Layth's Take: Arteta reveals what means more to him, attack or defence as he dismisses Emery's barbs
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images

Never has an answer been more dismissive. 

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta was asked towards the end of his weekly press conference at the club's training ground London Colney whether he, or his players, had noticed Unai Emery's comments about them.

In case you missed it, Emery has been busy casting aspersions over the work rate and attitude of his former charges, smearing the club with unnecessary criticisms. 

"Towards our players? I haven't read anything," the boss shot back with a steely glare. 

As answers go, it was as imperious as it was short.

Although Arteta is far too much of a gentleman to ever say it, the unsaid subtext prevalent to many of those present, including VAVEL was simply: 'Why on earth would we care what a failed former boss of my club says?'

Emery's failures

Arteta, of course, was 100 per cent correct in his approach and in his thinking. 

Why indeed should he concern himself with sniping comments from a man who so spectacularly blundered his way through a disjointed and underwhelming 18 month spell in charge at the north London giants. 

A man whose muddled tactics, confusing formations, strange selections, lack of leadership, painful inarticulacy and general floundering provided the platform for the club's worst season in more than half a century, while turning the Gunners into a laughing stock through their general ineptitude.

An ineptitude which saw Arsenal fail to win a league game for more than two months before he was sacked, as they hurtled through the placings, a slide wild enough to prompt relegation jokes aimed at this proud club which had marked a century - yes, a century Spurs fans - of unbroken top flight football this autumn. 

Arteta's imperious dismissal of Emery's barbs was a joy to watch firsthand, as I did, while sat in front of him during his weekly chat/interrogation with the media.

It was impossible to truly discern what Emery's footballing ethos while he was in charge. Perhaps his sad legacy is best sealed by describing his muddled management as simply one of a pressing team that couldn't actually press. 

Emery's team could also be labelled as a side that played out from the back without being able to play out for the back.

Arsenal were a club that stood for something under Emery's reign.

It was just a shame no-one could work out what that 'something' was, least of all his confused players and loyal fans - who it must be said always backed him, until they realised he had nothing more to offer. 

So it came as a surprise to hear Emery bemoan this week that his former players didn't work hard enough, hinting, disingenuously, at far darker problems, without actually explaining what they were. 

His unsavoury comments left hanging in the air like a bad smell.

So, it was satisfying to watch Arteta completely dismiss his jibes out of hand.

Not least because the change in the players performance since he assumed power just before Christmas has been immense, even if the results haven't shown the improvements made as yet. 

Arteta outlines his philosophy

So, it was also good to quiz Arteta on exactly what his philosophy at Colney, during the same press conference. 

With Arsenal hosting Newcastle United on Sunday I was keen to understand what means more to him: Attacking football or an excellent defence. 

So I asked him.

"It's winning." he replied, outlining his philosophy. 

"But I love scoring goals for sure," he continued to me.

"I love attacking football, but I like attacking football where you control what the opponent does to you in your own box."

Under Arteta the Gunners have lost only one in nine - against Chelsea in his first match in charge at the Emirates in late December.

However, they have only won two matches since he took charge in his opening game at Bournemouth on Boxing Day and will be desperately hoping to add to that total against the Magpies this weekend.

Arsenal sit in tenth place on 31 points, ten behind Chelsea in the coveted fourth spot, with 13 matches remaining. 

With the visitors from the north east coming up, followed by Everton in north London a week later - not to mention of run in March of West Ham, Brighton and Southampton - the Gunners are looking to turn draws into victories.

Discounting the impressive unbeaten run Premier League leaders Liverpool are on, Arsenal, along with Manchester City, Leicester City and Wolves, have lost the fewest number of games this term, six.

Arteta's Arsenal must start picking up vital wins

The have to.

In a run stretching back to the dying days of the unfortunate Emery's reign the Gunners have picked up only two wins in 16 matches. A statistic which is simply unacceptable for a club of Arsenal's stature.

And Arteta knows it. 

So, my follow up question to him, was whether, first and foremost, he thinks he has sacrificed attacking flair for defensive solidity in a bid to make his team tougher to beat. 

"I don't think so," he replied, after pondering the question.  

"I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep. I don't like that. It's by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible.

"But the process - together as many times as possible in the most efficient way - has to be done properly from here. If not in two passes when you arrive there, that transition is impossible to control because you are too far from the opponent.

"So we need to do that well first to after be able to generate and sustain our attacks as many times as possible during the games."

And in two answers he gave more clarity about his football ethos and aims, than Emery did in a full year and a half. 

No wonder Arteta was so dismissive of the former boss.

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