A line-breaking pass from deep, positional rotations and a smart finish; elements that were on display in Arsenal’s first goal against Leeds (described below).
In this piece, I provide a review of the game.
Formations in and out of possession
Arsenal continued to persist with the 4-2-3-1 that has brought greater levels of consistency in the results achieved, despite suffering losses in their last two Premier League encounters.
The key success story in the first half was the intelligence in Arsenal’s 3-4-1-2 pressing shape. Cedric dropped back to make it a back three, ahead was a midfield four of Bellerin-Ceballos-Xhaka-Smith Rowe, Odegaard man-marked the influence of Strujic, with Saka and Auba as the two focal points up top. Leeds are effective in their 1st and 2nd phases of play. But Arteta’s side deployed a brilliant press, stifling the visitors from developing any rhythm in the opening 45 minutes. Players operated in the required zones, eliminated passing lanes and forced frequent mistakes.
In possession and transitioning into the 2nd and 3rd phases of play, player rotations were present, making Arsenal’s shape very fluid. Predominantly a 2-3-5, but Bellerin was given license to go forward at times and brought the ball well into the half-spaces. Smith Rowe and Aubameyang rotated frequently, Odegaard played centrally but drifted between the lines, Cedric advanced forward with Granit and Ceballos maintaining positional discipline in the double pivot.
Out of possession, a 4-4-2 mid-block was utilised with Odegaard and Auba the two up top in these instances. A shape Arteta has persisted with since transitioning his side to play with a back four out of possession rather than a five.
Arsenal’s confident start was rewarded with an early goal, with the positional rotations between Smith Rowe and Aubameyang pivotal. The Croydon De Bruyne drops centrally with his back to goal, with Aubameyang drifting out wide. Xhaka finds the club captain, who goes onto fire the shot past Meslier.
Possession was turned over frequently and Meslier struggled with his passing range. The young Leeds GK’s nervousness in possession was eventually punished, after bringing down the lively Saka. Arsenal’s No.14 converted the spot-kick, scoring his 2nd of the night.
Sustaining frequent pressure, moving the ball quickly and being brave in possession were elements that coexisted for Arsenal’s third of the night, scored by Bellerin. Ceballos showed his quality, with a clever pass through the legs of Klich to find the Arsenal right back.
Immediately, the Gunners started the half quickly with Cedric providing pressure and regaining possession for his team. Smith Rowe carries the ball into the box and exquisitely picks out Aubameyang, who completes his first Premier League hattrick for the Gunners.
One would have thought that Arsenal would look to capitalise on an opportunity to increase their goal difference but Bielsa’s side continued to remain positive and made the evening uncomfortable with their two goals. The first coming surprisingly from a corner, especially when you consider the significant improvements the Gunners have shown in this area of their game. And the second comes through the run Roberts makes on Hector Bellerin’s blindside before cutting it back for Costa.
The substitution of Elneny gave the Gunners much needed control, with no major clear cut opportunities occurring for the away side after this change. With the scoreline finishing at 4-2, Arteta can definitely be pleased with his side’s performance.
A hat-trick of goals for Pierre Emerick Aunbameyang was certainly the main positive coming out of yesterdays game. As mentioned previously, the rotations between himself and Smith Rowe were very effective in dragging Leeds players out of position and opening up space for others.
Smith Rowe and Odegaard showed the importance of having players who are capable of drifting between the lines. Both are facilitators of fluid football and creativity. The Real Madrid loanee showed glimpses of his quality in his first start for the Gunners.
Bukayo Saka continues to maintain incredible levels of consistency in his performance levels. His development is increasing at an exponential rate, and the intelligence in his game is remarkable. Excellent in 1v1’s, great decision making and once again influenced proceedings.
Dani Ceballos came in for the injured Thomas Partey and impressed with his display. The Spaniard showed great work ethic, released passes slightly quicker and played a very clever ball through the legs of Klich for Bellerin’s goal.
Playing in his second consecutive PL game was Gabriel and the Brazillian stood out both in and out of possession. Quality forward passing, brilliant positional and defensive awareness along with winning key fouls that relieved pressure during key moments.
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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.