Tactical Points and Player Ratings from Arsenal's chaotic win over United
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
Another crazy chaotic game to back up the one at the Bridge as Arsenal finally got some lady luck on their side for 3 crucial points on a day when Tottenham ended up dropping points as well.
After Wednesday night, there was no reason to change things up except for the short turnaround which would impact recovery times and shrugging off any knocks. Continuity is key for those who haven’t played consistent minutes to build up some chemistry with the regular starters.
The different modes of buildup with the ball that we have gotten used to this season are starting to feature much more after those three losses as this Arsenal team is back to looking like a team that has a plan with the ball.
This United is relatively average without the ball and the spaces are always there to exploit with the right pass. When the buildup was quicker and the likes of Odegaard and Saka received the ball quickly, the decision-making was on point and the United defence was carved open. When the buildup was slow and forced to be directed backwards, things got tense and this encouraged the likes of Ronaldo and Fernandes to be aggressive and force turnovers. Giving a team low on confidence such a boost rarely works out positively. The early goal might have settled the nerves but it made the pace of the game much quicker and a clear lack of control. United are a team of individuals rather than a team and they tend to thrive in these types of situations to invariably sucker-punch the opposition.
The fullback duo of Cedric and Tavares just doesn’t work in tandem and this is impacting the high defensive line and the spaces that are afforded in transition. For all the attacking fluency in these two games, defensive vulnerabilities and mistakes have racked up as well. Both players are not the most technically adept while playing out from the back (especially Nuno) and this results in too many turnovers. Playing a 3-4-3/3-2-5 in possession with Cedric as an inverted right-back leaves the team far too vulnerable and Tomiyasu’s return should be a welcome sight. The Japanese international has the strength, aerial, and speed in 1v1 situations as well as the technical ability in tight spaces, and pushing Tavares to hold the width on the other side gives a much better balance. Against a team like West Ham, mistakes would be punished and it's crucial to find the balance.
Another important takeaway from the game was Nketiah’s involvement in the buildup play to add to his movement. The academy graduate looked very comfortable in dropping deeper into the Number 10 zone to hold the ball up and provide another passing option. This part has always been lacking from his game and it appears as if the work on the training ground in this regard is starting to pay off.
Player Ratings from Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Deputy Editor)
Ramsdale 7- Very indecisive on the Ronaldo goal, but made up for it with two great saves, one from Telles in the first half and the second even better, touching a shot onto the post. Distribution very good generally.
Cedric 5- Had a nightmare first half in possession and up against the threatening Sancho. Improved slightly in the second period but he is frightening to watch at times.
White 7- Pretty steady but distribution was quite disappointing.
Gabriel 7- Appeared to be a bit of a miscommunication with Ramsdale on their goal, but a centre-back who dominates his area should be more assertive in that position. Rest of his performance very good.
Tavares 6- Hilariously fun performance from start to finish. Yes he gave us several heart attacks with his loose passing, tendency to run into trouble in dangerous areas, inability to track runners in behind and giving away the penalty clumsily, but he also managed more shots as well as touches in the opposition box than any Arsenal player other than Saka on the day. Also opened the scoring lol.
Elneny 7- Screened the back four well and provided composure, assurance and technical security in his conservative passing. Similar performance to Chelsea.
Xhaka 8- Brilliant display from the man with the invisible armband. Screened the back four with Elneny exceptionally, while he passed at an incredible 94%. Topped off his performance with a sensational goal that completely killed the game at a time where we were on the ropes.
Odegaard 8- With Xhaka and Elneny focused on protecting the back four and keeping it simple on the ball, the Norwegian took it on himself to be our sole source of ball progression, and was very effective in doing so. Pressed well and had some beautiful touches to create openings.
Saka 7- Not quite as electric as the Chelsea game, but even not at his best he's still dangerous. Combined well with Odegaard on occasions, was involved in the first goal and dispatched the penalty expertly.
Smith Rowe 6- Looked a little jaded after playing on Wednesday, but perhaps expected given his fitness issues. Had a few nice moments in and around the box in combination with Odegaard but didn't exert too much influence.
Nketiah 7- A great pressing performance full of hard work and some decent hold-up play by his standards, even if helped by the chaotic nature of the game that afforded him space. Unfortunate not to score with a chance and also narrowly ruled offside on another.
Martinelli 6- Wasn't involved offensively all that much, understandable given the context in which he came on, but helped Nuno defensively at a time where he really needed it.
Holding 7- Holding 5-3-2.
Tomiyasu n/a- Super Tomi is back.