Firstly, what is the problem? The problem is that teams have found a perticilur tactic that seem to neutrulize ours. A tactic that involves having everyone behind the ball, having the midfield and attack central and most importantly doubling up on our wingers when they get the ball. All this while focusing primarily on direct play to tall and strong players and set-pieces to stop flow but also hurt us where we are weakest.
Newcastle were the first team to try this tactic. Fair play to them, they have been elite this season and their ability to create this tactical plan is exactly why they are flying high right now. They come prepared.
Interestingly enough that game was followed by two big ones, Spurs and then Man Utd, and both were impressive wins. Then we hit a wall again when we came up against Everton and Brentford who are built kinda the same as Newcastle. They too have the ability to play tall and strong players, pack their defence and go direct. Maybe this pattern is a good omen for Wednesday, it doesnt seem like this bad patch is about form but rather about fit.
Through the whole season so far we have played exactly the same way in every PL game. It is what has led to our success. Our ability to control games has been second to none.
Just think about this for a second. When was the last time you witnessed several teams change their tactics so drastically just to handle an opponent? It is a compliment to how exceptional we have been up to this point.
Back to my point, I dont think we are in bad form, I just think some teams that have the ability to play like these three teams are a bad fit for how we want to play. I think more teams will try it but not everyone will succeed, cause it demands alot.
Now Why is it that we cant seem to handle this tactic? It doesnt really change our patterns, we are still able to pass the ball through Partey and Zinchenko and our wingers are touching the ball as much as they normally do. 70% possession, and between 15-25 shots every game but where the stats tell a difference its in big chances created. Against Spurs and Man Utd we created 5 in total. Against Newcastle, Everton and Brentford we created only 1 in total. The conclusion is thereby that we can play our game up to a point but we cant create big goalscoring opportunities in and around the box when up against this ultra-defensive setup.
We now know the problem, so what is the solution? I have a few ideas.
Solution 1: Play tactic A better and faster. Its what we have been trying so far. Make some like for like subs and hope that individual quality within the normal setup will get us over the line. Great teams usually do this, they just grind teams down doing the same every attack. But I dont think we are there yet, we are too inexperienced to fall back on that tactic. But what does better and faster mean? I think we have been a bit slow with the ball, we take too many touches scanning whats infront. Theres been good opportunities to release someone but the ball would not come. Its very ”ball to feet” centric and maybe we need to feed more ”off the ball runs” to get past the block of defenders. Defenders like to defend whats infront of them, so we must make them turn the other way more often to make them uncomfortable. The most important thing is probably to score first cause that changes everything.
Solution 2: Finally use our plan B. We tried the attacking 352 formation in pre-season and it worked beautifully. Nketiah and Martinelli up front, Trossard and Saka as attacking wingbacks, odegaard and Xhaka filling the box. It can really be something for the opposition to think about. If we are daring we can almost move the LCB to the wing and get Trossard in the box too. Just camp in their box.
Solution 3: Move lefties to the left and righties to the right. This way the 1v1 abilities of Martinelli, Saka and Trossard can get us to the byline more often and not just cut in all the time. Then we focus our attacks on low cut-backs and flooding the box. I think we saw right away against Brentford that Saka got a good shooting opportunity when he went over to the left for an attack. And I think we also saw in pre-season that Odegaard came to some interesting situations infront of goal when playing more in the L8 role. Saka at LW, Martinelli at RW and either you play Odegaard at L8 and Trossard at R8 or the other way around to have a dual threath with outside running from the wingers and out-to-in crosses from the 8ths. Something we actually rarely do, even though its so effective. I would rather see Saka and Martinelli make crosses into the box than White and Zinchenko to be honest.
Whats clear is that we need to solve this problem when up against that type of team in the future and hopefully we really are learning from dropped points like Arteta is hinting at. I hope we try something different next time and not just hope that subs will come on and do something spectacular.
But next up is Man City! Not at all a team like that so I have no doubt it will be a great game, a close game and that we will see a more flowing Arsenal than these last two games.
Its really the biggest game in a decade! COYG!!
Hello! Im a 39 year old family man from Sweden, born in Gothenburg, living in Stockholm. Why Arsenal? I was 11 years old and didnt have a PL team yet, but was a big fan of the Dutch national team with Dennis Bergkamp up front. So when he joined us in 95’ it was a easy choice which team I wanted to support. It only felt better when success quickly followed and Freddie Ljungberg came in. My first and only live game was the Palace game at the Emirates when Giroud scored that scorpion kick goal. My biggest regret will forever be that I never got to visit Highbury. Most of my friends through life have been Man Utd or Liverpool fans but I have always been proud to be a Arsenal supporter. We are more than a club, with values I live by, and watching this Arteta revolution fills me with great joy. This beautiful club deserves to be at the top. Lets talk Arsenal!
Excellent piece.Agree with all three solutions.Two & three would be my preference.We need to start introducing these systems against certain sides because they’ve sussed out how to nullify us with low block etc.
But as you say,first goal & it changes everything.One other thought is that we’re particularly hampered at the moment from not having 3 potential game changing forwards available.Get these back & option 1 would be back on the cards because we’d have the legs again.
No over runs by the full backs. That’s the problem. lack of support and fit legs by our fullbacks. When there is two of three players on Saka, that then create space for the fullback to over all and cross the ball. But when Same creates that space their is no one taking advantage of that. Both full backs are to blame!
Agree and there is a piece on this later