Mikel Arteta has shaken things up at Arsenal so far this season.

Arsenal have a new-look midfield, with £105 million Declan Rice and Kai Havertz having been brought into the fold, alongside Martin Odegaard. Mikel Arteta has also been tinkering with his defence.

Centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes has been consigned to the bench, with Thomas Partey deputising at right-back. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Jakub Kiwior have been used at left-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko struggling for fitness, and the more conventional version of a full-back, Kieran Tierney, deemed surplus to requirements.

So far, these changes haven’t quite had the desired effects. With Partey, Odegaard, and Ben White all spending so much time working with Bukayo Saka on the right-flank, Rice has been isolated in the middle of the park. What’s more, Havertz, Gabriel Martinelli, and whoever is at left-back, haven’t yet been able to strike up any real chemistry on the left.

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Despite this, Arsenal remain unbeaten in the Premier League, and these tactical factors weren’t to blame for the 2-2 draw against Fulham. Arsenal created plenty of chances, and only have poor finishing and individual errors at the back to blame for not taking all three points.

It is true that returning to a more familiar system would likely see Arsenal produce more coherent, fluent performances in the short-term. However, Arteta has a good reason for persisting with his efforts to conjure up something new.

Last season, following the arrivals of Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus, Arsenal adopted a style of play reminiscent of Manchester City’s, where Arteta had previously worked as Pep Guardiola’s assistant. It worked well enough to get Arsenal second in the league, behind Manchester City.

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Arteta must reinvent Arsenal 

In order to overhaul the reigning champions, and take Arsenal to the next level, Arteta must do what the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte, and Guardiola himself have managed: evolve the game tactically.

Klopp’s gegenpress at Liverpool, and Conte’s reliance on wing-backs at Chelsea saw both managers produce a tactical approach that the rest of the Premier League had no answer to. If Arteta is to take Arsenal to where they want to go, and surpass Manchester City, he must stick with this effort to reinvent his team’s style of play. It will take time, and won’t be a smooth process, but the rewards could be enormous.

The vision for Arteta’s new system makes sense. In theory, Rice has the athleticism and defensive awareness to patrol a huge swathe of ground, allowing Arsenal to overload the flanks, and play around, rather than through, the opposition midfield block. Inverting full-backs can support Rice where necessary, whilst White is still given the freedom from centre-back to push up the right-flank and overlap Saka.

If Arsenal can grow into the system whilst still picking up wins then they will be in a great position to kick on towards the business end of the campaign, where they came unstuck last season. 

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