A member of the 2003-04 Invincibles squad thinks a time-honoured philosophy is being phased out at Emirates Stadium
Martin Keown has expressed his belief that Mikel Arteta is changing Arsenal’s brand of football, while insisting that the Gunners boss doesn’t fully “trust” his players yet.
Arteta received widespread praise for salvaging an eighth-place Premier League finish and FA Cup glory for Arsenal after being handed the managerial reins at Emirates Stadium midway through the 2019-20 campaign.
The Gunners were tipped to build on that platform by regaining a place in the Champions League, but consistency has proved elusive for the north Londoners at the start of the new season.
Arteta’s men are already five points adrift of the top four after nine fixtures, having only picked up 13 points from a possible 27.
Arsenal were handed their fourth defeat of the season before the international break as Aston Villa ran out 3-0 winners at the Emirates, and they failed to get back to winning ways away at Leeds United over the weekend.
A 0-0 draw at Elland Road did little to ease the growing sense of unease among supporters, with Arteta’s methods suddenly being called into question amid a lack of cutting edge in the final third of the pitch.
Keown says the Spaniard has abandoned legendary ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s time-honoured attacking philosophy in favour of a more pragmatic approach, with previously expressive players losing their way after being forced to adopt more disciplined roles.
“When you think of 22 years under Arsene Wenger, so much creativity, expression, belief from the manager that anything was possible.
“Here we are with a brand new manager, one who I think is going to be outstanding. But maybe there is too much instruction.
“Players going backwards, under Arsene Wenger, no, no, that ball has to go forward. Arteta played very well under Wenger, so he will know.
“I think he wants them to express themselves and play, but I think that comes with trust and you stop with the information, and rely on the individual to go and create the play.
“Maybe it’s just a little bit of balance. He’s still a young manager, but very successful already – it’s still early days – but at the moment, he doesn’t have quite the right balance between attacking and defending.”