Mikel Arteta has won many plaudits for his tactical innovation since taking over at Arsenal. When Unai Emery was sacked from his duties as Arsenal’s manager, Arteta inherited a squad with multiple deficiencies, especially when it came to their defensive unit. And within a matter of months, he turned around the fate of his former club with a late surge at the end of the season which included an impressive FA Cup campaign where Arsenal won their 14th FA Cup.
Mikel Arteta’s achievements were down to his efficient usage of the squad and tactical intellect which made him use his players in a way not many could have imagined. One of his most innovative moves was to play Ainsley Maitland-Niles as left-wing back, a player who started his career as a midfielder although he was mostly employed as a right-back or a ring-wing back in his brief Arsenal career. Arteta pulled off a shocker against Manchester City in the semi-finals of the FA Cup where he employed Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a left-wing back to track in the inward runs of City’s right-winger who likes to cut inside time and again.
When Manchester City came up against Arsenal last weekend, Pep Guardiola pulled off the same trick on his former assistant. Joao Cancelo was positionally employed as right-wing back with Kyle Walker asked to sit back and target Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal’s primary offensive threat.
Joao Cancelo was able to make continuous runs inside the midfield and attack Arsenal’s left-wing back, Bukayo Saka inwards, leaving Kieran Tierney, who was employed as left centre-back, exposed in front of Riyad Mahrez. Guardiola’s tactical setup was the reason behind City’s only goal.
While Arsenal did lose the match, this was surely one hell of a tactical battle between the tutor and the apprentice. If you do have some free time left on your hands, you can always give this match a watch again.