and chip in with goals, like Gundogan.

    We need to make the same demands of players like Odegaard, Saka, ESR, Martinelli, Pepe, Partey, Lokonga. I am not a fan of setting up our teams formation to accommodate deficiencies because one of them doesn’t defend well enough or another isnt enough if a goal threat.

    Maybe the odd small accommodation at times but generally we should set up the formation to the one we would like ideally to develop in and then place the demand on those players. If they can’t or won’t step up then we need to move them on and get players that will.

    This is the nature of a big club in its demands on players and we need to act like a big club if we want to get back there.

    We can have some accommodation with young players not being the finished article in this as long as we see them showing a determination to become that player. As long as they don’t hide and a more attacking player shows a willingness to fight defensively and a more defensive player shows a hunger to score goals.

    This ideology would definitely apply to Xhaka, a defensive midfielder with poor tackling technique, as said by the great man himself. Despite some obvious qualities to his game he needs too much accommodation but where we give leeway to a younger player to still develop their game.

    Xhaka should not have such obvious weaknesses at his stage. It would be better to let a player who can develop his game to more than Xhakas have the playing time. Xhaka should be a back up option, not 1st option.

    All of this should explain why I would prefer to use a back 4 with a back 3 only sparingly, and also why I’m tempted to go even braver and play only 1 recognised DM.

    If Saka, Odegaard, ESR, Pepe can all start to develop those dual qualities like the city boys we will be fine with 1 DM and will become a far superior team. If we do play with 2 DM’s then in the polar opposite way 1 of them, maybe Partey, needs to add that goal threat like we have recently seen with Gundogan.

  6. omgarsenal says:

    Your usual pessimism and black coloured glasses are biasing your views about AFC. We have a team that is rebuilding since Wenger left, forced out by the boo boys. We still have one of the best if not the best academy-first team arrangements and are developing as many good players as we always did. Our scouts seem to have done well in picking out players who have a lot of potential and seem to fit well into Arteta’s plans. Mikel is still trying out different tactical and strategic formations, but with the TW closed until January, he now can focus on reintegrating the many injured/absent first team players into the lineup while at the same time having pretty good backups with some experience as well.

  7. RA says:

    Good morning,

    RC, FGG, GoonerB, you have all brought worthy analysis to AA that make it worthwhile to read and have a careful think about your viewpoints. Thank you.

    Fred has helped out by giving us the Edu interview, which I had missed – good one Fred.

  8. fatgingergooner says:

    Geoff Shreeves thinking he’s Parkinson. What a tosser. What’s difficult to understand about the strategy? We’ve bought young players and got rid of a load of over paid, under achieving older players and are basically starting again. What would’ve been the point in buying 3 ‘oven ready’ players (as Geoff says) at £50m each and putting them into an already failing squad? The short term is important in football, but when the squads not right, surely it’s worth some short term pain to reset, rather than throwing money at the existing poor team. No sense in spending £150m on 3 players and still relying on the likes of Bellerin, Kolasinac, Willian, Nelson, Nketiah, Torreira etc as your squad players. They’re not good enough.

  9. GoonerB says:

    Not too sure what you mean by usual pessimism and black coloured glasses OMG? I thought the post topic and pretty much every comment was analytical in nature regarding how we should set up and move forward with the team. Have I missed something?

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