Mikel Arteta was not arriving at a happy football club. When the Spaniard joined Arsenal from Everton in 2011, his new team were still reeling from a recent 8-2 demolition by Manchester United. Some fans had begun to call for the head of then-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Yet slowly but surely, the cerebral midfielder established himself as an integral part of Wenger’s team. He left five years later as a fans’ favourite and Arsenal’s most popular captain since Patrick Vieira.
Arteta is now back at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal manager. Once again, he finds the club in a difficult position, this time down in 10th place in the Premier League. Here are five things he must do to instigate an improvement.
1. Tighten up the defence
The ease with which Manchester City cut through Arsenal’s defence last Sunday was worrying. The Gunners have conceded 27 goals in 17 games this season, more than Bournemouth, Brighton and Newcastle. No club in the Premier League has kept fewer clean sheets.
It will be difficult for Arteta to improve the individual quality of the defenders at his disposal, but plenty can be done to solidify the team’s structure. Arsenal need to become difficult to play against again.
2. Give the team a clear attacking identity
Under former Arsenal manager Unai Emery, the team failed to develop a coherent attacking strategy. Tailoring a game plan to suit a specific opponent is sensible, but a side must still have an overarching identity.
Arteta will have his own ideas of how the game should be played, and it is vital that he transmits them to his players as soon as his possible. Liverpool and Manchester City, the Premier League’s two best teams, do not chop and change between different systems and styles every week. Arsenal must follow suit.
3. Solve the Mesut Ozil conundrum
Emery’s muddled thinking was best encapsulated by his approach to Ozil. In late October, he declared that the German’s omission from the team was part of an agreed…