What Arteta has done to Xhaka

Today is one of those days where I start writing one article and come up with an entirely different article.

My original piece was going to be about how Arsenal need some creative players. After the loss to Aston Villa, in which we took just 7 shots, I was going to talk about how Arsenal need a bulk creator in the team. Someone like Emi Buendia.

However, I started looking at some data points and fell into an X-hole. I think you have to just let the data take you where it will and where it took me today is quite the surprise. Let me just show you what I mean.

This was how the article started:

HAHAHAHA! I feel like you could see this coming. The way we played to beat City, the emotional and physical energy we spent to get into that FA Cup final, just meant that we were going to play flat in the next match.

And this is a team, bereft of a top quality creator, who cannot show up to a match at all flat. When you’re a club which lives on scoring your chances, which doesn’t create many more shots in away matches than Burnley, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get anything from a game in which you only get 7 shots and get zero on target.

It has long been the stance of this blogger (Tim talks about himself in the third person now) that Arsenal need a creative player and that the big problem at Arsenal is that we are not as good an attacking unit as we should be. I expected that player to be Nicolas Pépé and touted his purchase this summer.

Pepe has done some of the things that we needed: his corners and set piece delivery is very dangerous and he leads Arsenal in key passes and assists and is third in shot creating actions per 90. He’s also 22nd in the top five leagues in dribbles attempted and has dribbled past 74 players this season.

Still, just 5 goals and 6 assists on 21 starts and 1900 minutes isn’t great. We should be getting 8-10 goals and 8-10 assists (combined 16-20 goals) from that position, optimally. He also has (for some unknown reason) stopped attacking the opposition box when we do have possession. Thus he’s not earning pens, not getting shots off from dangerous areas, and is a big reason why his goals numbers are way down.

How Arteta is going to solve all of this is the big ask of 2020/21. Right now, he’s forced to play three center backs – or at least he feels like he’s forced to play 3 CBs. He does this to help shore up the spine of the team and protect Arsenal’s midfield.

And here is where it went a wholly different direction:

He’s also moved Arsenal’s long ball progression back from Granit Xhaka to David Luiz. The back three in a weird way lets David Luiz play a sort of attacking sweeper role – like (but not nearly as good as) Franz Beckenbauer. If you want to know why Arteta likes David Luiz, this is it: he’s our most progressive passer and key to getting Arsenal’s attacks going forward.

So, just a trigger warning: I’m going to be talking about Granit Xhaka. And not only that but I’m going to be presenting you with data which could be seen by some as making the player look “bad”. You may be tempted to say that I’m treating the player unfairly, that I have an agenda, or something, but look: I didn’t make the data up, it’s just data. Xhaka’s pass numbers and change in position isn’t something I did, it’s something Arteta did. If you wanna be “mad” at me, I guess that’s fine. But I’m just the messenger here.

I have been asked by many people to do an article like this: “maybe you could do an article on what Arteta has done to restore Xhaka!” And I don’t want to because writing about Xhaka or Ozil is like pouring hot coffee on your crotch. There is nothing fun about talking about either of these players. But like I said, the stats took me here so…

Ok so, here’s the deal: Mikel Arteta has “restored” Granit Xhaka by taking the ball away from him. His pass numbers per90 are down from 86 per game to 66 on the season and those have dropped even further to just 55 since the June restart.

His total touches are down from 95 to 75 on the season and just 63 per90 since the restart. His touches in the final third are down from 18 to 11, and carries are down from 67 per90 last season to 55 this season and just 40 since the restart. And his progressive distance carried is down from 142 per90 last season, to 124 this season and an incredibly poor 88 since the restart.

No longer being asked to be the main man with the ball, Xhaka’s pass completion percentage is up and his number of passes straight out of play are down from 1.37 p90 to 0.69 – his passes blocked, intercepted, and offside are all down similarly.

