Few Arsenal fans around the world expected their beloved club to be in ninth place with 9 games to go, especially after the joys of their 14th FA Cup triumph in August. So what went wrong? Individual errors and refereeing decisions are valid points, but Arsenal's biggest downfall is in the system. However, the key system that earns Arteta his first trophy has glaring flaws that rival teams take full advantage of. But since moving away from the 3-4-3 hybrid, improvements in performance and results have generated optimism. An analysis of Artetas 4-2-3-1 is discussed in this article.
A student of Johan Cruyff's generation, Pep Guardiola's football principles have revolutionized the modern game. Most of the best teams take advantage of these core ideas but implement their own tactical innovations to be unique. And if you analyze the style of play of this Arsenal team, it is very obvious that Arteta gained valuable knowledge during his time in the North West. Control, dominance, intensity and intelligence without possession; Aspects that Arteta demands and elements that make up his football style.
Currently, Arteta instructs his men to play primarily in 3-2-5 form when possession is deep in his own half. How this is used depends on the starting XI. A key player within the current system, Xhaka often returns to the left running back role, allowing Tierney to blitz forward and giving the Gunners lethal wide valve. But in this situation, Chambers falls back to the opposite flank to form the back three, with Partey and Xhaka slightly ahead in midfield.
As the scorers progress, the structure becomes 2-3-5. The idea is to have 5 players on each of the different channels to maximize the efficiency of the attack without looking vulnerable in transition.
To facilitate the development of the ball, Arteta bets that two creators go deep to receive the ball, providing an easy passing option for midfielders and defenders.When Smith Rowe or Willian operate on the left flank as inside forwards, they get the ball from deep, allowing Tierney to maintain width and play on the left flank. Odegaard plays a similar role, but works between right half space and center space.
Likewise, the principles are identical when the attacks come from the right side. Tierney will step back to help with the building process, the double-swinging right midfielder moving into the right-half back role, allowing Bellerin in this case (not pictured) to step up. The general pattern revolves around a defender overlapping or not, while their opposing teammate moves into midfield when possession is in the final third.
The influence of Thomas Partey stands out and how his inclusion in the starting eleven improves Arsenal both defensively and offensively. The profile of the Ghanaian is exactly what Arsenal has been missing for years; Sportsmanship, mobility and a relentless engine. Partey's sheer presence and his ability to slow down attacks give Arteta the ability to allow an additional player to join the attack, creating a 3-1-6 structure on possession. This form has been seen at Manchester United away from home and more recently against West Ham and tends to show up when the Gunners are chasing a goal.
Balance is key in Arteta's 4-2-3-1 formation and the Spaniard always favors a left-footed combination on every cross. Pepe is a great example to illustrate this point. The Ivorian has been in fine form since the turn of the year, showing impressive levels of productivity. Still, the 25-year-old has struggled to cement his place in the starting XI due to the incredibly consistent Bukayo Saka. Kieren Tierney is an integral part of the puzzle and as such will always play a role that will have a knock-on effect for Pepe when it comes to starting on the left. When he made that cross, it was because Cedric came in for the injured Tierney, allowing him to restore his left-right combination.
The difference between Lacazette and Aubameyang as a center forward
Previously, it seemed that Aubameyang would only be used as a striker with Arteta. But since the turn of the year, the Gabonese international has seen too many minutes up front as the focal point of Arsenal's attack. Both Lacazette and Aubameyang had impressive performances as forwards, but each one's role is different.
Starting with Aubameyang and throughout the build game, the plan is to put the Arsenal captain in a situation where he is isolated in a 1v1 with the opposing defender or defender. In the next two situations, Willian and Smith Rowe, the two attackers on the left, take the ball from behind and act as playmakers while Aubameyang deflects it wide. Smith Rowe plays a quick pass as Willian drives the ball forward. The slightly different gameplay passages in both games and more details are provided in the diagrams below, but the end result is the same; Aubameyang in a position where he can run to his shoulder from a wide stance.
Lacazette is now much more involved in the construction phases. The Frenchman's ability to keep players at bay and attract others is one of his best qualities and allows the two inside forwards to play shoulder to shoulder. In the Gunners' final game at the Olympic Stadium, Arsenal's number 9 was crucial in luring West Ham defenders into areas they did not want.
What Mikel Arteta demonstrates here is the ability to understand the strengths of the players, to apply small details that change the system, but to maintain his concept of football. Aubameyang struggles to play with his back to goal and likes to run into space, while Lacazette is instrumental in putting his teammates further up when he wins the ball back from deep.
