A Tactical Breakdown of Arteta’s opening game at Bournemouth
By Vinay Shankar
A frustrating result in the end but a lot of positives for Mikel Arteta to take forward, while also noting the room for improvement. Except for Reiss Nelson retaining his place in the lineup, it was an expected starting eleven with Mesut Ozil and Alex Lacazette coming back in, and Sokratis stepping in for the suspended Calum Chambers.
Arsenal started very brightly with Ozil, in particular, seeing a lot of the ball in promising positions with the end product lacking. Lacazette had a couple of chances to put the team ahead but his shots lacked confidence and failed to hit the target/trouble the goalkeeper. There was a marked difference without the ball with the team being very aggressive in winning it back and Torreira looked very sharp in his favoured role, snapping away and winning 50-50s. There were numerous instances in the first half where Arsenal broke the press comfortably, creating an overload in the wide areas but Saka’s and Nelson’s final ball into the six-yard box left a lot to be desired.
Aside from a couple of shots, Bournemouth hardly created anything of note and took the lead against the run of play. Arsenal gave the ball away while trying to play out down the left and Stacey had a free run down the flank to pick out Gosling for the finish. Questions can be asked as to why Saka didn’t track the full-back’s run after losing the ball, but that might be too harsh to blame on the youngster. Things went fairly flat after the goal until half-time.
The equaliser came from a brilliant ball from Xhaka and Aubameyang pounced on Nelson’s deflected shot to score. Another similar ball from Luiz released Lacazette through on goal, but a last-ditch challenge prevented a second goal. Thereafter, Arsenal had a few chances on the counter-attack from turnovers, but poor decision making at crucial times, from Lacazette in particular, let the team down. A frantic finish, with both sides coming close in the end, with Torreira’s block proving crucial.
Arsenal had seventeen shots on goal, which is a rare stat in an away game in recent years. But shot conversion was ultimately poor, with only two shots on target and the goalkeeper hardly tested. The final ball was lacking but the team worked hard and put in a shift, something we haven’t seen from them in a while.
Arteta was very vocal from the touchline and was always clapping and encouraging the team on. There was a lack of cohesiveness at times from the front and Arteta kept pushing them to be aggressive and win the ball back. On occasions in the second half, he kept pushing the team to create an overload down the left-hand side with Sak,a but the crosses into the box weren’t good enough. Maitland-Niles kept coming into the midfield to provide extra cover, reminiscent of Kyle Walker’s role at Manchester City. The midfield combination of Xhaka and Torreira were solid throughout the game, with Xhaka being urged on by Arteta to be positive in his passing.
Despite not attaining all three points, there are so many positives from Arteta’s first game in charge, with a lot more chances being created and with Ozil playing an instrumental role. Sokratis’ injury is definitely a worry, adding to this long injury list, not helpful during such a hectic schedule. A lot of fans questioned why Pepe isn’t starting games but Nelson offers a more consistent option and does his defensive work diligently, which is certainly an issue with Pepe. With big games coming up, confidence in front of goal is going to be key and one hopes Lacazette gets his shooting boots back to take the team forward.