Whilst it’s been a very poor season for Mikel Arteta as Arsenal manager, he can certainly be encouraged by his side’s form since Christmas and the way his players have finished the league campaign on a high. In this piece, an analysis of Arsenal’s victory against Brighton is discussed.
On the final match-day of the 2020/2021 Premier League campaign, Mikel Arteta persisted with his tried and tested 4-2-3-1, a system that has provided sustainability and is tailored to the current crop of players available for selection.
Throughout the course of the season, the Spaniard hasn’t deviated away from his 3-2-5 in possession shape during the build-up play, and it was on display yet again. Chambers dropped back to form the back three whilst Partey and Xhaka operated in the double pivot. Primarily, Granit has been tasked with the left centre back role, occupying the left channel during the 1st phase. But with Chambers playing at right-back, the 26-year-old provides tactical flexibility, and his ability to play in a back three allowed Xhaka to feature in a more central position.
The five attackers further ahead compromised of Smith Rowe and Odegaard, who occupied the half-spaces and facilitated ball progression. The two creators were essentially the link between midfield and attack. Both Pepe and Tierney held the width, whilst Aubameyamg was given the nod to play as the focal point.
Out of possession
Defensively, once Brighton approached Arsenal’s half, the Gunners retreated into a 4-4-2 mid-block, an out of possession structure that has been on display since Arteta has reverted back to familiar principles of the 4-2-3-1.
A Brighton team who consistently outperform the opposition, Potter’s men started the game strong in the opening 5 minutes and imposed their game. However, after this initial spell of Brighton pressure, Arteta’s men controlled proceedings and dictated the tempo.
There’s no surprise that there were greater levels of control within the Gunners’ play, as this is what Partey and Xhaka provide when partnered together. With Granit operating in midfield, the Swiss international recycled possession efficiently and played regular penetrative passes. Below are just a few examples where Arsenal’s midfield controller demonstrates his excellent passing abilities.
Within the final third, the majority of eye-catching passages of play came through Odegaard. The Norwegian frequently showed for the ball and allowed Chambers to create width. The 22-year-old was also a crucial cog between the lines and executed some brilliant incisive passes.
On the opposite flank, Tierney and Smith Rowe provided excellent levels of balance. The Croydon De Bruyne performed a similar role to Odegaard in allowing Tierney to advance forward and effectively act as a left-winger in possession.
Furthermore, Smith Rowe was influential with his devastating third-man runs, with the young English midfielder always looking to attack the spaces in behind. But despite dominating proceedings, Arsenal failed to create many meaningful opportunities, something to improve upon next season.
After the interval, a familiar pattern was on display; Arsenal dominating the game with controlled possession and pegging Brighton back within their own half. And in the 49th minute, the home side broke the deadlock, courtesy of Nicolas Pepe. Initially, Xhaka kickstarts the attack by finding Odegaard in a pocket of space who then delivers a ball in behind for Tierney to latch onto. As the ball eventually finds its way to Chambers, his cross is controlled smartly and finished excellently by Pepe.
The Ivorian continued his fine end of the season form with a second goal in the 60th minute. Odegaard, who was a constant threat throughout the afternoon, releases Pepe and the 25-year-old finished the chance brilliantly, placing his shot into the far post and past Robert Sanchez.
Although Partey rattled the bar with a fierce strike in the 72nd minute, Arsenal were happy to hold their lead without conceding possession. And with Brighton struggling to create anything substantial, Arsenal claimed all three points and finished the season on a slight positive.
Leno: The German had very little to do and credit must go to the way his teammates nullified transitions and prevented Brighton from having regular shots on goal. But if Arsenal’s. number one is here for next season, there’s no doubt that he must improve on his in-possession qualities.
Holding and Gabriel: Operating at the heart of the defence, Holding and Gabriel performed well. Both were aggressive in the tackle and executed the simple aspects effectively. Gabriel has had an impressive debut season, especially when his age and lack of experience are considered. Once the young Brazillian improves on his decision-making and execution with regards to his passing, his levels will rise to an even greater level.
Chambers: Contributes to the build-up play, tucks into midfield, and overlaps; Chambers gives Arsenal plenty of flexibility and it was another strong performance both in and out of possession. An assist for Pepe’s first goal capped off an impressive showing.
Tierney: Arsenal’s number 3 is a pivotal player to the functionality of the team. His ability to stretch the play is crucial for creativity and whilst it wasn’t the most eye-catching display from the left-back, he still managed to perform at a good level.
Xhaka: The former Arsenal captain provided his team with an excellent performance against the Seagulls. Playing next to Thomas Partey, the 28-year-old helped initiate attacks with his brilliant line-breaking passes and provided a level of calmness out of possession.
Partey: Whilst Arsenal fans still haven’t seen the best of the Ghanaian international, there’s no doubt that he’s shown how important he is to the current side. His performance on the final matchday was encouraging and was unlucky to not have scored his first goal for the Gunners.
Smith Rowe and Odegaard: Creators who advocate fluid play; both Smith Rowe and Odegaard were key in terms of carrying the ball and aiding progression. Odegaard in particular was exceptional between the lines and produced some eye-catching incisive passes. An assist to his name was well deserved.
Pepe: Despite the Ivorian frustrating in his ball retention, Pepe has no doubt improved since the new year. An option on the outside and inside has prevented him from isolation, which is what he requires. The 25-year-old was the difference-maker, with two excellent goals.
Aubameyang: A quiet display from the captain, who struggled to impose himself on the game and provide an influence in the attacking third. A couple of excellent runs in behind, with Odegaard finding him in these situations but the 31-year-old, lacked quality in his final piece of play
Hope you enjoyed the read. Comment below and message me via my social media links in my bio. I’ve also started a YouTube channel and it would mean a lot to me if you check it out and subscribe.
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.