Tactical Points from Arsenal's controlled victory over Brentford
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A very controlled performance aside from the last few minutes as the visitors struggled to have any impact on the game.
Despite all the clamour around Pepe’s resurgence, Smith-Rowe had to be the one to come in for the suspended Martinelli, as the Englishman needed the minutes under his belt after the injury troubles. Additionally, the need for technical quality in tight spaces was going to be crucial to breaking Brentford down.
Brentford came into the league as an attack-oriented, high-pressing side and has proved themselves to play at the level necessary to remain in the league but in the absence of their focal-point Toney, they were unable to progress through the press, let alone being direct with their passing.
Arsenal suffocated Brentford and kept the visitors boxed for most of the first half but it seemed the visitors had no plan with the ball was the bigger factor rather than Arsenal being very aggressive and physical to win the ball back.
Brentford were content to sit back in the first half and Arsenal were able to progress the ball very efficiently into the final third but a lack of spark in the final third led to a lack of high-quality chances. With the schedule being the way it is, it has been a mini-preseason of sorts for the gunners and while they might be physically refreshed, the spark in the little moments should come with match practice.
For the second game in a row, the full-back duo of Cedric and Tierney saw a lot more of the ball than the centre-backs as a result of the 3-5-2 shape of the opposition. Overlapping runs were frequent but the lack of quality and innovation in the delivery from Tierney especially seemed to play into Brentford’s hands.
Brentford pressed much higher in the second half and caused a few turnovers in dangerous areas but conversely, the spaces to counter were much more for the likes of Saka and Smith-Rowe to be more direct with their dribbling.
I have written about Xhaka’s evolving role in the last few tactical points and it’s interesting to see how much of an effort is being made to make more runs off the ball down the left as well as creating the triangle on the left flank to match up with the one on the right. While things aren’t fluid and things haven’t clicked yet, it seems like a midfielder to match this profile will be targeted this summer.