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Tactical Points from Arsenal's deserved win over Watford

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

Another incredibly solid defensive performance combined with a frustrating attacking performance in a win where concentration was key against a physical side.

  • The knock to Partey was the biggest worrying sign at kick-off as the midfield of Lokonga and Maitland-Niles has looked lightweight before and against two experienced and physical midfielders like Sissoko and Kucka, it was going to be a big test.

  • The lack of a press from Watford meant Arsenal dominated possession and had to break the Hornets down. This was going to be a different challenge to the recent games where Arsenal’s high-press and creation of turnovers high up the pitch allowed the team to blow the opposition away.

  • Saka’s offside goal early in the game showed that Watford were pretty lax in tracking runners and Arsenal could have made them pay by just upping the tempo while moving the ball around.

  • Once Watford settled in, the lack of passing options into the central areas limited Arsenal’s progression despite the domination of the ball. The combination of Partey’s absence and the wide 4-4-2 formation made this a very noticeable problem in the buildup. White and Gabriel saw a lot of the ball but the Brazilian did not step out with the ball despite the acres of space offered to him. Another way to perhaps look at it is that they were very patient with the ball and took their time to break the opposition down.

  • Both Lokonga and Maitland-Niles are very athletic so either of them can back up the left-back while Tavares stepped forward to guard against the counter-attack. Unlike last season, this doesn’t appear to be our main mode of attack as our structure appears to be evolving with this group of players.

  • On an off-day like this for Aubameyang, Lacazette’s inability to play at a high level for more than an hour prevents the coach from bringing the captain off and changing things up. Martinelli and Nketiah are definitely decent options but you need experience upfront while closing out narrow leads.

  • Tomiyasu was the third midfielder for most of the game while Saka was left isolated against Rose in the build-up, but there were moments where the Japanese international could have stepped up to break the double-team on Saka. His qualities seem to really suit the inverted right-back role and he has settled in very well but against very deep-compact sides, he might need to be more adventurous to change things up in an attack.

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