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HomeSportsMikel Arteta's tactical overhaul: Impact on Arsenal's performance in 2023-24 season

Mikel Arteta’s tactical overhaul: Impact on Arsenal’s performance in 2023-24 season

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal stood at the top of the Premier League table after the end of Matchweek 28 with the thinnest of margins. The Gunners defeated Brentford 2-1 last week after struggling to lead in the second half. Kai Havertz scored in the 86th minute to secure a victory for the team.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta celebrates(Action Images via Reuters)

After 28 matches, Arsenal have 64 points with a goal difference of 46. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester City played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday, leaving the Gunners at the top.

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Last season, Arsenal were at the top spot for 248 days, finally losing to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The changes that head coach Arteta has made, seem to reflect in the new game plan this season. The Gunners have won all 8 games in the new year with an aggregate of 33-4. The club also made the record of being the first team in English football history to win three consecutive away games by five or more goals and qualified for the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League by defeating Porto in penalties.

Last season saw the departure of Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney (On loan), Rob Holding and goalkeeper Matt Turner. Arteta’s new challenge after standing second in the last season was to fix Arsenal’s midfield and strengthen the defence further.

He signed Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber and David Raya (On loan) to fix the problems. The tweaks made in the team have enhanced the performance and consistency of the club in the Premier League as well as in the Champions League.

Here’s how Mikel Arteta did it…

The Xhaka update: Declan Rice

Considered to be the best signing of this Premier League season, Declan Rice’s inclusion in the Arsenal Squad has changed the dynamics of the game for the Gunners. The former West Ham United defending midfielder was hired at $100 million to replace Granit Xhaka, currently playing for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. Rice was the top target for the Gunners last summer.

With 6 goals and 6 assists, Rice has been moulded by Arteta as an asset to Arsenal’s attack. Scoring crucial match-winning goals against Manchester United and Luton Town, Rice has brought the Gunners to the top of the table. He is not just scoring goals but also creating chances. This season, Rice has contributed to 12 goals, the most in any of his previous seasons.

Known for his defensive prowess in the midfield, Rice has been vital this season. His presence along with center backs William Saliba and Gabriel has added a new dimension to the team’s defensive strategy. Arsenal has conceded less than one goal per match after 28 games – the lowest in the premier league. The club also has the most clean sheets (11) in the league, thanks to keeper David Raya. In the eight-week winning streak, the team had an average ball possession of 65%. Arteta’s focus this season is on stability and control, and Rice plays an important role in the strategy.

Havertz: The Bagsman

Considered to be a flop at Chelsea, Arsenal’s £65 million purchase was met with surprise and initial failure in the season. “60 million down the drain”, was the chant that echoed at the Emirates during Havertz’s preliminary appearances. However, Arteta played Havertz frequently and transformed the player into an important piece of Arsenal’s renewed attack.

Best known for scoring the winning goal for Chelsea in the 2021 Champions League final, Havertz has 11 goal contributions for the Gunners, since his signing. He has scored 8 goals and has 3 assists after matchweek 28. Amid Gabriel Jesus’s injury, the German international has stepped up for the club to play at No. 9. Traditionally, Havertz played in his former Club Leverkusen as a No. 10, but his movement and ability to convert the assists and find gaps have made Arteta play him as a centre-forward.

Havertz has scored in both the games against Brentford leading the Gunners to victory against the Bees. In the midfield too, Havertz’s role has proven decisive for the club.

The Raya-Effect

Goalkeeper David Raya moved to Arsenal on loan from Brentford last summer and quickly emerged as the preferred choice over Aaron Ramsdale. The Spaniard has solidified his position as the clear first-choice keeper.

Raya played an important role for Arsenal as they defeated Portuguese club Porto on penalties in the Champions League round of 16. The former Brentford player made two crucial saves during the decisive spot kicks.

With an amazing distribution and save success rate (83.3%) – best in the Premier League in 2024 – Raya boasts Arsenal’s defence along with Gabriel and Saliba. Raya also has a pass completion rate of 72% this season. His shot-stopping ability has benefitted the team’s overall defensive strength. The club currently has the most clean sheets (11) in the premier league with only 24 goals conceded after 28 matches.

Jurrien Timber

Last season, William Saliba’s injury during the depths of the 2022-2023 season turned out to be fatal for the Gunners. To add options and keep the quality of Arsenal’s defence intact, Arteta signed Dutch international, Jurrien Timber. Arteta brought Timber due to his capability to play across various positions including centre back, right back, left back, and even midfield, providing the team with enhanced flexibility.

However, Timber faced a setback during his Premier League debut against Nottingham Forest by sustaining an ACL injury. He hasn’t returned to the squad since, but is expected to return soon, boasting Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League and the Champions League.

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