Tactical Points: Arsenal 2-1 West Ham
By Vinai Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
An incredibly sloppy performance overall but one which didn’t come back to bite us at the Emirates. Here are some points I took away from a tactical perspective:
• Saka and Ceballos were brought into the side to provide some incisive passing and movement between the lines against a deep-lying West Ham side.
• West Ham’s gameplan was pretty clear- stay compact, pack the central areas and counter attack on turnovers. Their frontline is full of pace and the idea was to get runners around the physical Antonio. Arsenal were incredibly sloppy in midfield so their gameplan gave them a much bigger goal threat and the upper hand in the game. Arteta’s post match comments about Arsenal having one of their most fluent weeks in training but the first 15 mins showed the complete opposite.
• Both Willian and Saka essentially played as attacking 8s, as evidenced by their average positions in the first half. Attacking moments were fairly limited in the first half but the bright moments came when they were receiving it on the half turn in between their midfield and defence, turn and get the runners in behind. The first goal was because of this but these promising moments were never incisive enough.
• After the break, Arsenal started to use the ball in behind down the left to breach the Hammers’ defensive line. The pass was executed numerous times throughout, but both Saka and Aubameyang just didn’t have support arriving for the cutback/cross nearly every time. They were slow to put the ball in at times but there were just no numbers in the box to get on the end of it. The lack of shots from Arsenal in this game shows the lack of end product despite the promising positions.
• West Ham were so compact centrally that both Xhaka and Ceballos were forced to keep playing the ball over the top with the lack of short of passing options ahead.
• Another concerning point was the fullbacks/wing-backs not participating enough around the box. Both Kolasinacand Bellerin supported the midfield pivot and this setup didn’t test West Ham properly. To be fair, Cresswell and Masauku kept Bellerin quiet which forced Arsenal to focus everything down the left flank but Kolasinac was a by-stander through this phase of the game. His limited abilities in that role is well-known and Tierney’s energy in that was very much missed.
• With the four-man midfield, Ceballos was forced to push on with the ball and provide the spark but West Ham’s discipline caused a lot of turnovers and Arsenal were very vulnerable in transition but he did eventually get the assist for the winner.