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Arsenal 4-0 Norwich: The Arteta press gains steady momentum

By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)

Another Arsenal win, and an emphatic one at last. Norwich may well be rock bottom and looking like a side very much resigned to the Championship, but there were some very encouraging elements to our offensive game, particularly in our first half display.

Mikel Arteta has time and again stressed his desire to play expansive, attacking football, wanting his team to (borrowing the iconic Unai Emery phrase) be ‘protagonists’ in matches. However, thus far in the Spaniard’s short tenure, we’ve not really seen this come to fruition.

The tactical structure he’s introduced into our game has seen us better control football matches, keeping the ball well and therefore limiting the opposition to very little, but it certainly hasn’t seen a return to the champagne, free flowing fluidity amongst our forward players that we saw in the peak years under Arsene Wenger. And whilst this performance wasn’t quite that, it was certainly an indication that we’re going in the right direction toward reuniting the club with its traditional identity.

Arteta set up in a 3-4-3 shape for the third consecutive game, and it was very clear from early on we were looking to press a Norwich side who are keen on playing short passes to progress the ball from deep areas. And it worked. Reiss Nelson and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led the press, which was followed by the unusual positional aggression from our midfield pivot in Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka. Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin covered the wide spaces, and this squeezing and compressing of the space forced Norwich into mistakes when trying to play out from the back. This was evident in our opening goal, pressing the Canaries into going back to Tim Krul, who, instead of putting his foot through it, decided to attempt to over-elaborate, and in the process gave Aubameyang a tap in.

This was a relentless theme in the entire opening 45 minutes, as Norwich failed to get the ball to their danger men frequently enough, due to our hard pressing style, that for once actually looked cohesive and functional. Whether or not Arteta was specialising his game plan for this particular opponent due to their possession based philosophy will be interesting to see, but we certainly possess the athletic capabilities to adopt a pressing style in long term, and given its regularity in the modern game, you’d expect it to become a feature of Arteta’s Arsenal. Nonetheless, the first period demonstrated just how effective it can be if implemented in the right way.

The second period was far less encouraging for the most part. We struggled to maintain the intensity of our first half performance, perhaps inevitable given the climate and fitness circumstances we’re in, and sat off Norwich in a passive manner until we were gifted a third. The subs brought us renewed energy, and we saw the game out comfortably.

On the whole, a very impressive result and encouraging performance for Mikel Arteta, packed with intriguing tactical developments that will please all the nerds out there (in depth tactical piece will be out tomorrow). Roll on Wolves, where we’ll inevitably fail to keep this winning streak moving.

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