How Mikel Arteta is laying the foundations for success at Arsenal

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta promised Arsenal fans that once he was able to blood his new signings then things would improve and, so far, he has been a man of his word.

After losing their first three Premier League games, Arsenal have taken 10 points from their next four and the situation is now brighter at Emirates Stadium.

At the heart of their upturn has been the team’s defensive displays and, after conceding nine goals in those opening three defeats, they have let in just one in their past four.

New boys Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu (both below) have joined Gabriel and Kieran Tierney in Arsenal’s defensive unit and, for the first time in a few seasons, the Gunners have a settled and stable backline.

“No question about what they are going to do for the club,” said Arteta of his new recruits.

“How quickly they are going to adapt is going to depend on how well the others can help them. They have the qualities, the hunger and the personality to do it.”

It is interesting that Arteta references the personalities of his new signings because, while they are a good fit tactically, their characters also seem to gel well, too.

The biggest new arrival is Ramsdale, who has taken the No1 spot from Bernd Leno. He is a loud and vocal character, both on and off the pitch.

Two years ago, Ramsdale spent time on loan at AFC Wimbledon, helping them avoid relegation from League One, and those at the club remember him as being the life and soul of the party.

“He was terrific,” said Arteta after Ramsdale’s Premier League debut against Norwich. “It is not only what he did on the technical side, it is what he transmits — his energy, his chemistry with the backline, how he reacts, his body language.”

The rest of the defence are also making their mark.

Gabriel is emerging from his shell now that his English has vastly improved from last season, when he could struggle to understand certain training drills or instructions. His hard work to get to grips with a new language is evidenced by the way he has gelled with White, who is typically a more reserved character.

The two full-backs, Tierney and Tomiyasu, may be from different sides of the world but they share similar personality traits. Both are exceptionally good trainers, with an exemplary work ethic. They are obsessed with football, specifically with developing their own game, and don’t have time for much else.

“I didn’t move to Arsenal to live in London. I came here to London so I could play for Arsenal,” said Tierney.

Tomiyasu shares Tierney’s outlook. When he arrived last month, he was not fussed about buying a flash new car or house, instead he knuckled straight down to work and started against Norwich after just one-and-a-half training sessions.

“He loves football. He just lives and breathes football. You forget he is 22 years old,” said Ramsdale.

Personalities clicking is key, but crucially Arsenal’s defence appears to be working tactically, too.

It is a young back-four, with no one older than 24, and having a vocal goalkeeper who comes for crosses is valuable, while Ramsdale’s distribution is also helping the team build from the back. Ahead of him, Gabriel and White have started well.

Gabriel is doing much of the dirty work, throwing himself into headers and blocks, allowing White the freedom to get on the ball.

“I think they have different qualities but at the same time they can read each other pretty well, and you can see the connection when we are training,” said Arteta.

Tomiyasu, meanwhile, looks to be the perfect foil to Tierney. Arsenal did not want to sign a right-back who bombed on like the Scot, they wanted a player who could tuck in and form a back-three alongside Gabriel and White when they were in possession.

That set-up allows Tierney the freedom to get forward, where he is most dangerous, safe in the knowledge the defence is stable.

“When you talk about that defensive unit and that core, the qualities that we need in every phase of the player, I think they complement each other really well,” said Arteta.

So far, it is hard to disagree.

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