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Arteta's perfect midfield to unlock Arsenal's potential for football's return

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With the Premier League moving closer to a potential return in June, Mikel Arteta has begun putting his squad through their paces again at London Colney as the Gunners train in small groups of five-six players each.

As the weeks go on, the 38-year-old will once again be tasked with finding his strongest starting lineup to head up an end of season push for European football. Currently, Arsenal are ninth, five points off fifth [which could get them Champions League football], with a game in hand.

In the 15 games Arteta has already had in charge of the club, the tactical demands he has put on the side have become essential to the way the side play. Building off these foundations will be paramount when football does return and it will be the players that prove whether or not they've used this enforced break fully to their advantage compared to other teams.

Here, football.london access which players would fit best in Arteta's system when Arsenal are back playing, moving onto the midfield [two deeper players and a No.10.] after discussing the back four.

Video Loading Video Unavailable Dani Ceballos

Who plays as the right-sided central midfielder may be the most debatable out of the trio but even if Lucas Torreira does return to match fitness over the coming weeks, it should be Ceballos that starts in that role.

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The Spaniard may have struggled in the first half of the season but those struggles weren't exclusive to him. After the winter break in February, he started to show exactly why Unai Emery was so keen to bring him to the club in the summer, only it was Arteta that was allowing him to do so.

Playing alongside a more reserved Granit Xhaka, Ceballos had the licence to effect games in as many ways possible. In possession, he could drive forward and pick the right passes at the right times to keep things moving whereas without the ball, his concentration and anticipation saw him grow into the most reliable two-way midfielder at the club, rightly seeing Torreira benched.

With the 23-year-old making the way Arsenal progress through midfield so much smoother it won't be a surprise to see him starting when Premier League football resumes. Especially as he started four of the six games after February's winter break [Torreira's only start came away at Portsmouth on March 2 where he was injured].

Granit Xhaka

This will be the most certain decision for Arteta in the midfield and arguably the entire squad as Xhaka will continue to fulfil his 'quarterback' role on the left side of midfield.

His role has been analysed in more detail here, but the basic premise is that his game has become much more focused so that he pretty much has to worry just about his strengths. Rather than being left in the open like under Emery, now, he's being positioned in areas [between the left-back and centre-back] where he's slightly more protected but still plays a vital role to the side.

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For instance, from that position he's been able to help Arsenal's attacks down the left flank with Bukayo Saka as well as freeing up space for David Luiz to dictate play. A more understated part of his role, however, is that being positioned so deep, he's able to sweep up in front of his centre-backs quickly and efficiently - a characteristic most would place at Torreira's feet.

Either way, he is a player that cannot be dropped when the Gunners are back in action.

Mesut Ozil

Although the 31-year-old's first assist under Arteta came in the side's last game [the 1-0 win over West Ham], Ozil has been playing an important role as the side's No.10. under him.

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Rather than just operating in the final third as the supplier for the frontline, the way Xhaka's role has changed has had a knock-on effect on Ozil. With the Swiss now placed much deeper than beforehand, the pitch often becomes stretched, which gives Ozil [and Joe Willock at times] more space to operate in.

As a result, the German now pulls out into half spaces around halfway to receive the ball before driving forward and pushing the ball onto more dangerous players in front of goal. More often that not, these patterns of play see him spread the ball out to the left which is where most of Arsenal's goals have come from. So even if he hasn't been the player to supply the final pass, he has still been playing a crucial role in the setup of the side.

Early in Arteta's reign, Ozil also proved he can contribute defensively by being a useful cog in the side's press, as looked at in more detail here, and it will be interesting to see if he and those around him can reach those levels again when football does resume.




For more news relating to West Ham, visit our sister site Hammers Live.
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