As shown from my previous analysis on Mikel Arteta, progress is evident and we certainly are a much more resilient, free flowing side. However, we all know there are plenty of areas we must work on that will allow us to improve both in our performance and the results we achieve. Obviously player quality and the fact that significant upgrades in key areas of the squad will substantially help this. But the window isn’t open yet so lets look at two small details I think we should work on that will help us for the remainder of the season.
Lack of control in the second half
There is a common trend in our first and second half performances. The football and intensity both in and out of possession is substantially higher in the initial 45. The football is far more free flowing, progressive and fluid which originates from the early control we have in the game. Key example is last night’s draw against Leicester. Xhaka is a big factor for this and I showed in one of my recent blogs how effective he is, which can be seen here.
He’s the controller in midfield as well as being a fundamental cog in progressing our attacks. When you analyse our second half performance, there is a clear contrast. Our average possession is much lower, showing out inability to maintain control in the game which we usually possess in the first half. We seem to drop five yards deeper, surrendering possession, which invites the opposition onto us.
Collectively as a defensive unit we have been much more assured under Arteta, in comparison to both Emery and Ljungberg. But I still don’t have the confidence that we can prevent teams from scoring when we have narrow leads. Statistically this shows as under Arteta we have lost 12 points from winning positions.
Premier league points lost from winning positions under Mikel Arteta
Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (initially Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea)
Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal (initially Crystal Palace 0-1 Arsenal)
Arsenal 1-1 Sheffield United (initially Arsenal 1-0 Sheffield United)
Brighton 2-1 Arsenal (initially Brighton 0-1 Arsenal)
Arsenal 1-1 Leicester (initially Arsenal 1-0 Leicester)
This shows that our second half approach of sitting back, remaining compact and looking to make it difficult for the opposition to break us down isn’t a sustainable approach. One of my strong beliefs in football is ‘the best form of defence is attack’. Either its a tactical deploy from the manager to maintain compactness and look to keep the lead intact or its the fact that we can’t maintain our first half energy intensity levels. In my opinion, its definitely the latter as Arteta has reiterated before the need for more sustained energy in our play back in January. You can see we are still struggling with this aspect of our game.
I think we can improve on this by reserving some of the energy used in the first half and utilise it in the second. The consumption of energy we would have in the second half would be higher and would allow us to continue to impose our game for longer durations. Players are burning out far too quickly and I think this wouldn’t be the case if we utilise our stamina levels in a different manner. We must look at this!
Lack of instinctive movement is wasting Tierney’s excellent service
Kieran Tierney is our left back for at least the next 4-5 years, providing he’s still here. Out of possession, his positional awareness is brilliant, and has provided consistent displays in nullifying the opposition threat out wide on his side. Key example was his display in minimising the threat of Adama Traore against Wolves.
Offensively his direct nature of play is refreshing and his crossing is of the highest quality. You know when he’s in the final third, there’s a very good chance the delivery is on point. What’s frustrating is the lack of instinctive movement towards the near post. Both Lacazette and Nketiah are guilty of not picking up these positions frequently in front of the defender. Tierney consistently puts it in that danger zone and the centre forward must make that run and create a potential goal-scoring opportunity.
At the moment, with no one making this small movement, the only chance of a goal occurring is through a miss hit from the defender.
Gamble! Make the run, create a potential chance and you have two ways a goal could be scored. One is by taking the chance. The other is from an own goal as simply being in that action area, in front of the defender, can cause uncertainty, which creates a greater possibility of an own goal occurring. The overloads on the left hand side and the consistent quality from Tierney warrants more assists.
Giroud was brilliant at near post finishes! He would be licking his lips if he had Tierney supplying him with this service. Its really frustrating as a fan to watch this and I hope Arteta picks this up as we can certainly improve on it right now internally. We have a real weapon in Tierney and we must use it to full affect.
‘We have to learn that when you play this type of opponent you have to kill them when you have them’ were the words of a frustrated Mikel Arteta after the 1-1 draw against Leicester.
I do sympathise with him as the lack of quality finishing, barring Aubameyang, has simply not been good enough this season. Arteta can implement his philosophy of football and provide the patterns of play. But once you create that particular passage of play, it’s down to the individual brilliance of the player to convert the chance which we unfortunately haven’t done on a consistent basis. Games such as Bournemouth away, Chelsea at home, Crystal palace away and Brighton away are key examples where we have lacked ruthlessness.
Defensive structure and the balance of our team were two of the biggest issues under Emery but our lack of clinical finishing is a big reason as to why we haven’t accumulated more points under Arteta. But I’ve seen two ways that can help us right now which are finding a more efficient way to use our energy levels and better movement from our forwards in certain instances. Through these two ways, we create more potential goal-scoring opportunities which gives us a better chance of scoring more goals, and achieving better results.
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25-year-old Gooner who loves talking and writing about football