MIKEL ARTETA is putting ‘the Arsenal Way’ on the back burner as he bids to end the club’s Anfield nightmare this evening.
The Gunners have conceded a staggering 30 goals in their last eight visits to Liverpool and haven’t won there since 2012 when Arteta was still a player.
But they did beat Jurgen Klopp’s Champions at the Emirates in July and triumphed in a penalty shoot-out in the Community Shield last month.
And on both occasions they were happy to allow Liverpool to dominate possession and punish their opponents on the break.
It is a tactic which Arteta has consistently used against their ‘Big Six’ opponents since coming out of lockdown.
And he makes no apologies for upsetting the Arsenal purists who grew up on Arsene Wenger’s team passing the opposition to death.
When the Gunners won 2-1 against the newly-crowned Champions in July, they managed just 31 percent possession.
Three days later they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final with just 29 percent.
But Areteta insists: “I’m here to win and my job is finding ways to do it.
“Sometimes it’s what you want to do as a coach and sometimes it’s what you’re allowed to do with the levels of players and performance that the top teams can do against you.
“In the games against Liverpool, City and against Chelsea in the FA Cup final, we obviously had very long periods where we had to defend deeper than we would like to.
“So we have to find scenarios to prepare for that and if I propose something very difficult that would expose our team right now, I wouldn’t be acting in the best interests of the club or the players.
“We have to be able to adapt and the players we have available can change our game plan.
“Playing only one way doesn’t work in football anymore unless you are superior to the opponent all the time.”
Prior to Arteta’s appointment, Arsenal had a woeful record against their top of the table rivals and were often beaten before the game had even kicked-off.
But recent victories have convinced the players that they can hold their own against anyone and Arteta admits: “Results are obviously driving our belief.
“The players have to be comfortable with the plan we put in place. They need to realise that we can achieve what we want and then they will feel more secure and know what is going to happen.”
Arsenal’s fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the better since Arteta opted for three at the back since coming out of lockdown.
That also involves two wing-backs, two defensive midfielders and just three attacking players, which leaves no room for the likes of Mesut Ozil.
But Arteta insists: “It’s not three at the back all the time. It’s only for short moments of the game. A lot of the time it’s four at the back.
“I have the versatility to use players in different positions to cause problems for the opponent.”
Yet in spite of their recent successes against Liverpool, Arteta acknowledges that tonight’s game will be the toughest test yet of his brief managerial career.
“We know the standards that Liverpool have set in this league because they dominate almost every aspect of the game,” he says.
“They come at you like quick waves all the time without much time to breathe and with no long sequences of passes.”
To make life even more difficult for Arsenal, they will be back at Anfield on Thursday night for their Carabao Cup fourth round clash.
Arteta says: “It is difficult to play against any team twice in four days.
When you talk about Liverpool, that challenge is much bigger
“Obviously having no supporters will make a difference because it’s a unique atmosphere at Anfield and makes the team stronger.
“But we’ve seen how they are able to play without crowds so we know the challenge ahead of us.
“We are in different moments as clubs with the success Liverpool have had in the Champions League and the Premier League.
“Performances on the pitch have generated financial power but you still have to recruit the right players and Liverpool have done that.
“They have implemented a vision and a strategy that is really clear. They have made a lot of good decisions to become successful.”