Tactical Points as Arsenal breeze past Southampton
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A controlled and comprehensive victory, albeit after a terrible start which would have been punished by most teams, perhaps West Ham, who we face on Wednesday.
Persisting with the same lineup after the limp attacking display at Goodison Park was a surprise but with Emile Smith Rowe still getting back to full fitness, this was the best possible lineup on paper.
Southampton are generally a first-half team in terms of goal scoring, and they have dropped the highest number of points from winning positions, which is why they are in the bottom half of the table. Arsenal started off so poorly, with most of the turnovers unforced and in dangerous areas with the tactic of playing out from the back proving their own downfall. Southampton weren’t very aggressive in their press to start the game, but every turnover allowed them to be more aggressive.
The first goal is a perfect highlight of why playing out from the back is such a big part of football with the key message being, let your opponent press and keep finding the spare man to move it along. It was the first moment of quality from the home side in the match and being clinical at that moment allowed them to settle down. This may not necessarily be the case against better opposition.
Martin Ødegaard was one of the only players who looked very sharp from kickoff. While he wasn’t always successful with his through balls, the Norwegian was always looking to pounce on turnovers and thread the first-time pass in behind. In the form of Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal constantly had a forward looking to run in behind from these situations.
The directness in the attacking play was the biggest contrast from the last few games as Arsenal weren’t afraid to get Martinelli isolated against Livramento. The Southampton right-back has stepped up to the Premier League impressively, but he has struggled defensively over the last few games and Martinelli was direct in his approach against him.
While the clinical nature of our play is not sustainable, it must be pointed out that there were numerous 1v1 situations not resulting in a shot on goal and it’s this shift that needs to happen to complement our attacking threat over a full season.
While Xhaka’s left-footedness seemed like the reason for our dominant left-sided play last season, the balance has been far better this season, both with and without the Swiss midfielder. Ødegaard generally operates around the left half-space to link up with Saka, but the attacking midfielder opened his body up to keep things central and get Lacazette involved in the game much more than on Monday.