Mikel Arteta has insisted that his Arsenal side have improved dramatically since last season.
Arsenal dropped their first points of the new Premier League season yesterday, as Fulham earned a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium.
It was a strange game for the Gunners. Mikel Arteta saw his side concede inside the first minute of the match (not for the first time), and once they eventually battled back to lead 2-1, they couldn’t hold on despite having a man advantage, following Calvin Bassey’s dismissal. Some sloppy defending late-on allowed Joao Palhinha to prod home from a corner.
Arsenal dominated much of the match, but were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession and at times their tactics looked muddled and their build-up play lacked cohesion.
Arteta persisted with using Thomas Partey at right-back, as he did against Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, Gabriel Magalhaes’ wait for a Premier League start this season goes on. Whilst Arsenal created plenty of chances, their attacking patterns weren’t especially fluid, and for periods of the match the home side were restricted to taking shots from range.
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Arteta hails Arsenal improvement despite key error
Despite these issues, Arteta is adamant that Arsenal are making progress. Speaking to BBC Sport after the match, the Spanish coach said, “we should have scored five, six, seven [goals]. If I compare the game this season to last season, we were 10 times better than last season. At least 10.”
However, he also made it clear that there remains plenty of room for improvement. Discussing the late goal Arsenal conceded to give up their hard-fought lead, Arteta stated that, ‘“we go 2-1 up and you have to defend for your life, you cannot concede the goal after everything we have done.”
Arsenal became too passive, and protective in their nature, after Eddie Nketiah put them ahead. Even when Fulham had a man sent off, Arsenal didn’t impose themselves. The biggest issue with the Gunners’ performance wasn’t necessarily that they gave up a second goal, but that they didn’t push for a third themselves to kill the game.
Arteta is right to say that his side have improved, in that Arsenal have signed good players this summer who have raised the level of his squad. On the pitch, though, the teething issues are obvious, and their game management mentality must be called into question.