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Mikel Arteta And The Application Of Asymmetric Warfare

Today’s post is by PA regular Double Canister.

arteta-captain jpeg

 “He is Arsène Wenger on the pitch.”

I was prompted to write this after I saw a tweet to George saying as much and felt I could expand a bit on why I believe it is so.

I would have to state my conflict of interest first – the only Arsenal shirt I have ever put a name and number on the back of – ever – is Arteta No 8. 

Mikel is far too highly skilled as a footballer for what other teams and commentators see as the classic Defensive Midfield role. He is not Makélélé, thankfully. He is not quite like Gilberto Silva as the Invisible Wall. We all know he is a better all-round footballer than Flamini. He is the man behind our multiple sexy attacking threats up front and the mind-fielder and is the oil in the engine of the Arsenal midfield.  His contract expires in January 2015.  He will be 32 years old this March, we may be seeing the best of him right now.

Arteta is a deep-lying playmaker. He wins the ball, see things, sees players – makes passes, and as was said by others – he can see the pass beyond the first pass.  There is no one else in the English league I would compare him to. He is always available as the recovery pass. He hardly ever gives the ball away. He is not as psychotic as Roy Keane was though.  He does the heavy pressing for Arsenal, and with Rosicky, they can both form a proper tiki-taka (the other half of what Barca used to do so well) and do what has to be done to press and win the ball back.

 Pivot ye not

So what does Arteta do so well? Is he something like a trequartista or a regista? No, not exactly.  In Argentine and Uruguayan football, a playmaker is known as an enganche – literally meaning “hook”.  In basketball it’s called the point guard. A point guard has perhaps the most specialized role of any position – essentially, they are expected to run the team’s offense by controlling the ball and making sure that it gets to the right players at the right time.  Above all, the point guard must totally understand and accept his coach’s game plan; a point guard is a coach on the floor, who can handle and distribute the ball to teammates.

Situational awareness

It leads to a deeper question: what kind of football does Arsenal at the moment play under Wenger? 

Wengerball!

Is the simple answer, but what really is that?

New Wengerball© is a unique blend of possessional, direct, and total football. I have often argued that the traditional DM role is obsolete at teams like Arsenal, we expect our players to be complete; defenders attack – attackers defend.  You know – Total Football style. We also expect our midfielders to possess extraordinary levels of energy and skill (and a bit of nous too). We don’t use a holding midfielder anymore, as this would restrict our attack options by using up one of the midfield positions. Each and every one of the 6 players in front of the defence is an attacking weapon. It is a lightning quick pass-move system. Throw in one or the other of our two overlapping fullbacks as well. Teams we play against don’t know from where – or who – the next ball towards their goalmouth will come.  Most English teams usually operate with only one recognised playmaker; Arsenal usually have 4 or 5.  Arteta’s role as the point guard requires unusual skill and adaptability, combined with intelligent positioning. Look as Gerrard struggles so desperately whilst being converted into the same position so late in his career.

 artetawenger.jpeg

Festina lente

And what has this to do with asymmetric warfare?

There is as a phrase used in the military ‘Slow is smooth, and smooth is quick’.  Arteta will ensure he (or at least one other covering player) stays around no further forward than centre circle when everyone else is playing school yard football. Lying deeper, he can orchestrate the movement of the whole team. His starting position is quite deep, probably due to fading pace but that is rarely exposed as he is usually first to react to loose balls. Mikel rarely gives the ball away.  He gets criticised, unjustly, for making some side and back passes but he is no Carrack – there is a logic to what he does – the ball will be moving forward again after the next pass, often to one of the killer attackers like Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla or Ozil. The point is he can keep recycling the play from side to side, front to back, keep the passing rhythm, the tempo and speed impossibly high, until the opposition falter or make a mistake – and then BOOM!

 Why he is Wenger’s brain on the pitch

Arteta has discipline – he will stick to the task.  How many late goals have the Arsenal scored?  How many late goals are conceded when he’s around? It often takes 70+ minutes to break down teams who play against us with a parked bus. In the last 20 minutes, when Arsenal are still usually trying to make sure of the result in the match, you will see some very interesting things happen.

Santi, Rosicky and Theo will typically keep swapping sides. Sanga may drop back into defensive mode and Monreal or Gibbs will be the one pushing forward.

The first 70 minutes were merely feints, the real XXXX comes now. Ozil becomes alive, new attack angles appear everywhere. Defenses can’t cope, but we need Arteta to be the one pinging the ball around to make it happen. His passing from the deep positions has to be spot-on reliable – and it usually is. Lying deeper, he has an oversight of the entire game from his usual position around the centre circle. He can move up or back depending on the situation and provides the extra body to an attack or a defence. Oh, and he will take one for the team if he has too.  A +70% tackle success rate but he is not shy about the odd rugby tackle on an opponent if that is the last resort, and accruing the inevitable yellow card if he sees that we have been left too exposed behind him.

wengerarteta2.jpeg

 This photo of them – they are soul mates

Arteta has the intelligence and senior experience to understand what must be done. Both never had international careers. It’s Arsenal or nothing for them both now.  Their careers will not go on for much longer. It has to be done now.

