Mikel Arteta’s long-term Arsenal plan is more important than North London Derby bragging rights


Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho will clash in Sunday’s north London derby at the Emirates, with both going about their jobs differently since being appointed around 18 months ago.

The former replaced Unai Emery in the hot seat whereas the latter took the place of Mauricio Pochettino, and although the progress appears similar for Arsenal and Tottenham according to the Premier League table, Arteta are building a more sustainable and long-term game.

The Spaniard has been clear about the brand of football that he wants his team to represent; Arsenal have a defined idea to work towards with the focus placed on domination of the ball and the pitch.

“My philosophy will be clear,” he stated during an interview with the Arsenal magazine in 2016. “I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition.

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“We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us. I’m 100 per cent convinced of those things, and I think I could do it.”

Many of the perks associated with such a playing style relate to general probability, which is the crux of the reason behind why Pep Guardiola tends to win matches with great consistency.

Simply put, if dominance can be established by a team, that team is generally more likely to win.

Dominance does not simply mean possession; what is more important is happenings in terms of shots at both ends.

The likes of Liverpool and Manchester City have reached points over the years whereby they regularly generate almost double the number of shots than their opponents, while also seeing most of the ball and keeping it away from their own defensive third.

On any pitch in the world, it is likely that the team who have twice as many efforts on goal will win more often than not.

Arteta is working towards that game with Arsenal; the Gunners are gradually picking up controlling traits by seeing more possession, forging openings in attack and restricting their opponents to very little at the opposite end.

It should eventually deliver consistency, with Arteta referencing probability on more than one occasion since being appointed.

When his side suffered from a period of bad form in the winter, the 38 year-old said: “Last year we won the game against Everton with a 25% chance of winning, you win 3-2. Last weekend, it was a 67% chance of winning any Premier League game in history, and a 9% chance of losing, and you lose. 3% against Burnley and you lose. 7% against Spurs and you lose.”

Mourinho, by contrast, seems to be developing what is essentially a counter-attacking game at Spurs.

It does suit the strengths of many of his players – particularly Son Heung-min – but Mourinho will fail to get the probability aspects on his side by playing in such a way largely because of how his team almost invite their opponents to attack.

This season, Spurs are averaging 11.3 shots per match in England’s top-flight but they are actually facing more defensively, with an average of 12.2 against per match.

The likes of Harry Kane and Son in particular give Spurs enough of an edge to score more than they concede, but rather than putting the result beyond reasonable doubt by dominating all departments, Mourinho’s outfit are almost relying on the flip of a coin.

Consistency looks set to be trickier for Spurs to achieve over the next year under the Portuguese compared to what is likely to happen at the Emirates; one is developing a game that is proactive and governing whereas the other is working towards a style of play that is more reactive and open to the element of chance.

It remains to be seen who will come out victorious this weekend and given that Arsenal’s approach embraces more risk, it would not be out of the question for them to suffer defeat this time around.

Regardless, though, the Gunners can rest assured with the understanding that over time, they are more likely to become a lot healthier than their fierce rivals.





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