Arsenal Football Club’s red carpet rolled out for yet another season in the Premier League. Home openers at the Emirates haven’t always gone to plan. The Gunners have lost five of their last eight home openers. Sean Dyche and Burnley would look to be the home opener spoilers on matchday two. Although the 13-time champions of England would serve a mighty challenge as Burnley had lost their last 10 matches to Arsenal coming into the game.
In this tactical analysis, we will explore the improvements of Arsenal in buildup phases, Sean Dyche’s tactics, and standout individual performances.
Unai Emery would stick with the 4-2-3-1 once again. This would also see Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette feature for the first time together this season with Aubameyang out wide. Youth players Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock retained spots in the XI as Emery’s faith in youth continued. Dani Ceballos and David Luiz made their first starts for the club. They would play huge roles in the game’s result.
Matteo Guendouzi made his 50th appearance for the club at the age of 20.
Burnley’s trusted and tested 4-4-2 would be deployed. Used to provide a foundation for Dyche’s pressing scheme. Also, of course, Burnley’s rock-solid deep block that they’ve been known for. The always dangerous Ashley Barnes featured in attack after scoring two against Southampton in matchday one.
ARSENAL IN BUILDUP PHASES
Last season even bottom-half teams such as Brighton would come to the Emirates and through a relatively simple pressing scheme could disrupt Arsenal’s buildup and flow in possession. After a season under his belt with the team manager Unai Emery has the team playing out the back efficiently. This game would showcase this progress as the home side maintained 67% of possession.
This clear improvement during this phase is important. As Emery’s men were able to play a higher tempo and be in possession for long spells. Through analysis, we can explore Sean Dyche’s pressing scheme and how successful it was.
Arsenal typically last season looked to build up through wide areas. Burnley’s pressing scheme would target the wide areas giving Arsenal no option but to attempt to play through Burnley. This approach would largely be unsuccessful however as Arsenal would easily find solutions through the middle. There were periods where Arsenal struggled to get out of their half. But the away side would not force turnovers in dangerous areas. Arsenal completed 150 of 168 passes in their defensive third.
Arsenal’s depth in midfield will pose many questions through-out the season. In this game, one player may have stamped his place into the lineup moving forward. Spaniard Dani Ceballos would steal the show playing in a number 10 role.
Away at Newcastle last week, Arsenal struggled to link buildup from wide into the middle. The 23-year-old helped immensely with this issue. He did this through his constant involvement in the play. Ceballos had 97 touches the most in the game. His play largely targeted the left half-space as showed by the heatmap below.
His intelligent movements and quality on the ball helped him make his stamp on the game. Ceballos would look to keep Arsenal moving the ball at a high tempo as he’d be decisive with his decision making on the ball. When dropping deep he’d offer solutions for the midfield of Guendouzi and Willock. Ceballos and Willock combined 14 times the third most combination in the match.
Also in his own third, he’d look to make constant switches of play through long passes. This would make Burnley’s defensive shape shift and the great timing of Ceballos’ passes would leave Dyche’s men with little time before the space was taken up. This play resulted in helping Arsenal move the ball forward with fluid movement. A player with such passing range and composure in tight areas has been missing in these areas for Arsenal.
Another lacking point of Arsenal’s play against Newcastle was penetration of the final third. Obviously, against Newcastle a defensively astute team, also away from home, it is always going to be hard to break down their shape. Although, Ceballos exampled his dynamic skillset in the final third and the difference he can make.
Below are some of Ceballos’ data from his play in the final third.
- 25 out of 28 successful passes in the final third
- 5 passes penetrating Burnley’s box
- 3 chances created
- 3 shots, 1 on target
Long-balls, deep-blocks, physically imposing players. These are all things that will have an Arsenal fan terrified when describing an opposition team. On the ball, Burnley would look to test the gunner’s signature shaky defence. Through the usage of long balls and service from wide areas.
The Clarets attempted 30 crosses. Only 11 would be successful. This lack of quality in service from wide areas would not directly create any big chances from them. New signing David Luiz played a big role in defending during these sequences. Luiz completed 100% of his headed clearances, making seven.
Their only big chance of the game would be created through a long ball. Long balls and the chaos following them have been a problem for Arsenal for seasons now due to the disorientation it can cause. As a team, they attempted 49 long balls. Mostly all of these long balls would be targeted toward Burnley’s forwards.
Burnley striker Ashley Barens won the most attacking ariel duels in the game with five out of eight. He would be involved in their only big chance created and goal. A long ball sent over the top of Arsenal’s high defensive line creates disorganization and they’re unable to prevent Burnley from scoring during this sequence.
Arsenals would win their first two opening games for the first time in 10 years. A mindblowing statistic considering the stature of the club. But overall, Arsenal looked fluid and confident on the ball. New signings Ceballos and Luiz made positive first impressions on their first starts for the club.
Burnley should not be written past in this game. The xG ended 1.24 to 1.75 in Burnley’s favour. Arsenal’s lack of clear-cut-chance creation can be a potential concern moving forward as the attacking force is yet to truly gel and hit its true potential.