Mikel Arteta took over Arsenal’s hot seat in December 2019 and changed the North London side’s playing style into something interesting. Their game strategy changed too. And the interesting thing is its resemblance to Pep Guardiola’s tactic at City. In this write-up, I am going to share Mikel Arteta 4-2-3-1 tactic I recreated with Arsenal in FM20.
FM20 Tactic: Mikel Arteta 4-2-3-1 Formation
Some strategies in Arteta tactic seem like a carbon copy of Guardiola tactic. But, Arteta made some tweaks to his tactic, which makes it unique on its own. The build-up of Arteta tactic is a bit different from Man City’s. The Arsenal boss builds up play from the back in a 4-2-3-1 setup. However, as they make the first pass, the formation transforms to 3-2-5.
In this 3-2-5, the deepest midfielder drops beside (on the left) the two central defenders. The deepest midfielder dropping in this way provides a numerical superiority against the opposition first press. In FM20, unfortunately, there is no tactical features or player instructions available for me to achieve exactly the same movement as found in real life. The only closest thing to do is using the half-back role, which lets the player drop in between the central defenders.
Furthermore, in the build-up phase, as the deepest midfielder drops, the right fullback (who’s an inverted wingback) joins the other midfielder in the central area. Then, the left fullback pushes up to join the forwards.
Arteta’s tactic is lethal when it comes to attacking. Just like in Pep’s tactic, Arteta’s attacking width is wide. Moreover, the team is quick in transition using counter, and mostly attack with 5 players. Once the build-up phase moves to the attacking phase, the formed 3-2-5 tactically changes to 2-3-5 – where the deepest midfielder leaves the back-line and moves to the midfield.
One of Arsenal’s main strategies when it comes to attacking is overloading the half-spaces. This is how they take advantage of these areas.
Although Arteta implements Counter in his tactic, his team can be patient while working the ball into the box – that’s in case there’s no opportunity for the counter.
The defensive shape of Arsenal’s Arteta is frequently 4-4-2 when they press high. This means that the AM, RW, or LW can step in to join the CF to press the opponent. However, the team does return to a compact low to mid-block 4-4-2 on their own half in case they couldn’t win the ball back through an immediate counter-press.
In FM20, getting this defending strategy (i.e. falling back to a low block 4-4-2) to work exactly the same way wasn’t possible. If I may suggest, that’s if any of the SI members is reading this, I would suggest adding more defensive features (or instructions) in the tactics section – like adding formations to choose from when your team is without the ball.
Nevertheless, Arteta uses a higher LoE and defensive line when pressing. But once the pressing is ineffective, his team falls back to a low block 4-4-2 with narrow defensive width. Though, the pressing intensity of Arteta’s team can be extremely urgent.
Mikel Arteta’s Role Selections
This has been the Leno’s role so far, even when he was playing under Unai Emery.
Combination of CD and BPD
This is the combination of a traditional central defender and a ball-playing defender. David Luiz is the BPD in Arteta’s tactic. With his passing range and excellent confidence in carrying the ball down the midfield, Luiz is surely a defender with some playmaker features.
While Luiz does his thing, the Central defender with the likes of Papastathopoulos covers or support. However, in FM20, Rob Holding or Mustafi can play any of these roles perfectly.
On the left side of the pitch, the fullback always pushes up to support the team’s forward play. And he offers the width needed. Players like Kolasinac, Saka, and Tierney play more like a complete wingback under Mikel.
However, on the right, the fullback inverts into the midfield to provide the team enough cover against counter-attacks. This is where Maitland-Niles come in handy, and he has the pace to close down opponents effectively. Hector Bellerín has been adapting to this role under Mikel Arteta.
The double 6 in the Spanish manager’s tactic consists of a ball winner and a deep but aggressive playmaker. Xhaka is that deep playmaker who drops subsequently beside the center-backs. Moreover, with his passing range, the team often uses him to switch plays.
Xhaka’s partner, who’s usually Torreira, is the ball winner. Torreira can be really challenging and tough for the opponent with the ball. Thankfully, the Uruguayan international has the stamina and work rate to achieve exactly what his boss wants in the midfield.
I would call Aubameyang the Gunners’ main striker in disguise. He’s not actually a winger under Arteta. Rather, he’s that striker on the left wing who consistently investigates spaces to use punish the opposition. So, he’s actually more like Raumdeuter. And the Gabonese has excellent off-the-ball, pace, and acceleration to excel in this role. He’s actually our highest goal scorer in FM20.
Furthermore, on the right side, the winger is technically an inverted winger. But he always stays wide, just like in Guardiola’s tactic. Pépé, as Mikel’s first choice, always stay wide to offer that extra width in case the team needs to switch play to the right. The young Reiss Nelson plays like the traditional winger when playing in the right-wing.
Özil is no doubt the favourite player for this role under the current Gunners’ head coach. Mesut Özil now plays a vital role in all aspects of Arsenal’s play, especially in their build-up. In the attacking phase, the advanced playmaker moves into channels with the aim of disorganizing the opposition defensive positioning.
A False 9
Under Arteta, Lacazette (a regular starter) is the false nine. His movement is just like Firmino’s in Jurgen Klopp’s tactic at Liverpool. Moreover, Martinelli can play as false nine but he’s more of a pressing forward.
Most times, I use positive when playing at home, irrespective of the stature of the opposition. The positive mentality just works great with this tactic at home. However, on Away, I use Cautious. Sometimes along the match, if we are losing, I switch to positive. When facing big teams, like Man United on Away, if they use the positive mentality, I also use positive mentality. Using the cautious mentality in this type of match often gives the opponent the upper hand in mounting a lot of pressure on your team – and that’s not really good for your team sometimes.