Arsenal Have Four Options to Surprise Man City Including New Mikel Arteta Experiment
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta could be plotting a tactical surprise as he gears up to face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The Gunners aim to maintain their undefeated start and seek revenge against City, who edged them out for the title last season. However, Arteta faces the challenge of missing key players like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli due to injuries. With these absences in mind, Arteta may be contemplating an audacious tactical experiment, and Express Sport has identified four potential strategies for the upcoming showdown at the Emirates Stadium.
Mikel Arteta might opt for the tried and tested approach rather than altering the system that has shown increasing effectiveness over three seasons. This strategy, favored by managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, involves maintaining faith in the current system even when key players like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are absent. Arsenal boasts excellent depth in their attacking options, with Leandro Trossard, Kai Havertz, Emile Smith Rowe, and Reiss Nelson ready to fill in any gaps. In this scenario, Havertz could step in for Saka on the right side while Arteta continues to deploy Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus in the current setup. However, if there’s a time for experimentation, it could be when both Saka and Martinelli are sidelined, potentially catching the champions, Manchester City, off guard.
Despite being adored by the fanbase, Kai Havertz has yet to fully win over Arsenal supporters following his somewhat underwhelming start at the Emirates Stadium. The £65 million summer signing did manage to score from the penalty spot, but it did little to quiet his critics. Nonetheless, Havertz could have an opportunity to silence doubters by stepping into Saka’s position and performing well. Havertz’s versatility, honed during his time at Chelsea, enables him to play in various midfield and attacking positions. Positioned on the right flank, he can emulate Saka’s ability to cut inside and cause problems for the opposition, especially in a 4-3-3 formation. This arrangement could allow Trossard to operate from the left and create a fluid attacking dynamic alongside Gabriel Jesus and Havertz. Havertz’s height could also be advantageous against Kyle Walker, who is known for his speed but may struggle against aerial threats.
Opting for a two-striker formation could be a highly aggressive move, especially given Manchester City’s somewhat complacent approach to defending. However, it might be the right choice to show that Arsenal is prepared to take on the English champions rather than capitulate to them.
In this experimental setup, Arteta could deploy a 4-3-1-2 formation, providing the team with a three-man midfield to contend with Manchester City’s Rodri, Matheus Nunes, and Mateo Kovacic (or Bernardo Silva if fit). Leandro Trossard could excel in the No. 10 role with his quick turns and exceptional passing abilities, while Kai Havertz could contribute height and Gabriel Jesus could serve as an all-around operator alongside him in the two-man attack.
This approach has been employed by other managers to overload four-man defenses, particularly when Manchester City only leaves two players back when attacking. It would play into Arteta’s hands if he chooses to focus on counter-attacking football.
Mikel Arteta has not secured a victory against Pep Guardiola since a 2-0 FA Cup win in July 2020 on the way to winning the trophy. Since then, it has been a series of consecutive defeats in all competitions, with a cumulative scoreline of 23-5 in those nine matches (excluding the Community Shield).
Perhaps the only way to outmaneuver his mentor is to discard his binder filled with Guardiola’s most brilliant ideas and concentrate on his own tactics. Deploying a back three consisting of Ben White, William Saliba, and Gabriel could potentially be robust enough to contain the threats posed by Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez. A midfield double pivot comprising Declan Rice and Thomas Partey would create a formidable defensive barrier. Martin Odegaard could focus on playing as an inside No. 10 alongside Trossard, with either Jesus or Nketiah as the primary striker.
This approach has been utilized by managers like Thomas Tuchel in the Champions League final, resulting in a 1-0 victory. No one would fault Arteta for taking inspiration from that match to finally break his winless streak against Guardiola.