Arsenal in February (part 2)
Tactics, Improvements and Innovations
How incredibly weird this season is. Fans started the summer happy for a sabbatical as Arsenal had upset us in April and May.
We then got excited as Edu returned.
Then we panicked, got angry, #wecaredoyou, then we got a handful of shiny signings.
Started slowly but doing ok.
Completely fell apart.
Started breaking all the worst records in the history of the club.
Board delayed too long in firing Emery.
Fans 50/50 on Arteta.
Arteta speaks, we all shut up.
Team plays and within 3 games, Arsenal quite honestly look like they are bubbling over with enthusiasm and happiness.
Now that is literally a rollercoaster of a season!
Moving forward, I think that we may have the odd disappointment, but much like the Bournemouth and Chelsea games, I don’t see losses partnered with hopelessness.
I think we’ve stepped off the rollercoaster and are now climbing the ladder.
Here are some thoughts on how Arsenal will look as we climb the ladder into February….
Firstly, I’m hoping and believing that the formation (4-2-3-1) stays. Too much confusion first half of the season.
I was looking at the Ziyech rumour yesterday and thinking of Ozil’s form. I really don’t think Ozil is being replaced. Considering how he’s been disappointing for so long and has now decided to show up, I think if the Ziyech rumour is true it’s that Arteta likes this 4-2-3-1 but knows he needs two top players to rotate.
Too much to ask ESR or Nelson to rotate with Ozil just yet, so maybe this is what’s happening. Ozil and Ziyech playing AMid but favouring an overload on the right side.
Most likely scenario is that the summer is where big transfers happen.
There may be a small shift from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, as Ozil gets fatigued. This would then likely begin to include Guendouzi, Willock or Ceballos.
As Pepe and Nelson add directness to their game, perhaps there is not quite a need for an Attacking Mid as a link, overload or distraction?
There is also a consideration for 3 at the back. Why? Well, it could be a secondary formation as we have the players to function in a 3-4-3/3-5-2 but we currently don’t have the Centre Backs.
I’d rather we stay at 4-2-3-1 but I’m just wondering what Arteta may do when he realizes that he has to include his shiny new signing when his current CB’s are in form (didn’t think I’d be saying that in November).
It at least gives him the option.
Realistically, I think this season is David Luiz +1.
I think that strategically Arteta will have us playing the game in periods.
As we are still far from able to sustain the high energy levels, I see us pressing at the start of both halves with periods of game management at the end of each half. This of course depends on the score line but is an optimal thought process to build from. Hopefully, by the first Olympiakos game we are significantly fitter.
Fitness will be the main improvement. Now that we have the vast majority of players on board and finding form, Arteta will be able to rotate and save the disaster that Arsenal were facing in the last 1/3rd of the season playing end to end football.
This should lead to the team being able to sustain their press for longer.
I see the periods of game management being instructed as ‘rest in possession.’ Dictating play but resting and only penetrating when needed.
When I think about other on field improvements there are a few that stand out.
- With an improved higher line and better communication already in place we need to consistently deny the forward pass in the middle third to the striker. If he gets it he needs to have a defender in his back to stop the flow of the attack at source.
- The second run. Liverpool’s front three are the master of this. A passes to B, then attacks the space vacated rather than watching him try to locate a connection.
- Will we see Lacazette play as a false 9 much like Firmino? Does he have the vision and ability to pull away like RF does? I think this opens up Auba/Pepe and Martinelli in particular if we choose to ask Laca to play make.
- Have we seen two dominant halves this season? Even against Utd, we weren’t physically able. I think we return to dominating entire games on occasion.
- I’m fascinated to see how we use Dani Ceballos. Such a natural footballer. Could be used in a variety of positions.
- Three left field ideas… Pepe as AMid? ESR as a DM? Nelson as a False 9? Think about their profiles before you dismiss.
- Tactical fouling. I hate tactical fouling as I think it’s ruining the game without appropriate punishment but it’s not being properly punished yet. There is no doubt that this will become part of our game if it hasn’t already been communicated clearly already.
- I see Arsenal quickly attacking 5th place and making Chelsea nervous too.
- More goals throughout team.
- I anticipate ESR, Nketiah and Mavropanos not being here in February. Loans for all.
- I think the structure that is being set in place will allow our creative players to be more creative in February and onwards. I saw this with Ozil against Utd and I think it’ll spread. I think Saka will surprise and bloom.
- I anticipate more individual improvements not mentioned in Part 1 of this blog…. Saka and AMN growing the defensive side of their game as FB’s. As the games become more comfortable I fully expect to see Saka in particular, on the wing and supplying the type of cross mentioned in Part 1 of this blog. I don’t think Tierney will be back on the field until March so we wait to see his impact. The slightly easier game schedule coupled with the comfort of finally having a group that understands expectation and knows it won’t change every 20 mins, I expect to see a team creating and scoring more. The goal that Pepe scored vs Utd is becoming more a part of the modern game and this is a goal I think we will see replicated…. the far side winger cutting to the penalty spot if back post is closed off.
This is the most fun to consider. Here is what I’ve come up with…
I’m not sure we will see much beyond what we’ve seen so far with the false LB, inverted RB and overload in the right half space as this may be sufficient for us to achieve our goals this term.
I do think that we will see some innovative set plays though.
We just have to pick and choose when we use them as the world is watching these days.
I also think that Arteta’s frequent communication regarding the importance of ‘connecting with the fans’ and ‘using their energy’ will lead us to a few off the field ideas. I attended a fans forum in DC in the summer. It was simple yet highly effective. The fans don’t expect much. Just want the players to show that they care and that we are one. I think the off the field innovations will fall in line with Arteta’s key phrase and upcoming hashtag….. all together.
I’ve been wondering if due to Leno’s imperfect distribution decisions, that Arteta might get him to transition quicker using the long throw.
What a pleasure to write something so positive and know that most will agree that these are all possible as our new coach and has turned the ship around.
Look for my ‘Positives, Needs and Hopes’ blog tomorrow after the Leeds game and after every game 💪🏼
Former Highbury regular. Moved to TN, USA in ’99. Married with 3 kids. Coached in UK and US for 27 years.
Mike McDonald Soccer Academy in Morristown TN, Olympic Development coach, Regional Premier League Champion.