Gary Neville has told Mikel Arteta to stop experimenting with his Arsenal team and ‘return to basics’ ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester United.
The Gunners won their two opening games of the Premier League season against Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace but came unstuck in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Fulham.
A late Joao Palhinha leveller earned 10-man Fulham an unexpected point at the Emirates after it appeared Bukayo Saka’s penalty and Eddie Nketiah’s goal in quick succession had Arsenal on course for victory.
Arteta has claimed his team are ’10 times’ better than last season but his tactical tweaks so far haven’t improved their fluency.
United have issues of their own, having been forced to battle back from two goals down to beat Nottingham Forest, who also had a man dismissed, on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta’s ‘experiment’ has not worked and Arsenal should ‘return to basics’, Gary Neville said, after the Gunners could only draw at home to Fulham on Saturday
Neville expects Arsenal to return to a more familiar set-up against Manchester United
But Neville believes Arteta simply needs to return to the familiar tactics of last season, when Arsenal pushed Manchester City hard in the title race.
‘I think they’re at different stages. Arsenal are expected to challenge for the league with the business they have done,’ he told his Sky Sports podcast.
‘There’s a lot of pressure on Kai Havertz but give the lad a chance and let him settle into the team.
‘I would say that for me, looking at Arsenal, there is an element of experimentation and this expectation that full-backs think they can play midfield and midfielders think they can play at full-back.
‘Thomas Partey is playing half-and-half in a game and sometimes there is an element that you need to go back to basics.
‘I would expect next week that Arteta is going to end that experiment and probably go with a solid back four with four defenders.
‘He will maybe move Partey into midfield along with [Declan] Rice and Martin Odegaard, to get back to something which resembles what a team should look like.
‘Balancing a team is very important. Innovation is fantastic, we love seeing new things, but sometimes something that started as a good idea evolves into something that, to be fair, just doesn’t work.
Arsenal players look dejected during their draw with Fulham at the Emirates on Saturday
Gabriel Martinelli reflects after Fulham grabbed a late equaliser with just 10 men on the field
‘I feel there is that with Arsenal. Next week, I’d expect them to go back to something that resembles the team that played last season and get back to those basics of what they are – which is a 4-3-3 team.
‘If they’re on the ball up the pitch, if [Oleksandr] Zinchenko is left-back, he pops into midfield. Obviously Ben White or [Takehiro] Tomiyasu at right-backs tucks round to make that three. That will work.’
A visit to the Emirates will bring plenty of apprehension for United as Erik ten Hag grapples with injuries and a struggle for form in the early stages of the season.
Neville added: ‘Manchester United are decent on the counter-attack but it’s a big test for United.
‘Their performances this season, all three of them, have been below par and if you’re below par at the Emirates, you’re going to get beaten.
‘United have to rise and raise their game but Arsenal need to get back into a shape that the players are more familiar with.’