Xhaka’s SCA90 (shot creating actions) numbers are also down: from open play, Xhaka’s SCA went from 2.08 per90 to 1.19. His progressive passing distance has cratered from over 400 per90 to 299 over the season and further down to 181 since the restart. And his number of progressive passes p90 are also down from 9.78 to 6.1 and just 4.1 since the restart.

Xhaka’s passes into the final third are an astonishingly low 5.3 since June. This is a guy who averaged 10 final third passes per90 under Wenger and he’s had a total of 35 final third passes in the 8 matches since the restart.

Arteta’s move to add a third center back has also relieved some of Xhaka’s defensive duties:

  • tackles are down from 2.23 per90 last season to 1.2 since the restart
  • interceptions are down from 1.2 last season to 0.75 since the restart
  • Passes blocked are WAAAAAY up: 0.94 last season, 1.5 since the restart
  • pressures are the same
  • but the errors are all gone

Now I know that someone will read this and say “yabbut we played Spurs and Liverpool since the restart and you will be correct! However… against Spurs, his progressive passing was 418m and progressive carries were 191m. And against Norwich he managed just 75m progressive carry distance.

And before you cry “small sample size!” it’s not just these 8 matches, the entire season’s progressive passing numbers, touches, carries, shot creation numbers, tackles, etc. are all down.

What it looks like in the stats and in the eye test is that Arteta has very smartly moved the focus away from Xhaka. Arteta simplified Xhaka’s game, told him to sit in front of the defenders more, penetrate less, run less, carry less, and even pass less. And since he’s no longer the main man with the ball in midfield that means that he’s no longer the main man that Arsenal fans want to criticize when things go wrong.



  1. Interesting. Does less, but manages to look better. Is there such a thing as doing too much? He seems to make less mistakes, certainly. Perhaps there’s an argument for playing to your limitations. He does seem to wander over to the left hand side of the park more than before, rather than being everywhere, but nowhere. (cue for a song) With him doing less, who is taking up the slack? Luiz obviously, when it comes to playing the ball down the field. Ceballos? He looks “busier” now. I wonder if his emergence has changed the dynamic, as opposed to Guendouzi. With Xhaka, perhaps there’s an argument for “keeping it simple”.

  2. It always seems to me that the best players have a way of doing the simple things well.

  3. Basically, all these makes it even more evident that Arsene Wenger did more than meets the eyes.
    He was somehow able to get Xhaka to be more effective for the team, while getting Ozil motivated to play regularly.

    That’s something his successors have not been able to do.

    1. Arsene is/was not Optimus Prime.

      It’s time for us, as supporters, to move beyond the the urge to wistfully recall the days of Wenger and Ozil.

      Now’s the time to embrace our future. The future that is Arteta.

    2. And by “motivated to play regularly,” I assume Akeem doesn’t mean all those away games under Wenger for which Ozil stayed home, nor that Xhaka was a divisive figure pretty much right from the get-go?

      I agree with Lonestar. Let’s look ahead now, please.

      1. I don’t really think that’s fair man.

        100% of all our best Arsenal memories occurred in the past right? Are we not allowed talk about them either?

        Can we not compare Arsenals past to Arsenals present in order to draw conclusions or even speculate any more?

        I don’t know man.

        If someone says Henry was amazing and it’s a pity we don’t have anyone of that calibre any more are they going to be told the same thing, to stop looking back and only look forward?

        If you don’t agree with Akeem fair enough but I think this just comes off as dismissive and gatekeepy regarding what comments are and aren’t allowed here.

  4. Interesting post Tim.

    I can understand why we wanted xhaka on the ball less then in the past. However. I think we want a player in our central midfield who we want to be on the ball and we can trust to improve our ability to attack thru the central midfield. Clearly if moving the ball away from xhaka has been intentional part of our tactical plan then we need someone better in his position. No?

    1. I have been on record for three years saying that we need to upgrade him. I thought Guendouzi was that guy but looks like he’s out the door this summer.

    2. I mean, imagine if a manager needed to come in an take the ball away from Fabregas, Vieira, or Cazorla and then just have those guys basically just sit static in midfield. Personally, I see these stats as hugely damning of the player and Arteta just throwing his hands up to fix him.