 Now watch this and tell me I’m wrong:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98xvudh4aB4

Double Canister can be told he’s wrong on Twitter @double_canister

 

 

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135 comments on “Mikel Arteta And The Application Of Asymmetric Warfare

  1. DC
    I have suspected as much for a few years now. The man can take a juggernauted offense and turn it into the most boring, least risk averted defensive side in no time. anti-football personified.

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  2. I know they are talking about notes right now but I wouldn’t put it past roman to kick his ass out of England if they keep underachieving and come up short winning silverware. The man lives for those moments when he can do that to a manager. What is it now? Eight or nine and counting. Looking forward to that moment myself. We don’t want his kind around this league.

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  3. Shoot
    Notes — moyes

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  4. Thanks Leo for posting that Arteta youtube video. This should be required viewing for all gooners. The man is an absolute professional who sacrifices all for the benefit of the team. I have no doubt that by the end of the season his stats as as a defensive midfielder will smash almost all his peers. The good thing is this year he has help in the form of Flamini and does not have to play those humongous minutes as in the prior years which took their toll by late season.

    Too bad for for the dummies who don’t get Mikel Arteta.

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  5. Double Canister February 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    mourinho doesnt play football…never did…scopeball only ..and he still needs 200m worth of players to do it ….

    it takes a special arsehole to distort the game to the point where its an act of 30 and 35 year old men in shorts in static positions blocking and tackling and making grimaces of war, scared and afraid to play the game…and always with intention to gain result in WHATEVER means necessary….

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  6. and it also takes a special culture to accept such antics and lap it up instead of telling him to fuck off back where he came from ..with his ponys and his waitrose eggs

    i guess the italians and spannish are stupid for telling him to do one……..

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  7. the winners you see…… lol

    barricading …using other peoples money to win titles …. playing and behaving like classless cunts …..

    your father busting his arse to build you a house as per his principles is a loser and the bastard banker who cheats and gets the trophies ( ferraris, villas, models, cocaine) is the winner …..

    football = life ……

    haha

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  8. Hunter: Mourinho’s idea of being adventurous is to have the likes of Ramires, Lampard and Obi-Mikel clog the middle and hope their opponents lose their shape and open themselves wide for the counter-attack. The fact that Melo in particular was dishing out as much as he got pretty much ended the plans of this tactical genius.

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  9. Hunter
    If you base your happiness on the next big purchase, be it house, villa, ferrari, club, player or manager then you may have a moment’s fleeting satsifaction, but the habituation principle ensures that you soon tire of the latest acquisition and so need to shop for the new biggest thrill. True contentment comes from joy in hard-earned achievement, with the journey always more important than the destination. It comes from playing the right way, of remaining true to your principles. It may sound old-fashioned, but the happiest kids are those with stable and loving families, not necessarily the ones with the flashiest new gadgets.

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  10. Mourinho’s divers (Ramires, Willian etc.) clearly were not briefed as well as Robben* and the Dutch skunks were by their very own ‘sh*t on a stick’ Specialist Van Marwijk (recently sacked by Hamburg for being, well, for being sh*t) in 2010, when they got Melo sent off in the WC knock out rounds. The Chelski players did try and uphold Mourinho’s sacred English Football virtues, and surrounded the referee on all occasions. To no avail. Heh.

    *him again!….****. There is no doubt that Robben knew what he was doing as he rolled around clutching his ankle last week. You have to question an official (at least I will!) who does not question the reactions of this player during a game given his reputation and infamous history.

    Melo the Gullible, a former D**Mer pin up who would not have lasted long in the PL playing for the Arsenal: ‘If I had meant to hurt Arjen Robben, he would have had a broken leg’
    Flamini has this falling over tumbling technique that puts disguise on many of his challenges (if he remembers not to use both feet. To his credit you don’t see him making many flying kicks following a run up like the Arsenal players receive…). Arteta goes one better and on many occasions wins fouls as opposed to making them. Not many DMs are this smart, one reason why we call him the Prince.
    Song when playing well could just use his strength to hold off opponents, and it was an effective technique for him in the PL. Not sure if being dumped cold into an unpractised three man back line is working out for him at Barca in la liga….but then the Barca Bunglers have been looking for a CB for about three years. I sure do hope the Arsenal keep a hold of Tommy V. Not because I want Arsenal to copy City & Gazprom and to keep players from rivals, but simply because a Top squad needs three top CBs. Keep him. Please.

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  11. shottagunna
    February 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Our players will destroy this cretin and his archaic football philosophy inside his ground in front of his employer.

    They will do it for their manager Wenger and for the sake of football.

    Its about time Karma pulled a finger out…..

