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Steve Nicol suggested Arsenal may be struggling this season because the players have ‘had enough’ of Mikel Arteta’s tactics.
Nicol, the former Liverpool defender, believes Arteta has taken a similar approach to Jose Mourinho at north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur by attempting to forge a solid spine for his team and make them tougher to beat.
The approach brought success at the end of last season, with Arsenal winning the FA Cup and securing qualification for the Europa League, while they also won the Community Shield at the start of this campaign.
However, the problems have started mounting this season with Arsenal 14th in the Premier League after 10 games.
They have averaged just one goal per game and have been accused of lacking creativity. And Nicol suspects Arsenal’s players could be fed up of the negative tactics deployed by Arteta and instead want to play attractive football.
That being said, he’s not convinced they’re capable of doing that. ‘It could be a little case of what I’m talking about with Mourinho,’ Nicol told ESPN after their 2-1 defeat to Wolves.
‘Arteta comes in, all of a sudden the one thing they do have is a spine and a backbone and they’re all sitting in a nice, firm defensive unit and they do that for six months.
‘Is it maybe that the players have had enough of that and they’re looking to take the next step?
‘The other thing is, I don’t think this group of players is capable of taking the next step but I’m sure in their heads they all think they’re great footballers.
‘Instead of chasing around for 90 minutes every Saturday, they think, “we should be playing football”. But they don’t have a good enough squad.’
‘Arteta did well with what he had, he’s added Partey who is now injured and Willian but other than that it’s pretty much the same mob that Unai Emery had.
‘Regardless of what Arteta does, I’m not so sure you can get this team playing at a consistently high level every week. Certainly now and again but not consistently.’