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Pepe and Willian shine as Arteta tactically outsmarts Rodgers at the KP!

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Finally arriving at party

The Arsenal set up

1) In possession

Utilising the familiar 4-2-3-1, Arsenal were building through the thirds in a 2-3-5 shape. Cedric would initially remain deep, with Tierney deployed as an outlet through the left channel, allowing Willian to occupy the half-spaces.

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The 2-3-5 became a 3-2-5 occasionally with Elneny dropping in between the two centre backs, allowing Luiz and Mari to occupy the wider channels, which opened up a spectrum of all passing angles in the 1st phase. 

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2) Out of possession

A 3-4-3 pressing shape vs Leeds was effective, but Arteta reverted back to his familiar 4-4-2. Xhaka was given the important role of applying pressure to the Leicester City double-pivot, making it a 4-3-1-2 when Evans and Soyuncu were in possession. 

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First-half performance

There was no surprise in the game plan Rodgers opted for. Very happy for Arsenal to control possession, and ensured his side remained compact in their 4-4-2 shape. Vardy and Barnes were utilised as outlets to aid transition opportunities. 

But it was the home side who took the lead after yet another example of individual errors proving costly for the Gunners. Granit plays a loose ball to Willian before a lack of communication between Elneny and Mari allows Tielemans to drive forward and rifle a shot past Leno. 

Despite the setback, Arsenal remained calm on the ball and continued to control proceedings. The inclusion of Emile Smith Rowe promoted fluidity and the Croydon De Bruyne was an integral piece in creating overloads and bringing both Pepe and Willian into the game. 

The Pepe and Cedric dynamic was one that created frequent problems for Thomas at left-back. The role Cedric played enabled Pepe to operate in the areas he desires. The Ivorian was a regular threat and it’s no surprise since an option on the outside and inside was always readily available. 

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Pepe dynamic with Cedric

Quick interplay in the 2nd phase allowed Pepe to isolate Thomas in the 1v1, and he had plenty of success against his opponent. Drawed fouls frequently and crucially won a free kick in the 38th minute. The delivery was perfect from Willian and Luiz applied the finishing touch.  It’s important to praise the quality of the build-up play before Pepe was fouled. Xhaka fires the ball between the lines, Lacazette receives it from deep, Willian supports the Frenchman and Pepe is released quickly with a delightful switch of play. An exhibition of quality on show through all three phases.

Speaking of build-up play, the penalty awarded in the dying embers of the half consisted of many eye-catching elements. Willian the orchestrator; the Brazillian collects the ball from deep within his own half, ghosts past both Tielemans and Castagne before finding Odegaard. Pepe eventually receives the ball within the half channel and has his shot illegally blocked by the arm of Ndidi. A huge moment and up stepped the ever-reliable Lacazette. Arsenal’s No.9 has never failed from the spot since arriving in 2017 and the Frenchman maintained his flawless record, calmly converting the penalty. The stages of this goal are broken down in the following diagrams.

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Second Half Performance.

A strong first-half display was reciprocated into the second, but with a slight tactical tweak. Tierney was instructed to tuck into midfield, with Cedric given more license to overlap. The trio of Odegaard, Pepe, Cedric interlinked, interchanged and overloaded at will.

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Arsenal’s third goal was initiated through the right, with Pepe carrying the ball forward with authority. Cedric’s run takes Ricardo away from the £72 million winger, Odegaard receives the ball from Pepe and is quick to play an incisive pass towards Willian, who then finds the Ivorian for a tap in. Chances continued to arise with Aubameyang inches away from netting a fourth with a trademark right-footed strike outside the box. But finishing 3-1, Arteta should be thrilled with his side’s performance.

Tactically the Arsenal boss showed his capabilities yet again, outsmarting Rodgers in many departments. Hunger and desire out of possession injected into the team prevented the Foxes from developing any tempo within their game. As stated previously, the press created opportunities to turn over possession regularly. Partey was given the ‘Xhaka’ role of pressing aggressively after coming on for Elneny. Whether it was on the ball, off the ball; Arsenal completely outplayed a dangerous Leicester City side.  

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Individual displays

Bernd Leno: The fact that the German has had little to do in many games this season is a sign of how well Arteta has drilled his men out of possession. Comfortably denied efforts from Barnes and Iheanacho and can be content with his performance. 

David Luiz and Pablo Mari: Jamie Vardy has been a constant thorn over the years vs Arsenal. But the two centre backs nullified his influence completely. Mari’s response in the second half was encouraging after a slow start whilst his Brazillian partner was defensively resolute and connected cleanly with his header.  

Tierney/Cedric: Both played the roles of inverted and overlapping full-backs to a high level of quality. The overloads created through the right was a consistent pattern and Cedric was excellent in preventing Pepe from isolation.

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Integral in press with Elneny

Granit Xhaka and Mohammed Elneny: Integral in the press, progressive passes towards the left and through central areas; it was another impressive display from the Swiss international. His partner Elneny had a ropey start and should have got tighter to Tielemans for the goal. But like Mari, the Egyptians response was strong. 

Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard: Pass and move, drag players out of position, open up passing channels and create space for others; Smith Rowe was excellent. An advocate of fluidity, the Hale End Graduate was classy between the lines. Odegaard coming on also didn’t disappoint and was influential in his play, and delivered some excellent eye of the needle passes. 

Alexandre Lacazette: No starts in the Premier League since Aston Villa, but he showed no signs of rustiness in his game. The Frenchman was pivotal with his back to goal and played a fundamental role in all three goals. His ability to drop deep enabled Willian and Pepe to attack the zones he vacated. 

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Laca pivotal

Willian: To say the Brazillian has received criticism is an understatement. But his performance at the King Power should be showered with praise. Contributing to all phases of play, Willian was tidy when collecting the ball from deep, carried the ball elegantly, and was a key contributor. 

Nicolas Pepe: It’s no surprise that the Ivorian performed well. Why? Because he was given the freedom to drift into favourable areas, along with teammates supporting him within close proximity. Deadly in the 1v1’s, excellent off the ball movement and developed a strong partnership with Cedric

Hope you enjoyed the read. Comment below and message me via my social media links in my bio. I’ve also recently started a YouTube channel and it would mean a lot to me if you check it out and subscribe.

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4 Responses to Pepe and Willian shine as Arteta tactically outsmarts Rodgers at the KP!

  1. HF March 2, 2021 at 12:04 am #

    Great, incisive tactical analysis.

    Look forward to reading more of your insights on future matches

    • Rohan Jivan March 2, 2021 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Samuel March 2, 2021 at 1:12 am #

    Well done bro
    Great write up.

    • Rohan Jivan March 2, 2021 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it!

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