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  12. You’re right, Mikel has a kind of “get a bit in the way of, we are like two players joined together, the ball is actually in my control, he ran into me guvnor as you saw, 50.50” way of winning tackles and quite often the ball. Kos just takes it, but then possession is nine tenths. Per stops the ball, every time, uncanny. Flamini now, Flamini says “they shall not pass, and make it a double if they’ve roughed up one of mine”. Flamini is what we call an ankle biter. Tomas slides in over 3 metres, wraps his foot around said ball, jumps up and runs off with it. Tomas though is not shy to say, I’m not as small as you thought you little shit-face? Mesut has a bit to learn, he stands in the way. Aaron seems to have the philosophy, the harder you go in, legally, the less you’re likely to get hurt and anyway I’ve paid my dues. Sanogo: thing is, I’m stronger than you think. Arsenal have often lost free kicks because they are a bit clever and fast in the tackle and the opposition player does the old back-flip, flip-flop, fish on land routine, ref says looked like a foul, must be a foul. Arsenal remain, comparatively, a very clean club in the dark arts and it is very rare that an opposition player is actually injured by the Arsenal.

    Now we visit Stoke. We shall see what we shall see.

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  13. ZimPaul
    February 27, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Arsenal remain, comparatively, a very clean club in the dark arts and it is very rare that an opposition player is actually injured by the Arsenal.

    i beg your pardon mister …100 red cards under Wenger tell a different story ….with his undisciplined foreigners coming here ruining our beautiful game…..

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  14. and now for some jokes

    when did the U.S.B come out ?
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    right after the U.S.A

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  15. Blond: Baby oh please get me a new laptop
    BF : Sure hun, but what about the other one you got
    Blond: Oh, he is getting me a tablet

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  16. I have only seen Joel Campbell play for teams which employ defensive formations and rely on his speed for counter attacks. I can not wait to see what he does when he’s got a fullback overlapping him and three or four passing options to choose from. I also loved the way he kept Evra pinned back without doing too much. It shows he’s a smart player.

    Melo is an atrocious player. If the doomers were involved in our scouting, we’d have him, Christopher Samba, Kapoue and a host of shitty players littered all over our bench.

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  17. mikel, santi and bacary are on the plane to munchen. After the 4th cocktail the men start talking about men stuff

    ” i had sex with my wife 4 times last night” says mikel. “she woke up and cooked me a fine omellete thanking me telling me im the best”

    ” thats nothing” says santi ” i had sex with my wife 6 times and when she woke up she made me pancakes chocolate cakes and fruitsalad and told me she will never ever love another man”

    ” so what did you do bacary?” says mikel

    ” i only had sex with her once”

    ” haha you loser… and what did she tell you in the morning?” asks santi

    ” DONT STOP”

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  18. Finsbury @ 11.43,

    That is excellent advice. Too often society encourages what you said to be ignored. However, I am glad there people of character like you in this world.

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  19. SA
    That comment was by foreverheady!

    Having gone to school with people from all kinds of different backgrounds I can only agree with you.

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  20. Oops. Sorry Foreverheady. Your two names came in succession. Is that a good enough justification?

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  21. totally justified: an honour to be on the same page as you people in the first place!

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  22. I think you guys will like this:

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  23. Charlie
    Chaplin got kicked out of the USA for making that film.

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  24. Isnt the USA supposed to welcome such fillms, as they are “against” dictatorship, have never supported dictators in other countries and are the self-appointed leaders of the freeworld?

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  25. In two minds about Vertonghen. Was he head-butted? Yes. Should it have been a red card? Yes. Would it have been given if he hadn’t play-acted as he did? No. So there is an argument that says he was morally correct to draw attention to the foul. There is a professional argument that says as a club employee he is contractaully obliged to do his best within the rules to further his club’s chances. And yet there is also the old-fashioned sense of fair play argument that says you don’t try to get a fellow pro sent-off.
    An ethical dilemma for our times, made harder by the sense that whatever a spud does must be wrong.

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  26. There may also be the question as to whether Verthongen had not barged into Zozulya then no foul would have occurred, not card of any colour would have been required and Tottingham would have faced a very uncomfortable half an hour against a Dnipro team that played very good football going forward even with ten men

    Konoplyanka is a fine player

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  27. He looks outstanding and it is probably just as well that Liverpool didn’t quite manage to secure his services in January. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could slip in twixt the election and thier hopes, but I fear the world and his wife will have cheque books primed now.

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  28. Konoplyanka is slipperier than an eel dipped in olive oil – and the bugger can hit a free kick ! As you say there will be a lot of clubs in the hunt, I hope we are one of them

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  29. Verthongen’s efforts in getting an opponent sent off were not as embarrassing as his ‘pull down the striker’s shorts after he has ran past me and hope the friendly ref doesn’t give a penalty’ technique.

    Vermaelan > Verthongen

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  30. I nicked the below link from bob on UA. As I’ve said before, I’m glad we didn’t get Verbasturd. A different angle:

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  31. George, pleaaaaase send me the ID. My creative juices are drying up! I reaaaally feel like doing a piece for the blog. Can I do a preview of the game tomorrow?

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  32. USA! USA! USA!!! 😉

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  33. I’m throwing caution to the wind and just writing the preview. i hope to God you don’t have someone else doing it.

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  34. I have sent you the address.

    Like

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