10 Thoughts on Arteta vs Wenger After Arsenal vs Manchester United
1. I’m beginning to think Arteta is a better coach than late-era Wenger. Man U kept playing the same way to beat Arsenal and Wenger just couldn’t or wouldn’t change. I recall that FA Cup match where Man U played 6 defenders and won comfortably without Arsenal even scoring. The goals came from the same error of repeatedly opening yourself to counter attacks that led to the Ronaldo showcase against Arsenal in the Champions League.
2. Wenger knew these guys have fast wingers and precise strikers but he kept using a high defence line with players that couldn’t really run. Such Foolishness. And even after Wenger, the same style kept being used by a succession of doomed coaches who would attack attack attack without a world class striker while keeping a slow but high defence line. The folly boggles the mind.
Arteta did the exact thing in the first leg and I wrote him off as a Guardiola without the sense and finance. But he showed that he can learn this time.
3. It’s enough to be happy about because one thing people don’t seem to say enough about Ten Hag’s team is how difficult it is to score them. I still think the referee gave them the City match but that game exemplifies this point: A free-scoring side like City couldn’t break them sufficiently to score more than one before the nonsense referee decided to misinterpret the rules.
Plus, even if their defence let’s one out of 94 shots slip, you still have to contend with De Gea’s world-class talent. Look at the magnificent goal Michael Olise had to come up with to give Crystal Palace a point last week. Without that excellence, it can be hard to break Man U’s extreme defensive discipline.
4. Knowing this is what he built, against sides that really attack, Ten Hag is a defensive mastermind. He uses a looser version of that park-the-bus trick Mourinho used to win the Champions League when he was in Milan. Ferguson used the same trick to knock out Barca in that semifinal match featuring a lone goal from Scholes.
5. It is to Arsenal’s credit that they scored 3 goals against this Man U side. After the match, ETH said the goals his team conceded came from mistakes. In my view, Arsenal was the more mistake-y team. Man U didn’t really work hard to score; they capitalised on basic errors.
And while I admit that the errors that Arsenal used to pack per minute has reduced, I have to ask: why are you giving Rashford space to take a shot when we know that’s what he does? Why is Ramsdale not holding on to the corner or punching it away from danger? In a game of fine margins, those things can decide matches and title destinations.
6. Meanwhile, Arsenal had to hustle relentlessly for their goals. Arsenal had 25 attempts. 25! And only 5 on target. That’s poor; it’s why I don’t think Arsenal has a great team without a striker to take those damn chances. Man U had 6 attempts, four were on target. And they scored 2. Look at that ratio. That is an insane level of quality in front of goal. Those guys are just built to score and don’t waste chances. They play the way I like to write ideally: Not an extra sentence wasted, not an extra shot or pass taken.
7. Arsenal has to work by numbers: attempt more to score. They also had to work too hard or be lucky for each goal: Saka tried a long distance shot that squeaked in, Nketiah had to move cleverly and time his jump accurately for his first, he then had to divert a ball after his team had been holding possession for long to get the final goal. And even then VAR could have truncated that joy. But not today, satan!
This was the kind of game that when Wenger was refusing to change, Man U would win by 4 or 3 unreplied goals because along with Man U’s lethal directness, Arsenal had a hopeless team that couldn’t put the ball in the net, a situation made worse by the ABC of ineffectual strikers Wenger kept getting post-Henry: Adebayor, Bendtner, Chamakh.
8. This time there was no high defence line so we didn’t get that ridiculous situation of watching Arsenal players chasing a Rashford destined to leave them in the dust. Rashford had to utilise the wings but was usually smothered before danger except for that first goal and a saved attempt. Ten Hag couldn’t rely as much as he did on the counter in the first game and in the City game. Arteta learned how to counter that speedy counter by trying to win balls in the midfield and he did it after learning from that one game vs ETH. Wenger in his dotage couldn’t learn the lesson season after season.
9. To think that Arteta even had an excuse to use a high defence line because his team was down in the first 20 minutes. In the first leg, the naïve eagerness to equalise led to his defenders going gung-ho and conceding two more goals. This time, there was a relative calm and no rash decision making after that goal against the run of play. The patience paid off without leading to goals conceded. In fact, I think of Lack Of Foolishness as Arteta’s true victory yesterday.
10. Along with a couple of quality midfielders, this Arsenal team still needs a striker who is really a striker — but with several people capable of scoring at the moment, the team would work exceedingly well with a coach who’s quick to learn, adjust, and execute. In other words, Arteta is looking like a smart coach after yesterday. Praise Be. And Long May It Continue.