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Coming from behind, Unai Emery’s Arsenal claimed their first win of the season against West Ham on Saturday. It wasn’t plain sailing for Arsenal on the day but again they showed good character to respond and come out on top.

In this analysis piece I’ll look at the key takeaways from the game, both positive and negative.

Positional Awareness Must Improve In Defence

Firstly, we’ll deal with the main negative from Saturday which was Arsenal’s positioning defensively.

Expecting to control the game, Hector Bellerin was given even more licence to get forward this weekend. Although this is encouraging, what happens with the players behind him when he losses the ball isn’t.

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
After losing the ball here, Bellerin gives chase to put pressure on which would be expected of him. This forces Felipe Anderson to switch the play. However, Bellerin’s teammates haven’t put in the work and West Ham get an easy out.
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
This leaves Matteo Guendouzi exposed and the ball is poked past him as he presses desperately. In this instance, with both full backs high up the pitch, Xhaka should drop to give Arsenal numbers at the back.
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
Xhaka doesn’t retreat with much effort and West Ham instantly have a three-on-two on the counter. Mustafi is dragged across and Arnautovic is left free out the back. (Arnautovic scored off this move but was fortunately offside for Arsenal.)

Here, we can see that pressing is very much a team activity. If one goes, everyone goes, because if they don’t it can become very easy to pick apart. Also, with Arsenal’s full backs likely to push high up the pitch, the deepest midfielder joining the defensive line or just helping the centre backs could make a huge difference.

Inside Channels Work Best Again

Against Chelsea, Arsenal’s best chances came from cut backs from the byline at that was no different this weekend.

The biggest reason this comes about, however, is the personnel on the wings. Neither Alex Iwobi or Henrikh Mkhitaryan are real wingers which sees them occupy different spaces. Rather than hug the touchline they spend most of their time centrally which leaves opposition full backs with no one to mark.

This has been Arsenal’s best method of attack this season and works when Mkhitaryan and Iwobi decide to go wide too.

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
With Mkhitaryan wide, West Ham’s left back now has to jump out to meet him. Not used to this during the game, their next closest centre back is too central and Bellerin takes up the space in that channel undetected.
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
With great time and space, Bellerin fizzes the ball across goal and Nacho Monreal eventually equalises for Arsenal.

Seeming to develop good chemistry on the right flank, this is something that Bellerin and Mkhitaryan can work well this season. Both look to be able to pick their moments well and the effectiveness of the move can yield great results, especially as usually when they run it they aren’t picked up in the inside channel.

Lacazette Needs To Start

A big reason for Arsenal’s slow starts this season, I believe has been the use of Alexandre Lacazette as a substitute.

Without him in the side, Arsenal’s build-up doesn’t seem as sharp or productive and there aren’t as many options to attack teams. This is something we saw yet again in the first half against West Ham when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the lone striker.

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
Rather than being a target and allowing others to play off him, Aubameyang likes to get on the ball in space. This sees him roam to receive the ball and leave Balbuena untroubled. Ramsey is now closest to the striker so he has to make up a lot of ground to catch up.
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
Ramsey is still catching up at a time where, if Lacazette was on, Aubamyang could be playing him through. The red circle and white arrows represents the space Lacazette could have taken and the runs he could’ve made.
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
Instead, Ramsey eats up a couple more seconds and even though Aubameyang still plays him through, the West Ham defender is now able to cover around and make a tackle.

Below, is what Lacazette has to bring to the table when he’s on the pitch.

Arsenal 3-1 West Ham Lacazette Tactical Analysis
More often than Aubameyang, Lacazette is happy to be a target and attract defenders to him. Here he takes the role of the target which sucks in the West Ham defenders and frees up Aubameyang for the first time ball into the space in behind.

We also saw in the goal that gave Arsenal the lead, that Lacazette is happier to scrap in the box which ultimately creates space and chances for those around him. He should be starting for Arsenal more this season as he gives them more options and unpredictability in attack as well as being able to finish himself.


I’m not judging Unai Emery as Arsenal manager at this moment as we all know its way too even consider doing that. However, it does seem he can make his life easier with a few simple tweaks, like starting Lacazette and just instilling more leadership and awareness of the players on the pitch.

But onto Cardiff where Arsenal should make it two wins on the bounce.