Arsenal Lose Season Opener to Newly Promoted Brentford - Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A disappointing start to what is a crucial season for Arsenal in their quest to get back into Europe. With Chelsea and City coming up, the pressure will continue to build on Arteta and his staff.
Late issues to Aubameyang and Lacazette meant that Arteta’s hand was pretty much forced in terms of the lineup. Issues with the defensive line were exposed in the pre-season friendlies against Spurs and Chelsea but Ben White would obviously need some time to settle into his role.
Brentford has generally played 3 at the back in the Championship and presses high up the pitch in large numbers. Arsenal struggled to counter this system both with and without the ball.
Arsenal’s press was very disjointed at times as large gaps between the front four and the midfield pivot allowed Brentford to play through midfield with ease. When Brentford decided to go long, the backline struggled aerially but more importantly, didn’t win the so-called ‘second ball’ regularly. Thomas Partey was a big miss in midfield as the Ghanian’s positional sense when the ball is lost allows the team to win the ball quickly and keep the opposition pinned in their half.
Brentford always looked to press high up the pitch with their wingbacks so Arsenal had to get smarter while playing out from the back in terms of picking the right pass to bypass the press but an inexperienced frontline of Balogun and Martinelli struggled to get into the game. When Pepe and Martinelli got into dangerous areas, they were always doubled upon by the wingback and the adjacent centre-back, minimising the threat of the overlapping full-back.
Arsenal’s 2-3-5/3-2-5 attacking setup always found Tierney as a free outlet on the left when the ball was moved from one side to the other, but the lack of chemistry with Martinelli was very evident. The Brazilian seemed to drift into the box rather than link up with the Scotsman, forcing Tierney to cross at every opportunity. The data shows that Tierney passed to Martinelli once and no passes came from the opposite direction. The linkup and movement seemed to be far smoother when Saka came on the pitch.
Sambi Lokonga looks incredibly assured on the ball wasn’t afraid to drive around to the flanks to open Brentford up, but there’s still work to be done defensively. Improving the positional sense without the ball would be the first step but overall a confident display.
The defensive partnership of White and Mari doesn’t seem to play to each other’s strengths, although it’s still early days. Mari being the cover defender while White pushes up exposes the Spaniard’s pace but it’s effective when the roles are reversed. Arsenal are trying to push up the defensive line with White’s introduction so it will take some time and some uncomfortable moments before things become solid.
Brentford hardly created anything other than the 2 high-quality opportunities from set-pieces but Arsenal’s worries are at the other end where a lack of quality chance creation hurt the team despite getting into some dangerous areas.