Opinion: Mikel Arteta’s building blocks are finally clear in Arsenal’s well-deserved win over Burnley at Turf Moor

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In the grand installment of Arsenal’s history as a club, a somewhat lackluster 1-0 win over Burnley is unlikely to matter much. And yet, this could, over time, be seen as one of the Gunners’ most important results of recent times. This will certainly be the case if Mikel Arteta turns out to be successful as Arsenal manager.

Arteta has, with some justification, faced a lot of criticism at the start of the season. As the Spaniard nears the second anniversary of his Emirates Stadium appointment, there has been little indication of his blueprint, if he has one. At a time when the best teams play with a clear philosophy, Arsenal still does not have one.

But in difficult times, Arteta has argued that he and his team can only be judged fairly when the transfer window has closed and the injuries have abated. So the 39-year-old surely felt a certain degree of justification at Turf Moor where the Gunners, with the majority of their squad available, have won back-to-back wins.

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It wasn’t that Arsenal was necessarily adamant about winning. In fact, there were stages in the match against Burnley where they seemed to go through the moves. If the hosts had had a sharper edge, they could very well have snatched a point, a result that would have changed the scenery for Arteta.

For the first time this season, however, there were signs everywhere of growing relationships and what Arteta plans for Arsenal. The final score, nor the performance as a whole, did justice to the potential importance of this for the North London club.

In defense, Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White have teamed up for the first time. While the latter got away with a botched backpass that would have resulted in an opposition penalty had VAR not stepped in, the former was a physical presence who handled whatever was thrown at him by Burnley.

Indeed, Gabriel made the most tackles (three), interceptions (eight) and clearances (two) of anyone on the field. In previous seasons Arsenal have reportedly collapsed against such a physical team, but their Brazilian center-back has thrived under the circumstances. The balance, with the Whites playing ball alongside Gabriel, was also fair with Aaron Ramsdale solid again.

Takehiro Tomiyasu was another who stood out at Turf Moor. The Japanese international made a tireless turn, winning 100% of his duels. He also had five ball digs and had the most touches of any Arsenal player. Tomiyasu, whose intensity is relentless, seems to have absorbed many of Arteta’s ideas already.

Most important of all, however, was the performance of Thomas Partey who started his first Premier League game of the season. The Ghanaian ties it all together in midfield for Arsenal. No one else can do what they are doing in the middle of the pitch. With Partey anchored in midfield, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe had the freedom to dictate the game further forward.

“He’s the anchor. He’s the one who reads what’s going on and improves the rest, ”Arteta said of Partey after a full time.

How he manages the transition, his pressing, he has a charisma. It’s his biggest job to get the right balance in the team, the right fluidity in the attack. The way he manages the transition is great, he has a charisma.

With Nicolas Pepe on the left wing and Bukayo Saka on the right, Arsenal played with balance. Having two natural wingers widened the pitch and opened up space for Odegaard and Smith Rowe to provide Arsenal with a real creative front, something they often lacked under Arteta.

Critics will point out that Arsenal’s winning goal only came through a moment of individual brilliance from a set piece, but the building blocks for something even better finally appear to be in place. Not so long ago, Arteta was in danger of losing Arsenal’s lead. Now he might be at the start of something.

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