sport news ROB DRAPER: Mikel Arteta won the tactical battle with Antonio Conte as Arsenal ... trends now
There’s nothing more captivating than idealism winning the day. Mikel Arteta is a young manager. He is schooled in the Pep Guardiola school that possession trumps all and that the team that plays the nicest football will ultimately win most games. To be fair, when you have the players Guardiola has, that is often a self-fulfilling philosophy.
But when you have the players Arteta has? There’s an Arsenal trope, which has been doing the rounds for about 15 years or so now and which roughly equates to the time Patrick Vieira left the club: Arsenal are pretty but rarely feared.
For idealistic, read naïve. For aesthetically-pleasing read weak. Arsenal have been a joy to watch since the Arsene Wenger days. In latter years, they’ve been a joy to play against at times.
Mikel Arteta came up trumps in the North London derby as his side ran out 3-1 winners
The Spaniard won the tactical battle between himself and veteran manager Antonio Conte
Arteta falls neatly into this cliché. The recent Amazon documentary demonstrated his team-talks can be more David Brent than Sir Alex Ferguson. He talks a good game but his team threw away fourth place last season.
In fact, like one of those childish comparisons, along the lines of ’if a shark fought a lion, who would win?’, you sensed that if Arteta had to take on Antonio Conte, there would be only one victor. And it wouldn’t be the starry idea Basque coach, nurtured at Barcelona.
Conte is cut from different cloth. He is a superb coach. He has nothing really to prove other than the endless desire to prove himself again that afflicts all successful obsessives. Serie A titles, Premier League titles, FA Cups: he has them all.
He transformed Spurs last season. He had them unbeaten this season, looking as much like a title contender as you can when Manchester City have Erling Haaland.
This was the first time these teams had met for some time when both were riding high, both among the best in the country. And you knew how Conte would play it. For all the hustle and bustle of Arsenal’s truly impressive start – Gabriel Martinelli hitting a post, Hugo Lloris flapping at Thomas Partey’s long throw and Granit Xhaka’s audacious mid-air back heel – there was a moment when Cristian Romero picked out Harry Kane with a 50 yard pass and Arsenal looked terribly frail.