Mikel Arteta insists he’s focusing much more on the way he wants Arsenal to play than on the opposition, in stark contrast to what Unai Emery drew criticism for.
Before Arteta, during Unai Emery’s spell as Arsenal manager, a common joke on social media was that Emery’s side played “Respectball”.
Whilst the styles of high-profile coaches like Arsene Wenger or Maurizio Sarri got names like “Wengerball” or “Sarriball”, the idea was that Emery’s style didn’t really belong to him at all. Instead, it was entirely based on respecting and adapting to the opposition.
There are some benefits to that, of course. If you do it well, you’re not going to end up in a tactical mismatch. By analysing and countering your opponent’s strengths, you earn the chance to express your own best qualities.
The problem was that Emery’s Arsenal side seemed to become so focused on adapting to every opponent, they didn’t know what their own strengths were anymore.
By contrast, Arteta insists he’s going to focus on his own team’s way of playing first.
“We have three analysts here that look a lot at the opposition,” Arteta began. “I do it myself as well, I like my assistants to look at it.
“But at the moment I’m focusing much more on our principles, our way of playing. The way that we want to play rather than the opponent. I don’t want to give them (the players) too much information about them and us, we don’t have much time to train.”
Why not both?
In an ideal world, yes, you do both. You forge a consistent and clear playing style, but you make small changes to adapt that style based on the players available, the opponent you’re up against and so on.
As Arteta points out, that’s just not possible to do all in one go with the time available. For now, he has to prioritise. I don’t think many supporters will argue with the direction he’s chosen.