Arteta's got Arsenal up and running again
Arsenal are up and running again. The question now, and it is one at the forefront of Mikel Arteta’s mind, is how much further these players can go and at what speed.
If there was one pertinent observation from their home win over Manchester United on Wednesday, aside from the lifting of the murderous mood at the Emirates Stadium, it was the marvellous fury of Arsenal’s movement in the first half and the sudden way in which that intensity dropped in the second.
A pattern had already been established when they faded to defeat from a winning position against Chelsea on Sunday, so it is for good reason Arteta is resisting some of the excitement that has spread following victory at the third attempt. It is one thing to get his players moving again, but it is another to keep them from slowing up in games. Arteta made a call for greater fitness in the aftermath of the 2-0 win over United and he stressed the point yesterday, saying: ‘I wanted to play a different rhythm than what I was watching (before taking over).
‘I tried to implement this and at the moment it lasts until one moment in the game. They can cover the distance, probably yes, but at the intensity I want for 90 minutes? No. But it is coming. It is improving a little bit each game and it will get better.’
The improvement since Arteta’s appointment is undeniable, even if one point from Bournemouth and Chelsea amounted to less than a bounce. The impact has been demonstrated in the nature of the performances and specifically in the energy of the players.
It remains the greatest slur on the Unai Emery reign that the basic requirement of a sustained effort could not be guaranteed. The absence of a distinct playing style meant any running they did under Emery may have been a wasted journey, but Arteta seems to be on the right track in pushing to emulate the pressing machine used by Pep Guardiola.
Early days, but the numbers coming out of Wednesday’s win told a story. Namely, they are collectively running around five miles more per game than under Emery. That jumped Arsenal from 11th in a table for distance covered per game to fourth.
They are also up from 12th to eighth for turnovers high up the pitch since Arteta came in, and perhaps the most telling detail in that regard concerns Mesut Ozil.
Remarkably, a midfielder who was frozen out under Emery, and rightly maligned over his defensive contributions, ran 7.1 miles against United — the most in the team and his personal best for two years.
To learn that Ozil regained possession 10 times against United was a staggering inversion of expectation. But that could be the norm in Arteta’s plan.Daily Mail