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Previously, under Unai Emery, arguably the biggest concern revolved around transition vulnerabilities. The disjointed form and lack of cohesion between midfielders and backline allowed teams to create and often test Bernd Leno at will.
But with Arteta, the team's defensive structure and stability helped reduce the volume of chances. The key phrase is "defensive stability without being a defensive team." It's easy to neutralize attacking threats by defending deep and with no intention of playing football. But maintaining attacking principles and having a solid formation without possession is a difficult balance. that Arteta found.
Typically, the Gunners defend in a 4-4-2 center block. The central compactness of narrow midfielders and attackers, forcing the opponent to go to the flanks, is a major advantage of this system, and certainly this system laid the foundation for adequate defender protection.
Similarly, Arteta often instructs his men to press in a 4-4-2 when the opposition are in their own third, with the two central midfielders close to the attackers to ensure passes can come from the most advanced player who play on the back line. pressure, they are in a good position to apply pressure.
It is noteworthy that Arteta does not limit his team to one type of press. Depending on the opposition, the Arsenal manager will position his team accordingly to counter the opposing team's ability to build up game-winners early on. In the match against Leeds United at the Emirates, Arteta used the 3-4-1-2 formation to counter Leeds' ability to play on the line. Below is the male-oriented press. With no passing opportunities available for Meslier, the young French goalkeeper often had to go the distance. And when Leeds opted for shorter passes, the four midfielders behind the trio up front were aggressive, forcing numerous turnovers.
Operador principal: Emile Smith Rowe
Tierney, Saka, Partey; three names that come to mind when mentioning the main members of the first team. But the key player was none other than Emile Smith Rowe. Encouraging fluidity, Croydon De Bruyne showed exactly why having a bespoke option between the lines is key. Lacazette, William and Willock; Not all had the desired effect when tested as 10 this season. But Smith Rowe evolved. Get away from the ball, open passing lanes, productivity in the last third; The 20-year-old has all of these traits and the increase in top-three output can be attributed to the addition of the Hale End graduate to the XI.
Not only that, but his effective run as third man, a football quality Bielsa describes as "impossible to defend", wreaked havoc. His relationship with Hale End graduate Bukayo Saka turned out to be a deadly weapon and Arsenal's second goal against West Brom proves it.
In terms of game standards, the most striking is the "Kieren Tierney Cut Back". As previously mentioned, it is up to whoever assumes the role of center-left to act as a creator and make room for the Scotsman. Since the 23-year-old receives the ball in a favorable area, he can outplay his winger in most cases and shoot the ball at the highest level.
Likewise, overloading on the right side has become a common feature in the Gunners' game. As the diagram below shows, Odegaard draws both central midfielders, Saka's position draws Creswell towards him, opening space for Chambers to attack. The Norwegian's return pass is delivered perfectly and Dawson deflects Chambers' cross into his own net.
The threat from the right flank has increased significantly since Christmas. Previously, under the 3-4-3 hybrid, a lopsided 4-3-3 in possession on the left flank hampered power on the opposite flank. Whether it was Willian or Pepe, when receiving the ball, there were often at least 2 opposing players within range, making it difficult to constantly influence.
But with the 4-2-3-1, the inclusion of the 10 gave more balance and with the presence of Partey on the right side of the midfield, the right side has more chances of overlapping.
Creative opportunities are key to a fluid attacking game and Mikel Arteta lacks options for much of the season. But ultimately, the Arsenal manager has two talented stars at his disposal. Odegaard's arrival in January took the pressure off Emile Smith Rowe and the Norwegian quickly adapted. Going back to the 3-4-3 hybrid, the lack of options between the lines prevented regular service from the front three.
But since the 4-2-3-1 was used, creativity has increased and the overall performance is more pleasing to the eye. And if you look at the Premier League table since Christmas, the progress is clear.
Overall it's been a very disappointing season for Arsenal so far and with the Gunners currently sitting ninth in the table, it's certainly not a good read for Arteta. However, when the elements are broken down into their components, there are many aspects of Arsenal's game that fans should be rooting for. Game pattern, clear structure, defensive improvements; Areas Arteta has improved since he arrived. However, what must be taken into account is that the evolution of the club will be determined by the arrivals and it is essential that the Spaniard manages to incorporate more reinforcements that fit his profile.
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