Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal haven’t deliberately set up to be more pragmatic this season, and says it is due to specific match situations.
The Gunners sit top of the Premier League following Saturday’s win at Brentford but they haven’t displayed much of the fluent, attacking football that characterised their displays last season.
Some pundits have suggested Arteta is prioritising solidity over entertainment in a bid to land a first title for Arsenal since 2004 but the Spaniard says that is not the case.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League game with Lens at the Emirates, he said: “Game state is a big thing. Last year we scored a lot of goals in the first minutes and the game becomes open, the opposition is more open. We haven’t been able to do that this season.
“So when you compare the amount of time we have spent in a winning moment last year compared to this year, it’s different. But the league is different, the expectation is different and the players are different.
“The important thing is we keep winning.”
Arteta expanded on that point, suggesting it is all part of the journey for his side.
“We have to find a way to get to where we want to be,” he added. “And this is where we want to be.
“It’s not going to be as fluent, as hectic because there is no space to run [when opponents sit behind the ball].
“When I am in traffic, I want to go 100 miles per hour but I have three buses and 55 taxis and motorbikes around me so it’s tricky. To get where we want to be, we have to be really solid.
“But the state of the game is a big definer of that, you see that time and time again. In the Champions League, we scored early against PSV and we were [exciting], against Sevilla it was the same.”
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Arteta will have to do without Portuguese playmaker Fabio Vieira, who has undergone surgery on a groin injury and will be out until the new year. Defender Ben White is fit, however, and is available against Lens.
Arsenal may have qualified for the knockout stages by kick-off tomorrow depending on the result of the early game in Group B between Sevilla and PSV Eindhoven. Either way, a draw against Lens will be enough to advance.
Arteta said: “We want to win the game and finish top of the group. The opportunity is there against an opponent that will cause us problems, we have already experienced that over there.”