  5. Would you say that Arteta is turning Xhaka into, dare we say it, a “defensive midfielder”?

      1. Agreed – he’s certainly never been particularly adept at winning the ball off people, but his positional play seems much more coherent under Arteta. I’ve also been surprised at his overall willingness to help the team defensively at the expense of his offensive game. If I squint really hard, I can almost see him becoming useful as a DM/metronome… but only with two as yet non-existent creative midfielders in front of him.

        As you point out, his numbers are way down, but I never thought we looked properly convincing when his numbers were better – a limited player, but one who definitely benefits from having less to do!

      2. Hey Tim, I don’t disagree with you and the stats you provided seem pretty conclusive so why do you think Arteta keeps playing him?

        Is it just a case of having nobody better in that position?

  6. I can certainly believe those numbers. That said, we have looked better lately with Xhaka on the field vs. when he’s not playing. So while he’s probably not our ideal midfielder, he may be the best current option, particularly in the context of the other options around him.
    It’s also interesting in the context of what he does for Switzerland, which is almost the opposite, where he has even more of the ball and acts almost more as a 10.

  7. i’ve talked at length about how similar xhaka was to xabi alonso. wenger could have signed alonso and i believe he regretted not doing it and wanted a do-over with the alonso look-a-like, xhaka. in fairness, i even thought xhaka would be a great signing by virtue of his similar stature and passing compared to alonso. however, his comments about the physical nature of the premier league suggests he believed a red card in germany wouldn’t necessarily be a red card in england. well, he quickly came to learn that wasn’t the case.

    i can appreciate arteta’s approach to relieving xhaka of his level of responsibility. however, there is still a gap to fill. i know i sound like a broken record but arsenal still need the cdm that xhaka was supposed to be. i’d rather have an extra guy in midfield than an extra central defender. a cdm would allow another midfielder to join the attack, make the midfield more robust, and screen the defense. a third central defender only helps the defense. i don’t agree with you, tim, when you say an extra guy in the back helps the midfield. while it’s made arsenal more resolute in the back, it has also restricted arsenal’s ability to score.

    when aubameyang and mkhitaryan first got to the club, i mentioned that they, along with mesut, were all 28 and in their primes with lacazette and ramsey slightly younger. i also mentioned that what arsenal really needed was to get a proper cdm in order to maximize the talent of those talented attacking players. seeing how much arsenal spent for them, it seemed foolish not to bring in the seemingly primary missing piece. arsenal STILL need a cdm, full stop.

    what arteta did better than wenger and emery was recognize that xhaka was incapable of doing an adequate job at cdm so, to protect xhaka and the team, he stopped asking xhaka to do it.

    1. I don’t remember saying the extra CB helps the midfield but if I did, what I meant was the idea is to shore up the defensive side of things. That’s it. It’s clearly NOT helping the midfield go forward. And it’s especially not helping Xhaka who is clearly not even remotely as good as he was even under Emery – who was a timid coach.

  8. I am not sure exactly how to interpret the data Tim provided. I am not sure Arteta is really trying to decreasing the influence of Xhaka’s attacking and passing. Another possible explanation is Arteta recognizes that defense and clean sheets are the only way he can win games and Xhaka is the closest thing we have to a CDM so by necessity he is being asked to sacrifice his attacking game for the sake of defense. The plan certainly worked well against Man City. On the the other hand if Arteta is intentionally trying to marginalize Xhaka in order to avoid his mistakes then it tells you just how little talent we have in this squad because despite not trusting him with the ball Arteta has probably used Xhaka for more minutes this season then anyone not named auba.

    1. Hey Bill, this is the exact same thing. Yes, he’s telling Xhaka to just sit and not go forward and not even really pass forward because he wants to keep the team compact, he’s also playing three center backs and has transferred the forward passing duties to David Luiz.

      And YES this is happening because of Xhaka’s problems. And YES we are playing Xhaka many minutes despite this new system because who were we going to drop him for???

