Mikel Arteta has admitted he and Arsenal have to compromise on some of their footballing principles to get results against the Premier League’s bigger clubs.
Arsenal visit Anfield on Monday aiming to snap out of a run during which they have conceded 20 goals in their past five visits to Liverpool’s home. They have, in fact, proved a thorn in Liverpool’s side under Arteta. Arsenal defeated the champions 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in July and followed that with a penalty shootout victory in the Community Shield last month.
Those wins came with 31% and 41% of possession respectively, owing much to Arteta’s willingness to set up relatively conservatively against top opponents. He said that, while he would have liked Arsenal to play with more control, they must not try to run before they can walk.
“Sometimes it’s what you want to do as a coach and sometimes it’s what you are allowed to do with the levels of players and performances that top teams can do against you,” he said. “[In those games] we obviously had very long periods where we had to defend deeper than we would like to, but we have to prepare for the games finding scenarios to win.
“I’m here to win. I’m here to find ways to do it. If I’m proposing something very different that is exposing our team right now, I don’t think I’m acting in the best favour of the club or the players. The players we have available can change our gameplan. We have to be able to adapt. I think in football now, one way doesn’t work unless you are superior to the opponent all the time.”
Arteta hopes Houssem Aouar, the Lyon playmaker, will arrive to help Arsenal take the initiative in games, although they will have to significantly increase the bid of around £35m that the Ligue 1 side have rejected. That will probably mean players have to be sold in the next 10 days and he acknowledged that Liverpool, who had little trouble closing a deal for Thiago Alcântara, are operating at a different level.
“We are in different moments as clubs, with the success they had over the years and how stable they have been in the Champions League and Premier League,” he said. “We just try to get the right momentum by doing the deals we believe are going to make us stronger with the resources we have at the moment, and try to push as hard as we can as a team to do it as quickly as possible.”
Kieran Tierney could return to Arsenal’s defence after recovering from the hip injury that brought his late withdrawal from the 2-1 win against West Ham.