Richard Keys has warned Mikel Arteta he is on the verge of ‘losing Arsenal fans’ by overcomplicating his tactics.
The Gunners have collected seven points from their first three games of the new season having also beaten Manchester City in the Community Shield, but have lacked some of the cohesiveness and attacking potency that characterised last season’s title charge.
An injury to Jurrien Timber allied to Takehiro Tomiyasu’s one-game suspension have been mitigating factors, but the decision to deploy Thomas Partey at right-back in order to crowbar Kai Havertz into midfield has yet to have been fully vindicated.
Asked ahead of Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United whether he was tempted to revert to the system that delivered such spectacular results last term Arteta countered ‘I cannot do that, I have different players.’
He added: ‘I think we discuss formations in a different way. In the other game, there were 36 different formations in the match, against Manchester City there were 43, so I don’t know what formation you’re talking about. For me, it’s something very different.
‘The personnel is different. We played differently against Manchester City and there were 43 different structures in different phases. Every morning I come from my house to Colney, sometimes I leave at six and I need to wipe the windscreen because it’s icy and at six o’clock normally I go down one road because it’s faster, now it’s 20 miles an hour, so sometimes I take a back road and then I go on the M25, but depending on if it’s a school ride, then I take one exit, if it’s after seven o’clock I take a different exit.
‘One day I have a flat tyre and what do you do? You have to replace it and take a different road because the garage is there, so every game is a different story.
‘Zinchenko was injured, Granit is not here, so how can I do that? Unless I bring them back. I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s going to be different because it’s a different season and that’s the beauty of the thing that I enjoy the most, that it’s new and we can do much, much better on a lot of things.’
Keys was fiercely critical of Arteta last season, although he focused the majority of his ire on the Arsenal manager’s touchline conduct, calling him a ‘clown’ and urging the Football Association to ‘do something about him’.
The beIN Sports presenter has now taken odds with the Spaniard’s approach to matters on the pitch and fears he is in danger of squandering the groundswell of support he has built over the course of his tenure.
He said:’When I saw that I was totally bemused. He’s saying when they played Manchester City there were 46 different formations on the pitch. Come on! Then in the next game against Fulham there were 36? It’s just nonsense! That can only baffle staff.
‘Of course you can play the same system as you had last year, you just put different personnel into those positions. This is a case of too clever by half in my view. I think he will start to lose Arsenal fans if he’s not too careful.
‘He’s not a professor. He’s not changing the game. He will have to accept there are basics by which we’ve all had to abide by since the year dot. It’s basic, it’s not as complicated as he wants to try to make it.’
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