      I think you got it.

  9. Really helpful analysis., Tim. Xhaka isn’t better or worse under Mikhel – he’s just being asked to do a job which he’s capable of doing. Arteta is doing what good coaches do. Putting players in position to succeed. He’s letting Xhaka play a role that suits his strengths and limits his downside. He’s been able to do the same with most of the team – the big change since he arrived is that the defense is very improved. We aren’t getting torn apart by every side we face.
    I think it’s the reason Torreira hasn’t played much. At one point yesterday, Lucas tried to dribble through the deep block and got tackled and fell. And the break was on against us. I had Emery PTSD as I watched us run backwards trying to chase Villa’s counter. We didn’t give up a goal, but I remember thinking, “I bet Arteta isn’t going to like that.” Sure enough, Xhaka came on at half time to replace Lucas. Arteta doesn’t want his midfielders trying to break down opponents through the middle. He knows the guys we have aren’t capable of it, and it will lead to us getting killed on the counter. So we’re creating from the wings – oddly like we tried with Emery – and it’s very limiting against teams that sit back.
    Defense is the focus this year. Attack next year- when we have new player(s) to help us play both centrally AND up the wing. I can be patient.

  10. I am certainly a big fan of the pragmatic approach and the emphasis on defending that Arteta has brought to the squad. I think he is as good a choice as any manager. However, the amazing wins against Liverpool and Man City distracts us from how underwhelming our results have been. Since the restart we have played 8 league games and won 3, lost 4 with 1 draw. That is 10 points from those 8 games, on a pace to collect 47.5 points over a 38 game season which would be 13th place in the table.

    1. I’m waiting til the season end to appraise Arteta but yes these stats are poor. We have many midfielders, several of which are isolated through falling out with the coach. I’ve no truck with that it it makes the team better but results don’t support that.

  11. Thanks for this, there been more noise about Xhaka being more conservative in his passing, with Ceballos taking up the load for progressing the ball. But the data you’ve shown looks like pre-dates Dan’s restart resurgence.

    Any idea if this is more stylistic for the entire team rather than just Xhaka? It feels a little like depending on the type of game, we’ve seemed to have 2 approaches – in some games patient short passing build up, in others very aggressive long passing, bypassing the midfield altogether,

  12. We have some very quick and talented forwards and basically a whole load of midfield players who can’t work their way through a crowded and well organised opposition midfield and defence. On recent evidence, we seem to do better when its “backs to the wall” time eg Liverpool and Man City. When the boot was on the other foot eg Aston Villa, where we had all the possession, we were basically rubbish. With the current personnel, is there an argument for becoming a purely counter attacking side? Sit back, defend like maniacs and then get the ball upfield as quickly as possible? Why are we trying to work pretty patterns through midfield, when we quite obviously haven’t got the players to do it? It just ends in tears, every time. Tears of boredom, apart from anything else.
    Not the Arsenal way? People of my age group who remember the pre Wenger days, will tell you it is very much the Arsenal way! A defence which never gave up, a midfield whose primary function was to cover the defence and Ian Wright up front who ran his socks off and banged in the goals. 1-0 to the Arsenal? Game over. You could literally watch the opposition fans making their way to the exit.
    Of course when Arsene Wenger brought a procession of great players from France, that all changed. Very much for the better.
    As far as I can see that well of talent has virtually dried up. Even worse, other clubs have become far more adept at drawing from it. At least in the short term, perhaps we have to come to terms with that.

  13. To get back on topic, Xhaka’s redemption might be by morphing into a “grafter”. That might be what we actually need. Are we are starting to see that? Strutting round the park, with all the time in the world, making Hollywood passes really hasn’t worked out well for him so far, has it?

  14. I think you’ve glossed over the fact that Xhaka was on his way out of the club, as good as gone to Hertha Berlin last January. He threw the jersey down, told the fans to f*ck off and was taken out of the lineup for several weeks. He just had a child, a life-altering event. I’ve never been super down on Xhaka; I’ve always thought he was a very capable passer, but I’ve also recognized that he’s a lacking athleticism that manifests itself in being a poor defender (slow feet, slow reactions) and real challenges receiving the ball to feet and turning with it (poor agility and balance).

