How Arsenal Climbed the Mountain they created for themselves- Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
Comebacks are a great showcase of a team’s character away from home but constantly fighting back into games after sloppy mistakes is a sign of a team that’s taking “one step forward, one step back” rather than a consistent one:
An aggressive press from the front has been one of the key elements in minimising the impact of our opponents this season but for the first 30 minutes, it was non-existent. Odegaard typically presses from the front with one of Partey/Xhaka closely following to cut out the passing options and recover the ball high up the pitch but at the London Stadium, the midfield duo were far too slow in closing down and West Ham took full advantage.
Everything was reactive rather than proactive. Declan Rice had far too much time to play the passes between the lines while the communication was lacking with regards to tracking Soucek’s movement without the ball. Chambers and Tierney weren’t closing down the likes of Bowen, Lingard and Benrahma quickly enough and things went downhill rapidly.
With the ball, things were just as bad. In the face of a strong press from the Hammers, Arsenal struggled with ball progression immensely. Xhaka and Partey were man-marked, leaving minimal passing options to move the ball forward. Chambers not really pushing forward left Aubameyang isolated on the right with build-up play far too passive combined with Odegaard forced to drop much deeper to influence proceedings.
West Ham started to sit off after scoring the third goal and with more time on the ball, the execution of the game plan improved markedly. Odegaard started to play off Lacazette while Xhaka and Partey became more forceful playing through West Ham’s midfield, breaking the lines with incisive passes.
Rather than create wide overloads to open up the spaces, the build-up play was focussed on overloading the central areas around Rice and subsequently creating the overloads around the edge of the box. Another subtle change in the second half was Aubameyang playing more centrally to offer up another passing option between the lines.
Another aspect that needs to be improved to become a better all-around team is set-pieces. Tremendous improvements have been made with regards to defending set-pieces this season but at the other end of the pitch, it’s been underwhelming to say the least, and this game was no different.