Mikel Arteta Must Master Substitutions and Rotation

Pep Guardiola was full of praise for his protogé Mikel Arteta after City’s win at the Emirates on Sunday.

Guardiola described Mikel Arteta as ‘so clever’, and says that he knows everything. Such hyperbole is to be expected when Guardiola is talking about his former assistant coach. Plus, Pep is gracious in victory. He has a habit of lavishing praise upon managers he has just defeated. Ask Eddie Howe.

There’s no doubt Mikel Arteta is a bright young coach, but young is the operative word here. There are still some things he has yet to get the hang of – namely substitutions and squad rotation.


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Following the 4 – 2 win over Leeds last weekend, he named an unchanged side against Benfica on Thursday. Yes, Arsenal played well against Leeds, but it was still a surprise. On the night, Arsenal laboured to a 1 – 1 draw against a Benfica side that was there for the taking. 

Arteta said that the players who played so well on the weekend deserved another chance. This has, though, been a pattern this season as Arsenal increasingly scramble for results.

When Arsenal do put together a good performance, Arteta usually names the same side. Of course, sweeping changes are not necessary. But light rotation is surely the way to go, especially with the schedule this season.

His rotation policy seems to be having an adverse effect on certain players, making it difficult for them to get any form going. Both Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette have had encouraging spells, only to be relegated to the bench for a few games.


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Arteta also has a habit of taking the wind out of Arsenal’s sails with his substitutions. With Arsenal chasing a goal against Benfica, his decision to bring on Pepe and Martinelli did not bear fruit. In hindsight, in spite of his missed chances, the hooked Aubemayang was as likely to score as anyone.

1 – 0 down against Aston Villa, he brought on the now comedy-villain Willian. Willian wasn’t bad, he wasn’t good either, but in doing so Arteta moved Saka to left back after he was starting to find joy on the right wing. 

A student of La Masia, Moyes, Wenger and Guardiola, there is do doubt Arteta comes from excellent tactical stock. However, he is learning the art of substitution and rotation for the first time, and he is a long way from mastering it.