    But, credit to Xhaka, he’s gotten his head back on straight, put recent history out of his mind and gotten on with being a role player in the team. He’s clearly loyal to Arteta and will do whatever is asked of him from this coach. This is admirable. I actually do not want him sold this summer – I think this season has given him real character, the kind that we’ve needed for a long time in this squad and the kind that could set a great example for younger players. I’m of the same thought on Mustafi’s redemption. Should either of them be key components of a starting XI? No. But they have a role to play as veteran players that have come through struggles professionally and personally and can demonstrate to others that it’s possible to climb out of whatever valleys you may fall career-wise.

    PS – I see that Emi Buendia is 5’6″. We don’t need a Torreira-redux.

    1. Let’s use Cms here because it’s more accurate.

      Torreira is 166cm but more importantly, he’s a featherweight at 63kg. I’ve said this before and I will keep saying it: Torreira’s problem isn’t his height (per-se) it’s his weight.

      For example, Santi Cazorla is 165cm but weighs in at 66kg, you wouldn’t think 3kg is a huge difference but it is because it just makes a player that much more difficult to shake off the ball.

      Buendia is 172cm – which is still short, it’s shorter than me by 2cm and I’m a short guy – but and this is absolutely critical, he weighs 71kg.

      You can see from his highlight reel that he’s not really that easy to shrug off the ball. Also, he did play in the League Championship which is a bit more rough and tumble than even the Prem.

      Anyway, we can disagree about whether we want Buendia (or anyone else for that matter) but I don’t think it’s his size that’s the problem. If anything he looks a bit “not quite super good enough” but that’s it’s own problem of needing a really world class talent in the midfield.

      1. Where this inevitably shows up is when we try to defend set pieces. Watching Torreira go one on one with some 6ft 2in gorilla centre half is almost comical. It’s at times like that when I think of Vieira and Petite and sigh.

    2. torreira lacks the guile of buendia or cazorla. they’re different types of players who know how to avoid excessive contact and they’re movement is suited to allow them success in midfield. bottom line, if they’re good enough, they’re tall enough. torreira isn’t good enough. arsenal should have kept coquelin.

  15. Tim @ 4:08PM. I am not a big fan of Xhaka but it was my thought that perhaps Xhaka’s decreased touches and passes etc was an unintended consequence of our defense always comes first mindset rather then a conscious attempt by the manager to decrease his involvement. On the other hand your theory that keeping the ball away from him was an intentional part of the plan may be correct. Either way I agree with your idea that right now we have no one who can replace Xhaka. . If Arteta really believe Guendouzi could help the team win more games then I suspect he would have worked a lot harder to rehabilitate his attitude.

  16. i agree 100% with lagunner. xhaka hasn’t changed much. the difference is xhaka is no longer being asked to do something he’s proven clearly incapable of doing. it seems wenger wanted xhaka to “grow” into the cdm role whereas emery may have wanted xhaka’s leadership in that critical position. arteta has simply deduced that xhaka isn’t suited to control/distribute in midfield and has relieved him of those duties. the fact that xhaka makes fewer passes isn’t indicative of a decline in production but a change in strategy that seems to fit he and the team better.

    1. think when vieira left. everyone expected gilberto to be the “presence” in midfield alongside a young fabregas. however, that was never a strength of gilberto and arsenal struggled; they were labeled a “soft touch”‘ in midfield.

      we’re talking about the brazil captain, a world cup winner, and an invincible who went an entire season without picking up a single booking, is suddenly being cautioned or sent off every other game because he’s being asked to do something he’s not suited for. as a result, arsenal struggled until capitulating and moving from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1. gilberto wasn’t better or worse, the strategy had to change with the loss of vieira. it’s a similar line of thinking from what we initially expected of xhaka and what he is.

      whoever thought we would compare gilberto silva to granit xhaka.

