Arsenal's resurgence in 4-2-3-1 - Tactical analysis (2020-21) (2023)

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Just last month, some people saw Arsenal as a relegation contender and Mikel Arteta looked set to be sacked. But with a line-up change and some key additions to the squad, Mikel Arteta's Arsenal are suddenly back in the top ten after five unbeaten league games. So what has changed? well after ourtactical analysis earlier this seasonAside from the Gunners' 3-4-3 formation and their difficulty scoring goals, let's take a look at how Arsenal found their way into the 4-2-3-1. This is our latest Arsenal tactical analysis.

Game system: 4-2-3-1

Arsenal's resurgence in 4-2-3-1 - Tactical analysis (2020-21) (1)

Arsenal's turnaround in form has almost certainly contributed to their recent success. The 4-2-3-1 formation allowed for more creativity and productivity in attack and restored stability at the other end of the field.

Bernd Leno kept his place in goal and impressively kept five clean sheets in his last six games. Cedric Soares is in contention against Hector Bellerin for a spot at right-back and given the Frenchman's form, he could continue to be in contention for a spot even during his recent resurgence. Suddenly looking like Arsenal's most consistent centre-back, Rob Holding was recently paired with a mix of David Luiz, Pablo Mari and Gabriel Magalhães. Gabriel is likely Arsenal's long-term answer to the line-up but Arteta can boast of the former Bolton man's form so far in 2021. On the left, Kieran Tierney has been one of Arsenal's best players in recent weeks, with more freedom. Gallop to the system change. Front of defense and critical to defensive stability, Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey returned with two turns. Mohamed Elneny and Dani Ceballos remain solid options off the bench but Arteta expects Thomas Partey to stay fit for the rest of the season.

Most encouraging is that Emile Smith Rowe has come from nowhere to suddenly become Arsenal's best player alongside Bukayo Saka, who was the Gunners' best player this season overall. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears to be on the mend as Arsenal regain form but now has to fight for a spot on the left with Gabriel Martinelli. Alexandre Lacazette has also regained some of his goalscoring form lately, scoring five goals over the Christmas period.

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Willian and Ainsley-Maitland Niles remain good options for Arsenal off the bench but almost everyone appears to be leaving the club. But suddenly they're a good team again, with fantastic balance on the pitch. So, speaking of that balance, let's look at their attacking and defending form in that 4-2-3-1 that has allowed the Gunners to be more successful on both fronts.

attack form

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Arsenal's attacking form during the build is similar to a 4-2-4, although earlier in the season they attacked faster than the painfully slow build. Kieran Tierney is the only man who doesn't really fit into this 4-2-4 as he's more likely to be found on the left flank than anyone else in the possession and attacking phases as Granit Xhaka falls into Assumption. to help Arsenal overcome blockages or opposition pressure. Without possession, Granit Xhaka regains his midfield position and remains relatively centered. We'll discuss this in more detail in a later section, but it's important to note that these early blocks are there in terms of Arsenal's 'Attacking Form'.

The attack form could be thought of as 2-4-4 rather than 4-2-4. Kieran Tierney and right-back did a great job of keeping distance in wide areas, while Saka and Aubameyang often cut the ball inside or deflected the ball into central areas. Smith Rowe and Saka appear to have played together in Arsenal's youth system for years (maybe yes!) and often combine at right flank. With an overlapping winger and a central midfielder adding to the chaos, Arsenal can create overloads, particularly on the right, knowing someone like Thomas Partey is there to clean up the mess should he lose the ball. They can do the exact same thing down the left flank, combining Smith Rowe, Aubameyang and Tierney as part of an attacking trio to avoid wide-area problems.

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Kieran Tierney also proved to be a dynamic left-back, constantly trying to push Xhaka while Aubameyang pulled in or made combinations in 2v1 situations. The reason the 2-4-4 makes sense as an attacking form is the defensive stability it offers in the central zones to regain ball and erase mistakes. Even with Arsenal exposed in the wide areas, it becomes easy for a midfielder to move around and Arsenal can maintain some balance while others reclaim their position. This responsibility for possession of the ball is also more clearly defined than in a 3-4-3, where there can be a diffusion of responsibility between the full-back and the defensive midfielder. The 4-2-3-1 also gives Arsenal more creativity and fluidity in attack, as an attacking midfielder is able to close the gap between the two defensive midfielders and the three attackers surrounding him. Emile Smith Rowe has done this great so far with 3 assists in 5 games.

