After the sacking of Emery, every name under the sun was linked to the Arsenal job, and for varying reasons. Some wanted Mourinho because of his outstanding CV, and discipline. Some wanted Nagelsmann because of his age, and style of play. Some even wanted Wenger to return! As we know, it was Arteta that got the job.
Despite his inexperience as a manager, the one key thing Arteta had over the other candidates, was that he spent 5 years at Arsenal as a player, as recently as 2016. So Arteta was here during our deep decline. Although he had no managerial experience, crucially, he had first-hand experience of problems specific to Arsenal. I think the board looked at this as a very important factor when appointing Arteta.
In regard to understanding our problems, Arteta played in Arsenal teams that were battered and humiliated fairly regularly. He would have experienced the weak mentality, poor discipline, our defense (specifically, our CBS) getting no protection, no accountability, any central long ball bypassing our entire team, and so on. Our attack has suffered, because Arteta put everything into sorting out these problems first, but rightly so.
I don’t think it would have even been possible to play free-flowing, expansive attacking football, whilst simultaneously trying to solve our chronic defensive issues. Chronic being the keyword. It hadn’t been the odd poor season, a short-term problem, this had been going on for well over a decade! Our defending, and weak mentality had been so poor, for so long, that it had become part of the culture of the club.
So, given what he experienced at Arsenal as a player, it’s easy to understand why Arteta has been ultra-defensive since day one. Arteta’s cautious, pragmatic approach to games has also been vindicated with the performances, and results. Under Emery, and Wenger, we got battered a lot! Only once in something like 43/44 games under Arteta’s management has this happened. And not one time have we been torn apart against the top teams. In fact, we’re going toe-to-toe with them now. I think 7 wins from something like 14 games against the top six teams, including beating the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool in finals to win a couple of trophies being evidence of this.
Although Arteta has focused predominantly on our defending, he has acknowledged our attacking issues, and is actively trying to improve that area. Whilst our poor defending during his playing days with us will have shaped Arteta’s approach to the Arsenal job, I wonder in time, if our attacking game will do as well? Despite our long regression under Wenger, we still played exciting, attacking football, and surely that would have rubbed off on Arteta as well. If he can blend what he has learnt from the defending and attacking side of the game, and find balance, we will be in great shape!