How Arsenal countered Leeds' high energy approach- Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
An energetic, controlled performance for an hour followed by Leeds doing Leeds things for the rest.
The Arsenal line-up may have raised a few eyebrows but the approach from the Gunners was clear from the start. A man-marked high press pinned Leeds in their half, forcing them to play high-risk passes from the back.
Leeds were missing Kalvin Philipps in the holding midfield role as part of their standard 4-1-4-1 formation. As they play out from the back, the two-man midfield ahead of Struijk push high up the pitch leaving a lot of open spaces. The duo of Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka man-marked these two while the combination of Martin Odegaard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang focussed on cutting out the passing lanes to and from the centre-backs and Struijk. This forced Meslier into making high-risk passes upfield as Arsenal pounced on these turnovers to open Leeds up.
Leeds were suffocated by Arsenal and could hardly get out of their half for the first 45 minutes. Arsenal wriggled out of tight situations with some smart interplay as the understanding between the teammates and the availability of passing options when under pressure is getting better by the week.
The constant movement of our attacking players has been one of the biggest improvements over the last few weeks and as I mentioned last week, it was important to get our striker on the same wavelength if we want to become a consistent goal threat. And in this regard, things were much more promising in this game with the potential to get even better.
Aubameyang tended to drift onto the left side, isolating Ayling and he started to look like the player we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons. One of the positive things for me was the link-up between Ceballos and Odegaard. The pair’s combination play seemed really promising and this could be something that blossoms as Partey recovers from his injury.
It was inevitable that Arsenal’s press would not be as intense in the second half, especially sitting on a 4-0 lead, resulting in Leeds getting a lot more time on the ball. And they started to cause Arsenal problems with runs in behind the full-backs. Arsenal were happy to play on the counter but they were perhaps too direct and playing too quickly when they should have tried to slow the game down. Some good opportunities were being created on the counter but the pace of the game was not in our hands and made things more frantic. This is the pace that Leeds like to play at and this played into their hands. Game management certainly got better after conceding the second goal and these are small things to improve as we move forward.
With more than a 7 day gap since the last game, it was great to see the intensity in our pressing and the execution of a great game plan and this certainly bodes well next season after a proper pre-season as the league gets back to the regular schedule.