Tactical Points from Arsenal’s defeat to Chelsea
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
· Very high press in the first few minutes pinning Chelsea back in their own half. Arsenal exploited the gaps between defence and midfield in Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 system, by blocking the passing lanes and winning back possession high up the field.
· Ozil was heavily involved in the early stages and the Chelsea side couldn’t deal with his movement and the positions he picked up. Arteta seems to have got through to Ozil and his creativity and work rate is reflective of that. Clear-cut chances and goals aren’t flowing through right now but the early signs are promising and over time, it should all come together.
· A lot of Arsenal’s attacks came down Chelsea’s left with the interplay of Nelson, Maitland-Niles and Ozil proving to be very effective, with Nelson constantly attacking Tomori. One of the positive signs of the early days of Mikel Arteta is the way the players are wriggling out of tight spaces with quick one-twos to counter-attack.
· Chelsea had 13 fouls in the first half, the most by any team in a half of the Premier League this season. Most of them were cynical fouls and stopped a lot of Arsenal attacks and this showed how much Chelsea struggled with Arsenal’s movement.
· Chelsea’s tactical change may have changed the balance of the game but Arsenal’s rhythm was disrupted primarily by Chambers’ injury-forced substitution. The stats will reflect on his assist for Aubameyang’s goal, but his role defensively in the early stages was crucial. Chambers’ aerial threat from corners has created a few chances in the last few games, particularly a similar chance to the goal created in the Everton game but Aubameyang failed to finish it. Arsenal had a high line in the early stages and this effectively boxed Chelsea in and confined them in their own half.
· Once Mustafi came on, the defence started to slowly drop deeper and this coincided with Chelsea’s first sustained spell of possession.
· Tactically, Arsenal never really dealt with the influence of Jorginho and Ozil’s influence noticeably dropped in the second half. The defending was resolute with Chelsea dominating possession but not creating clear-cut chances. Arsenal couldn’t string too many passes together and were penned in their half. There was no ‘out-ball’, so clearances couldn’t relieve pressure beyond a few seconds.
· Jorginho’s cynical foul deserved a second yellow card considering the nature of the other yellow-card offences and this shocking decision hurt Arsenal even more when he scored the equaliser.
· Energy levels significantly dropped as the players tired, with Saka and Nelson in particular cramping up and struggling to track back. Arsenal were getting overrun in midfield but the injury situation has left Arsenal with no experience in midfield to help out.
· The winning goal came from the type of defending that has cost Arsenal so many goals this season. Mustafi should have taken a yellow card for the team to stop a threatening counter attack before it developed. Instead they backed off and allowed Abraham to run 60 yards unchallenged, which resulted in the goal.
· In the midst of all this, Willock had a big chance on the counter attack to get the second goal and calm the nerves but his shot went narrowly wide and everything went downhill from there.
Overall, so many good elements in Arsenal’s performances to be optimistic about, especially with Arteta having taken charge of just two training sessions with main eleven.