  17. Torriera has been with us for 2 years and 3 different managers and none of those managers thought he was good enough to be a first team regular or our DM. Arteta and his staff had 3 months off where he probably had nothing to do but study thousands of hours of film and think about what was best for the team and he clearly came to the conclusion that Torriera is not good enough to be a regular player. He came to the same conclusion after studying Mesut Ozil. He used Ozil as a regular when he first took over but obviously he came to the decision during the Covid break that Mesut was no longer capable of helping the team win games.

    1. first, torreira has just come back from a long-term injury; he is not fit enough to play 90+ minutes. likewise, he got a sloppy yellow card early against aston villa and was likely to pick up a second if he stayed on the pitch. he hasn’t played much in the 5 months since picking up that injury. with that, i don’t believe you’re wrong in your assessment of torreira being good enough.

      when the rumors started in the last world cup, i watched him and said no for a couple of reasons. first, he wasn’t worth the price arsenal paid for him. second, torreira has to be wide open just to keep up with his bpl contemporaries. sure, he could have good games, but no one can sustain that intense level torreira required for an entire bpl season. if he tried to maintain that intensity, chronic injuries are inevitable.

      i agree with your opinion that torreira isn’t really good enough for the premier leaugue but i don’t agree with your “why”; saying “he’s not good enough” is simply too generic.

    2. …as for mesut, nuts! he’s failed to prevail in the eyes of both arteta and emery because he’s a notoriously poor trainer. these two coaches have tried to establish a culture at the club of a greater work ethic. submitting to ozil’s lack of effort in training suggests to the young players that it’s okay to train poorly. arteta and emery clearly endeavored to establish that attitude as unacceptable.

      second, this is a different arsenal to the one mesut joined. arsenal have routinely been a team that dominates possession, playing against teams that pack defenses. arsenal’s failure to break down these teams have undermined their chances for success. arsenal bought mesut as a special player who could help break down stingy defenses. likewise, arsenal made mesut one of the richest footballers in the world to retain his unique gift of creativity. strangely enough, since arsenal have gone without a cdm, mesut, along with other attackers, have all seen their production drop; they’re all asked to do more defensive work. it’s easy to blame the players but sometimes, it’s a logistical error (no cdm) and not a tactical one (talent application).

      mesut is not and has never been a hard worker. he’s established a long and successful career being brilliant. we’ve seen players like him in the past. they’re special and you handicap yourself when you ask special players to be something they’re not. at his age, and after all of the success he’s had in his career, he’s not going to change. why would he change from what he knows works?

      1. Josh that many don’t see this is my main problem.santi and ozil are brilliant players but are different in playing style same as de bruyne and silva.wonder why ozil is expected to run tackle and die as if that’s what made so many notice him at the 2010 world cup.ceballos is expected to be Santi,laca should be giroud,Pepe should be mane etc.take the player for how he is and how he fits the team with his quality

        1. We also wasted a large new contract and three years asking him to be what he is not. He really should have only gotten the contract if there was a plan to use him as is, and for the team to continue playing to his and our other player’s strengths at the time.

          Its like buying an expensive DVD player and complaining that it doesn’t play VHS tapes.

          His new contract now seems like it was made to shut fans up about contracts and losing key players.

  18. Josh

    I am not suggesting the Torriera does not have talent and he might be solid DM in Italy, France or Spain but that does not help us. If he is not good enough to play the position in the PL then is not good enough to help Arsenal. With regard to Ozil, Arteta played with him and understood his training habits and yet he still tried to use him when he first took over the job. Managers want to win and they might drop a marginal player for poor training habits but they don’t drop a player who they believe can be an critical player because he is not a good practice player. . I suspect what changed is during the 3 month break, Arteta studied thousands of hours of film and spent countless hours in conference calls with his coaches and they decided the team has a better chance to win when Ozil is not in the squad.

    1. Can I ask you a question Bill?

      You have been very adamant that Mesut is now not very good any more and isn’t in his prime. Can you tell me what he brought to the team in his prime? What did he do on a game by game basis that and how it helped Arsenal?

