Arsenal’s tour of Singapore has ended and as ever we are becoming even more familiar with the style in which Unai Emery would like us to play. Of course, it’s not dissimilar to Arsene Wenger’s style but we are seeing Emery’s characteristics surface.
One of these characteristics was how Arsenal deal with a high press. At first, we seemed to struggle when the pressure built but over the two games, the players became more confident in how to play their way out of trouble.
Initial Struggles vs Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid have been the biggest test thrown at Emery’s Arsenal so far. Arsenal may have had most of the ball but Atleti proved to be very well drilled as usual and this showed when they squeezed up top.
Here’s a sequence of play that wasn’t too unfamiliar in the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating the players for this here because this is what pre-season is about. Facing this type of press early on should help Arsenal in finding out what issues they may have in this area and where they can find solutions.
Improvements vs PSG: Defensive Third
It was clear that by the last game of the tour, this was something that had been worked on. When facing PSG’s press the overall confidence and positioning was better which helped us successfully move up the pitch. This was something that occurred in a similar situation to the one above in the defensive third as well as better movement through the middle of the pitch as you can see below.
There were two takeaways which were key to this improvement when it comes how Arsenal coped with the high press.
Firstly, Leno took the chance on Mustafi. If we’re going to continue to build in this manner then we need practice and thankfully we got that with Leno passing this time rather than playing the ball long.
Secondly, the positional play of the supporting players opened up more spaces which helped make the transition up the pitch easier. This is something Mohamed Elneny has been consistently good at over the years and something he help Matteo Guendouzi improve as even though he had a great tour, he did get caught a couple of times on the edge of the Arsenal box.
Another aspect to this sequence which was replicated in the game was Bellerin’s inclusion. Admittedly I was critical of Bellerin for not being as effective going forward last season compared to his first couple of seasons in the first team. However, if this way of playing out is used throughout this season, he should find it easier to get up the pitch somewhat unopposed.
Arsenal begin the 2018/19 Premier League season against Pep Guardiola, a manager who everyone knows gets his teams to win the ball back as high as possible. Although it won’t be Manchester City’s strongest side that Arsenal face, any Premier League team can put on an effective press. Facing teams that will put us under pressure early in Singapore is very important as it can only help us get into a groove for when we get that treatment in a couple of weeks.
With these players most likely to be amongst the starting lineup, its good to see them getting familiar with Emery’s football. Of course this is a small part of the game, however, these same principles can be seen all over the pitch which helped Arsenal massively when transitioning up the pitch. Hopefully, it is an aspect that continues to improve over the course of the season.