The four key areas Mikel Arteta must improve to ensure Arsenal kick on after the winter break

Despite Arsenal’s season having taken every turn imaginable, they will still return from the winter break with something to play for.

Their Europa League campaign will resume on February 20 at Olympiacos as they travel to Portsmouth in the FA Cup on March 2. Ensuring he does not want to waste his first half-season in charge, these competitions will prove important to Mikel Arteta.

“I don’t have it like this (this being a rebuilding season), what I think is going to be very useful is to get a lot of information about what we have, where we are, what we need to improve and how can we do it?” he said in January.

“For that analysis, these months are going to be very useful and we cannot waste these four months doing that and just thinking about next season because the hurry of a big football club is now, not in the summer.”

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Since his appointment in December, Arteta has already brought a noticeable improvement to the Gunners. There is a recognisable style of play, they are shipping less goals and the mood surrounding the club has uplifted.

With opportunities to lift silverware and qualify for the Champions League still open, however, the Spaniard must kick on after the break. There is still room for more improvement and examines where Arteta can take Arsenal to yet another level to do so.

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Figure out his defensive setup

The first step the 37-year-old must take is deciding what his preferred setup is and that starts in defence.

So far, injuries and suspensions have caused Arteta to change his back four frequently. Whether it’s been the issues at left-back with Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac or Calum Chambers, Sokratis and David Luiz being sidelined, he has had to make do with what he’s had.

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Arsenal matchday

Despite this, a key theme have remained in his back four – how they play. Arteta has predominantly tasked Luiz (who has played in all but one of his games) to be the player to start attacks from centre-back. The movements of Granit Xhaka, the left-back and left winger all work in tandem to create the patterns that have become so effective for Arsenal in recent weeks.

Signing Pablo Mari in January, the Spaniard will have to work out how to place him in the team but replicate the aforementioned patterns on the right wing – something that hasn’t been properly achieved yet.

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Having stressed the importance of Mari being left-footed, it’ll be most likely he slips in as the left-sided centre-back. Therefore, to replicate his work down the left, Luiz could be shifted to the right where he can create the same patterns with the right-back and right winger.

What will assist this even more is Arsenal finally seeming to be past their issues at right-back. For most of the past year the…