Arsenal Tactical Analysis vs PSG & Atletico Madrid

As many expected when the fixture lists were released, Arsenal have 0 points from two games. However, in Unai Emery’s baptism of fire, as well as the inevitable improvements that could be made, there were also some positives and I’ll try to assess a few aspects from both sides of the coin here.

Defensive Decisions Need to Improve

We all know Arsenal’s weakest area is in defence and that was made for all to see in the first half an hour at Stamford Bridge. Time and again Chelsea were able to cut through the Arsenal defence and this was a result of a few things.

Poor Positioning, poor communication and failing to force the issue. Here’s an example of what was seen repeatedly on Saturday.

Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
At first, Arsenal’s shape in this frame looks good. The defensive line is intact, as is the midfield line and everyone seems to have picked up a man. Mesut Ozil also does well to press Rudiger to close the passing lane to Kante.
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
However, once Rudiger sets the ball to Jorginho everything freezes from an Arsenal point of view. It’s as if they feel because they’ve done the first part of the job, its job done. Ozil stands off Jorginho giving him the time to pick out either Barkley or Pedro in the massive space in behind. This is created as Mustafi and Sokratis both follow Morata’s highlighted movement.
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
This could have been prevented if Arsenal kept doing their job. If Ozil pressed Jorginho, the defensive line stayed together, communicated better and dropped back to follow runners, the outcome could have been very different.

This situation replayed itself too many times in different parts of the Arsenal half and ultimately, Arsenal deserved to concede the goals they eventually did.

Attacking Spaces Well

As the first half evolved, however, Arsenal proved to be very effective going forward and could have run away with the match. The biggest reasons for this were Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who caused havoc for the Chelsea defence.

With neither being out and out wingers and preferring to take inside positions, this is what got Arsenal back in the game. In fact both of Arsenal’s goals came from them originally taking central positions and then ghosting in behind Chelsea full backs. Here’s an example:

Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
Iwobi was next to Azpilicueta but drifts infield. Xhaka spreads the ball out to Monreal and Azpilicueta naturally goes to close his fellow Spaniard down.
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
As he does this, he leaves a massive space in behind for Iwobi to take advantage of once Monreal plays him the ball.
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
Both Iwobi and Mkhitaryan’s delivery in these positions on the day were pinpoint. In the box, Arsenal’s attackers found space extremely well and if their finishing was better the Gunners could well have run away with this one in the first half.

Taking advantage of those spaces was the best method of attack for Arsenal on the day. Playing with wingers who were hard to detect as well as identifying the right spaces to attack inside the box was a great way to combat a Chelsea side who are also in a transition and learning a new footballing style.

Compact, but too compact

Off the ball, the second half saw a much improved Arsenal display. However, this did slightly take away from the quality going forward as transitions from defence to attack became less smooth the more compact Arsenal got.

Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
Here Arsenal take up a better defensive position. A 4-4-2 that I have talked about before which works particularly well. Also encouraging is that Ozil goes to press Luiz on the ball, stopping him from playing long balls over the top like in the first half.
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
Instead, he has to make the riskier pass through the middle. Lucas Torreira, who came on at half time showed exactly why he was signed as he reads the pass expertly, intercepts and pass onto Guendouzi all in one touch to kill the Chelsea attack.
Arsenal 3-2 Chelsea Tactical Analysis
Once on the ball, Guendouzi didn’t have much to aim for due to the three highlighted Chelsea players so he hit a hopeful ball to Aubameyang. Instead, if Ozil or Mkhitaryan offered themselves in between the lines an Arsenal attack would’ve had a better chance to develop.

Over the coming weeks, however, the change between defence and attack should become smoother. It was only the second game of the season after all.

Summary

Looking back over the game, although some of the negatives were glaring and disappointing, there wasn’t anyone that can’t change over time. It’s clear that the defence are all still getting used to each other as a unit in this new system so that’ll take time to get it the way we want it.

At the Bridge we also saw developments on other aspects of Emery’s style, however. Cech looked a bit more comfortable playing out the back as did the defence and this eventually led to Iwobi’s goal. A move that involved 19 passes. It’ll be interesting to see how this continues to develop over the next month or two.

Finally, despite giving away a costly pass for Chelsea’s winner, I believe Lacazette should still be in the starting 11. When brought on, Arsenal looked much better in attack as he bounced off Aubameyang well. But anyway, let’s see what happens next week when Arsenal welcome Jack Wilshere and West Ham to the Emirates.