In his post-match interview against Leicester, Mikel Arteta outlined a perfect set of expectations for his Arsenal team. The Spaniard is doing everything right.
The Leicester match was frustrating, no doubt about it. A series of near misses and golden chances squandered, along with some serious misfortune—I’m still convinced Ayoze Perez got a touch—left Arsenal fans wondering why their team couldn’t replicate their world-beating first half in the second 45.
But we’re not alone in our regrets. Mikel Arteta spoke in his post-match interview about about the team’s black-and-white performance, and was amazingly evenhanded. His words perfectly summed up his expectations for the team, where they were met, and where the squad fell short.
“I’m extremely proud of our team and the way we played against this type of opposition with how dominant we were in the first half. But clearly, we should’ve gone three to four-nil up and killed the opposition. That’s what you do with this type of opposition.”
I have to agree, the opening 45 minutes were nothing short of brilliant from the Gunners. A suffocating press left 3rd-place Leicester reeling, unable to leave their own half save for a few breakaways where our defenders over-extended. We created chance after chance, controlled the midfield despite being outnumbered, and to quote NBC Studio host Rebecca Lowe, “Arsenal looked like Arsenal again.”
This is the Arsenal Mikel Arteta has created. Our width was our greatest asset; wingbacks and midfielders working in perfect precision to create acres of space for the wingers to galavant in behind, with Alexandre Lacazette dropping deeper to totally disrupt the Leicester pressing scheme. They looked unstoppable.
His pride is well founded.
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But it certainly was a game of two halves. While the first half illustrated Arteta’s lofty expectations being met almost to a tee, the second was a reminder that we still have a ways to go. While consistency is taking hold of our club, the next step is domination, and domination is what Arteta demands.
Like Wolves three days previously, Leicester came out of the halftime team talk rejuvenated, and fighting. Unlike Wolves, the Foxes refused to be subdued by the Gunners, instead clawing back possession numbers as a series of early substitutions forced a tiring Arsenal to drop deeper. They were able to regain a foothold in this game purely because of the scoreline. 1-0 just isn’t good enough.
The way to treat Leicester is to kill them off. Take your chances by the horns and finish them. But for every chance we finished (all one of them), we had a multitude squandered. Over the course of the match, we had 10 corner kicks, and put in 20 crosses. One of those found its way into the back of the net. Arsenal no longer has issues creating chances. We just need to start putting them in the back of the net.
And there’s nobody better to instill that into the squad than Mikel Arteta. Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, and Pep Guardiola have spoken at length about Arteta’s work with the Manchester City forwards on clinical finishing and killer positioning. The Englishman in particular has benefited from Arteta’s influence.
In his expectations, Mikel Arteta is the perfect coach. In his ability to change this squad for the better, Mikel Arteta is the perfect coach. He’s doing everything right, and long may it continue.