How Arsenal struggled to recover from early mistakes at Villa Park- Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
An incredibly frustrating loss as Villa seem to be becoming a ‘bogey’ side to Mikel Arteta:
Going by the first half at Wolves, the chemistry amongst midfield and attacking personnel seems to be getting better game by game so it was good to see Arteta persist with the same lineup.
We may not have started well but after going down, the intensity wasn’t as good as it should have been. The ball was spending more time in the air than on the ground as Arsenal couldn’t control the tempo. Our midfield control over the last few games has given them a great platform to sustain possession but they couldn’t affect the game as much and tactical fouling by Villa didn’t help the cause either.
Both teams playing relatively high lines kept things very congested in the middle for Arsenal to play through with quick interplay. Lacazette dropping much deeper than usual, which left Arsenal with no striker in the box for cutbacks/crosses from wide positions.
The threat from the flanks wasn't good in the first half as Arsenal couldn’t consistently create the wide overloads to break Villa down.
Tactically, Arsenal switched things up a bit in the second half. Arsenal focussed on maintaining the width on the left and right with Bellerin tucking in as a third midfielder on the right. With Grealish not tracking back as much, Bellerin got a lot of space in transition but couldn’t make it count. The Spaniard always had Pepe and Saka in space in these moments but was always picking out the safer pass rather than use the first-time diagonal to catch Villa out.
Arsenal needed to be more direct in their play to catch Villa out as the home side seemed content in defending with numbers having got the goal. Bringing on Aubameyang for Lacazette was the right move in this regard but Arsenal weren’t getting their captain into the game to provide a goal threat. We needed to use his movement to open Villa up but the striker was a passenger for most of his time on the field.
Another area we need to improve upon is being a threat from set-pieces. Under Andreas Georgson, we’ve become much better at defending them and become a little more creative in set-piece routines but we aren’t posing a proper threat. Improving in this regard will not only add another dimension to our attack but also the next step in becoming a versatile offensive unit.
Arsenal created quite a few low-quality chances (less than or equal to 0.12 xG) and not getting our strikers more involved around the box typically results in this kind of a performance.