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defensive Updates

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Arsenal appear much more secure in their 4-2-3-1 formation, with more clearly defined defensive roles and responsibilities. Granit Xhaka has achieved greater discipline since Christmas, helping Arsenal look for a more solid defence. With Holding and someone like Pablo Mari, Arsenal have the opportunity to field practical defenders who move the ball out of the way without sacrificing the team's ability to play from behind and enjoy possession. Against teams that expect a lot of possession, it makes sense to field someone like Gabriel or David Luiz for an extra opportunity to collect longer passes that can free the team.

They improved a lot in the defensive and offensive phase in the transition phase and the 4-2-3-1 form was a big help in that. Again, Arsenal's structure of a four-court defense, with two defenders and two defensive midfielders, can keep opponents off the vertical during transitions. verticality isindispensable for quick attack changes, by pushing their opponents wide, they give themselves more time to regain control, including Smith Rowe regaining a central position, or full-backs filling needed spaces on the wing or in the central areas.

Arsenal's pressure has also improved and they're now getting the ball back quicker than before. During the pressure, both central midfielders can come forward with the game, or one can do so while the other remains withdrawn. Avoiding the pressure with a longer pass, the retired midfielder's position is crucial to helping Arsenal regain the game and protect against defenders. Arsenal also have a more natural form with the 4-2-3-1Diamant-Formuse in the press what they achieved in 3-4-3. His ability to slice passes into central areas and knock out opponents was key to his ability to capture the ball quickly and attack immediately.

Accumulation and position rotation

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Arsenal build-up remains one of the most intriguing things about Mikel Arteta's tactics. Its construction was onegreat discussion topicin our tactical analysis at the beginning of the season against the 3-4-3 and despite the system change, some things have remained relatively the same. One of the keys to his methodology is that Granit Xhaka moves to the left to catch the ball, opening up more central passing paths for Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey. Many devices (exAC Milan) use the approach of a central midfielder falling into the back line, but Arsenal usually do this more in a four-man structure with only one full-back pushing forward, which is usually Kieran Tierney.

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Other teams typically do this with a three-back structure, but if Cedric or Bellerin sits out during the early stages of construction, the Gunners have some advantages. First, they can switch plays quickly without driving the right quarterback into opposing territory in a low block or center. Second, it allows Arteta men greater resilience when unsuccessful in building. Either way, it all boils down to the two central midfielders and two centre-backs in the build, with Xhaka's positional rotation adding further chaos to the opposition. For example, teams that play with two forwards, such as Newcastle or Crystal Palace, can use their forwards to filter passes to Xhaka and Partey. But Xhaka's move to the side opens up potential running backs for Partey/Elneny to get rid of their markers, along with someone like Smith Rowe coming in and getting the ball. It becomes a bigger problem for these types of teams when Arsenal use a player like David Luiz, Gabriel or even Rob Holding who can select longer through balls and open the game when not under pressure. Opposing teams trying to prevent Arsenal from playing from behind are faced with two mammoth tasks. First and foremost, opposing teams must prevent Arsenal defenders from having the space and time to consider options going forward. Second, they must simultaneously prevent the central midfielders from picking up the ball, which is made difficult by Xhaka's movement and the likelihood of dragging a player with them.

Later, Smith Rowe is also a smart footballer, able to dodge at random times to gain possession of the ball. The winger on this side has the ability to move up the field or combine as part of a larger trio of players with the defender and Smith Rowe, giving the opponent a huge overhead to challenge. Finally, Alexandre Lacazette is far from a natural number 9 or a target man and will often try to win the ball back closer to midfield. This allows Arsenal to have a different number in the central areas to adjust or change the game. Suddenly the 4-2-3-1 seems like a dream formation for the Gunners.

final thoughts

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Just last month, some people saw Arsenal as a relegation contender and Mikel Arteta looked set to be sacked. But with a line-up change and some key additions to the squad, Mikel Arteta's Arsenal are suddenly back in the top ten after five unbeaten league games. Changing the system to a 4-2-3-1 and moving away from the 3-4-3 has helped Arsenal become more fluid and creative in attack. It also allows for greater defensive stability and more successful high pressing due to the extra man up front and consistent shapes that can be rotated and used in transition.

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So there you have it! A tactical analysis of how Arsenal improved from the 4-2-3-1 form with the addition of the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey. definitely see moreTactical Analysisand follow on Twitter@mastermindsite, so you don't miss any updates. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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