Tactical Points from Arsenal's comfortable win over West Brom
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Our tactical analyst, Vinay, was unable to watch last night's game, so I'm filling in to dissect that marvellous victory over Sam Allardayce's diabolical side:
- Arsenal's 3.96 xG was the first time they've registered an xG of over 3 in the league since 1st January 2019- just over 2 years ago- in a 4-1 win over Fulham, and just the second time since Arsene Wenger departed the club. This was a truly excellent offensive performance.
- It was important Mikel Arteta retained the nucleus of the side that has thrived in recent weeks, albeit with a couple of necessary rotational changes. Dani Ceballos was brought in to provide some extra ball progression- something we lacked dearly in the first half at the Amex- and Alex Lacazette came in for Gabriel Martinelli to provide more of a physical focal point against West Brom's bullish defenders.
- The way Arsenal completely dominated territorially in the first half was indicative of not just an increase in confidence, but also a clear change in tactical approach. The press that was so cohesively implemented against Chelsea was again in full throttle, with Lacazette, Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang harassing West Brom's deeper players as soon as they lost the ball high up the pitch.
- This press made it impossible for West Brom to progress the ball at any point in the first 45, and only managed one attack in the transition, when Granit Xhaka produced a sloppy moment and left Rob Holding and Pablo Mari three on one.
- Our squeezing of the pitch in our press suppressed West Brom and allowed us to recycle the ball and relentlessly apply pressure to their backline.
- There was a clear emphasis on feeding Saka the ball as much as possible, and early on this was our main outlet, trying to isolate him one on one against O'Shea. This provided us with our early opportunities.
- As the half went on however, the left side became more threatening, namely through Kieran Tierney's instance on driving forward with the ball at every possible occasion, resulting in our opener.
- Smith-Rowe was clearly instructed to get in between the lines, link play and conduct simple, but intricate one twos to break down West Brom, which came to fruition properly for the first time with the brilliant second.
- Lacazette' physical limitations have been on show in the last year or so, but when you get runners in and around him, he can still thrive at this level. His hold up and combination play can be superb, and with substantial off the ball movement in and around him, chances will be created, with Smith-Rowe the most effective runner in this aspect.
- One thing that has gone rather under the radar that is a huge part of our ability to build play in deep wide areas is Hector Bellerin's ability to drive in field from tight spaces and take several opposition players out the game in doing so. He does this consistently throughout every game, and often results in more space being created higher up the pitch. This was evident early in the build up to our second goal.
- On the negative side to Bellerin, there was a clear emphasis from West Brom in the second half to target his side with long aerial balls. Although they weren't exactly seriously threatening, they were beginning to get closer to goal by launching balls down that side and trying to get either Diangana or Robinson one on one with the Spaniard, who was on a yellow card. Arteta saw this, and brought on the fresh and better aerially Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who completely negated this slight threat.
- After this change, Arsenal resumed full control. As West Brom tired and opened up a bit, more chances on the counter presented themselves. We scored another two, and perhaps with a better final ball or finish, could have had a few more.
- Nevertheless, 4-0 is a luxury scoreline for us, and a resounding, comprehensive win has been almost non-existent this season, so it was beautiful to see. We move.