      I am just curious to know what it is you saw over that period which made him worth playing.

    2. Yes, it goes without saying. At the end of the day all managers want to do is win football matches. They will do almost anything to achieve that. If Arteta thought Ozil could win matches for him, he’d find a way to accommodate him. The simple fact is he doesn’t think playing Mesut will give us any improvement at all.

    3. concerning torreira, i agree with you. i even stated why i believed that even before he signed with arsenal and reiterated it in my post. my position on torreira hasn’t changed.

      as for mesut, we don’t know why arteta dropped him. you’ve stated simply that you don’t believe he can produce anymore whereas i mentioned arteta is trying to establish a new culture. we may both be wrong. what i do know is this; just like was mentioned about xhaka in the thread, mesut hasn’t changed. the team around mesut is what’s changed.

      i’ll take it a step further and declare, like i have for the past several years, that arsenal’s biggest problem is the lack of a proper cdm. xhaka was bought to replace arteta but he’s failed to do it. since the imbalance in midfield, arsenal have, in consecutive seasons, fallen further and further down the table. it’s not the lack of talent in the arsenal side; mesut, guendouzi, and lacazette are all good enough. it’s the lack of balance in midfield. a good cdm makes it all work better…like a catalyst in chemistry or an enzyme in biology.

  19. A very interesting analysis, Tim and an extremely thought-provoking one as the superb discussions above demonstrate. This really is one of the, if not THE best site for intelligent analysis and discussion of Arsenal.

    I remain underwhelmed by Xhaka. His left foot impressed initially but his catalogue of mistakes cost us many points and no matter what role you give him he’s just not good enough for a team that aspires to compete at the top level. I liked Joshuad’s analogy of Gilberto’s struggles in the absence of PV4 and agree with much of his analysis. It’s a team game and each player depends on his key partners but at the end of the day if you’re not good enough at the top level, you’re not good enough. That old Gus Caesar effect!

    We need a good enough centre-back partnership to allow another player to move into midfield to play as a proper defensive midfielder to allow two other midfielders to take the the box-to-box role and another the creative role.

    Whether Saliba is good enough to make a rock-solid partnership with one or more of our current CB options to allow us to play a back four remains to be seen. We don’t currently have the quality of DMFer we need and I agree that Torreira though highly motivated is too lightweight for this league. Nor do we currently have have the creative player that we need (Özil is history) and I haven’t yet seen us linked with anyone for that role but the gap is obvious. Another loan deal for Ceballos may be our box-to-box player and his recent tweets imply he may be keen to return to Arsenal through some arrangement or other. Willock is not yet, if ever, ready to play week in week out.

    I look forward to seeing how we address those deficits at this time of financial penury. Meanwhile there’s a cup to win.

  20. I clearly blanked out all the talk about Coutinho. I really don’t think that’s a deal that we should be looking at (age, cost, record) though I do hear rumours that Joorabchian is best mates with Sanllehi these days and our summer signings will largely be from his stable.

  21. Interesting data play. We can read so much from equations, at least I can visualise better. And that third person narrative could put this piece into a pride of place on a bookshelf.
    Seriously, you should write a book Sr Tim .Maybe things you want to say to Avie, and get it published.

  22. Josh @ 2:06AM

    Fair enough. Arteta is not going to tell us the whole truth so we can only speculate.

    I completely agree that we need a true DM

  23. “The only way to win of course, is with the handbrake off”.
    I think he was here as player when that was said? If Arteta has the resources to get us sorted, I believe he will make his former manager proud and by that, of course, all of us as well.

    No handbrake on in a fwd gear for him. I see the potential for well-drilled, well oiled team, playing out from the back, breaking the press and moving the ball into space and scoring goals. He’ll bring back Santi to coach the team on this. It will be glorious. There, I said it and I choose to believe it.

  24. Who is the best ex-player as a manager for their team?
    1) Arteta
    2) Lampard
    3) Solskjaer

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