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After beating City to lift the Community Shield on penalties, Arsenal have taken seven points from a possible nine so far but looked unconvincing in wins over Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace before conceding late on to draw 2-2 with Fulham last weekend.
Arteta has used midfielder Thomas Partey at right-back and started with central defender Jakub Kiwior at left-back in an attempt to trigger further improvement in a side which ran City close to the Premier League title last season.
However, new signing Kai Havertz has made a subdued start and the team’s general lack of fluidity has led to claims Arteta should simplify his gameplan for Sunday’s visit of Manchester United but the Spaniard defended himself by drawing an analogy with London’s road system.
“I think we discuss formations in a different way,” Arteta told his Friday news conference. “The other day there were 36 different formations in the match [against Fulham]. Against Manchester City 43. I don’t know what formation we’re talking about. For me it’s something very different maybe from the ways that you look.
“I played different against Manchester City and there were 43 different formations. Every morning I come from my house to Colney. Sometimes I leave at six and I need to go to the windscreen because it’s icy.
“At six o’clock normally I go Finchley Road and then the A21 because it’s faster. Now Finchley Road is 20 miles per hour so sometimes I take a back door. But then I go on the M25. But depending on if it’s a school ride I take one exit.
“If it’s after seven o’clock I take a different exit and then I go. One day I have a flat tyre, what do I do? Maybe I have to replace it because there’s a garage there. So every game is a different story guys. A different story.”
Asked if he was tempted to revert back to the side that was so successful last season, Arteta continued: “I cannot do that. I have different players. I cannot do that. [Oleksandr] Zinchenko was injured, Granit [Xhaka] is not here, how can I do that.
“Unless we bring them back. I think that’s not going to happen. It’s different and it’s going to be different and the energy is going to be different and that’s because it’s a different season. That’s the beauty of it. The beauty of the thing that I enjoy the most which is new. We can still do much, much better a lot of things. Let’s do that.”
Arteta also said that Arsenal are unlikely to make any further signings before Friday night’s transfer deadline after admitting the club’s pursuit of a replacement for Jurriën Timber was complicated by a failure to let several fringe players leave.
Timbers is likely to miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery and Arteta had previously hinted they could enter the market but instead they are spending deadline day attempting to secure several departures including Rob Holding, Albert Lokonga, Nicolas Pépé and Cedric Soares.
Holding is attracted interest from Crystal Palace while Lokonga could join Luton Town on loan and Arteta suggested the club’s hands were tied after spending over £200 million on Timber, Havertz, Declan Rice and David Raya.
“There is nobody else coming in,” he said. “We don’t expect it. That’s what I can say. “For me. [today is] serene. I don’t have to do much more work. It’s more all the recruitment team, Edu and the boys are trying to finalise a few things still today, [outgoings].
“We’ve done quite a lot and had a bit of uncertainty with some players as well, so we had to be very cautious and find alternatives. Sometimes you want to do everything that is needed but sometimes it’s not possible and we have to adapt. We cannot go and buy another three players and if somebody else gets injured long-term, do something else. It just wasn’t possible.”