With regards to the shape, Arteta continued with the hybrid 3-4-3 system. Generally, it was a 4-3-3 because the Gunners were predominantly in possession and a 2-3-5 formation was deployed as they approached the final third. The diagram below illustrates how Cedric would partner Pepe in the attacking phase, with Elneny covering the space vacated by the Portuguese right-back, and Kolasinac playing as an inverted full-back.
The same principles were applied when passages of play were developed through the left-hand side, with Cedric playing as an inverted full-back.
Out of possession, the inclusion of Saka allowed Arteta to be flexible in defence, with the talented youngster dropping in as a defensive wing-back. Rapid Vienna are a disciplined side, who look to create chances and deliver crosses through the wide areas, so a five at the back system would help nullify these threats.
Diving into the first-half performance, it was certainly one that saw Arsenal dominate possession. For the first 15 minutes, attacks were stemming primarily through the right, with Cedric overlapping and creating width, whilst Pepe would operate inside.
But overall, it was evident that there was a lack of fluidity and tempo. The build-up play was slow, with players taking far too many touches, allowing the hosts to remain resolute and organised in defence. Apart from a few occasions where players picked up the ball in dangerous areas, there was no real substance and quality in possession.
In the 51st minute, the hosts capitalised on a Leno error. Playing out from the back is the style of football that the manager wants his team to play. But a key requirement needed is to be aware of danger and clearing your lines when simple ground passes are eliminated. The reaction after going a goal down, however, was certainly a positive. Arteta immediately changed the shape, as shown below, with both full-backs given license to advance forward and create partnerships with the wide attackers.
The game changed once the Arsenal boss brought both Hector and Aubameyang on, for Cedric and Eddie. The tempo increased, players were releasing the ball quicker and more questions were being asked of Rapid Vienna’s back five. Both Saka and Pepe should have shown more quality and made better decisions in the two situations explained below.
The equaliser came from a set piece situation in the 71st minute. A better delivery from Pepe and Luiz fired in the leveller.
Just three minutes later, the Gunners took the lead. A fantastic defence-splitting pass from Elneny, allowed Bellerin to advance in behind, who then squares the ball for Aubameyang.
Another chance towards the end saw Luiz put Laca through on goal, with an excellent long ball, in behind the Rapid Vienna backline. The Frenchman, however, lacked conviction and composure.
It wasn’t a convincing performance from Arsenal, but it was vital that they kickstarted their 2020/2021 Europa League campaign with a win.
Leno certainly didn’t have one of his finer games. A poor error from Arsenal’s number one and the hosts pounced on the opportunity. The mistake affected his performance, with the German displaying two more anxious moments in possession. Until Martinez makes any glaring errors, the comparisons between the two will always be there. It’s evident that distribution is a weak point in his game. When pressed by opposing players, he panics which creates uncertainty for the players around him. His long balls also lack accuracy, particularly the lofted passes to the full-backs. Whether it’s Bellerin or Tierney, they are not receiving the ball in favourable areas. The ball is frequently delivered above chest height, which means that by the time its kept under control, opposing players are already breathing down their neck. Leno needs to hit them with a slightly flatter trajectory.
It was a solid defensive performance from Kolasinac. Offensively, there were situations where he could have been more brave and direct, but overall it was an encouraging display from the Bosnian.
A shaky first half for David Luiz. His lack of pace was apparent, and it was clear that the two centre forwards of Rapid Vienna saw the Brazillian as a weak link. The 33-year old however did improve after the interval, and it was his goal that brought the Gunners level.
His Brazillian compatriot was yet again outstanding. Commanding, dominant in the air and provided his team with excellent line-breaking passes. He continues to excel.
Cedric wasn’t one who stood out. Apart from a good delivery from an indirect set-piece situation in the first half, the Portuguese international struggled to impact the game.
Saka playing the hybrid left wing-back and central midfield role provided energy and desire. It wasn’t however his most influential offensive performance. Despite receiving the ball in dangerous areas and in pockets of space, Arsenal’s No. 7. failed to provide the team with any standout moments of quality.
Elneny continues to impress quietly. A rejuvenated player under Arteta, who was neat and tidy in possession. The Egyptians forward pass (pre assist) was a key moment in the build-up for winning goal and was a sign that he can provide the team with progression through the centre of midfield.
Playing his first full 90 minutes, Thomas Partey showcased his ability and was deservedly awarded man of the match. Physical, positionally astute, quality in possession and much more. The defensive qualities that the Ghanaian provides is exactly what the current central midfielders lack in abundance.
Regarding the performance of Arsenal’s No. 9, it wasn’t a great showing. When Lacazette dropped deep, in between the lines, his touch was poor and he failed to bring others into the game with his hold up play. Nketiah also struggled to influence proceedings from the left.
Nicolas Pepe was below par in the first half. The Ivorian was very sloppy in possession. After the interval, however, the inside right forward raised his levels, particularly once Bellerin came on. Pepe’s best games for the Gunners have come when the manager has given the right-back licence to overlap and advance forward. Good set-piece delivery for the equaliser and his inward movement opened up space, which allowed Elneny to make the forward pass to Bellerin for the winner.
Substitutes Bellerin and Aubameyang were influential and provided the Arsenal manager with the impact that he expected the two to make.
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23 years of age, 23 years as a Gooner. Arsenal runs through my veins and it pains me to see the current position and state of the club. Reading many football articles over the years has inspired me to write blogs containing Arsenal analysis. I’ve always wanted my fellow Gooners to be aware of my thoughts and opinions of ‘The Arsenal’ and thanks to Dave and Paul, I now have a platform which makes this possible.