Tactical Points from Arsenal's dismal defeat to Brighton
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
Another disjointed performance, this time at home as the team needs to rediscover its identity very quickly for a strong finish to the season:
The big tactical questions leading up the game continue to be questions that haven’t been resolved. Do we keep the 4-3-3 or go back to the double pivot to support Lokonga or figure out the back three in possession to keep the same shape? Injuries are obviously hurting us but we are also on the receiving end of opponents taking full advantage.
For the first half, the 4-3-3 with two attacking 8s was clearly not working in possession but added to that, the downside to playing in this attacking shape was midfield control. Things not working with or without the ball was essentially a double blow to a side trying to regain some confidence. Playing 2 attacking 8s means if there is ever a turnover, both of them aren’t the best at tracking their runners and the first goal was a direct result of that.
The 4-3-3 shape was working well before the international break because of the triangles being created on each side as well as the freedom Odegaard had in terms of drifting around to the left to decongest the central areas. From the Palace game and this one, none of these elements are visible. All the so-called 'traits' of the way Arteta wants the team to play with the ball, have not been there at all. Both Martinelli and Saka haven’t received the ball in 1v1 situations to pose a threat.
Without the ball, the high press is neither suffocating nor containing the opposition back and creating the pressure. Doing it after going 2-0 down is not the way to go about executing a game plan. Xhaka at left-back was making this midfield lightweight and easy to play through in the first half but putting it down to injuries to Partey and Tierney isn’t the main problem. The lack of fluency and playing the way we have this season has been absent these last 2 games and the players coming in makes it much harder for them to settle into the setup.
The lack of ball progression and off-the-ball movement is just not there, making it a backward and sideways game with the ball. Odegaard playing deeper left him tightly marked but the lack of chemistry between Smith Rowe and Martinelli prevented anything down the left. The second-half switch to a back 3 and moving Xhaka into midfield allowed more freedom and control in the central areas but the wing-backs weren’t utilised well enough to open the spaces in the wide areas.
Lacazette is not offering enough of an outlet to build through but nothing seems to be happening around him either and everything becomes very scrappy.
Two key factors that are making things worse- Both Palace and Brighton have been absolutely clinical with any situation created and the other factor is that we are creating good-quality chances while chasing the game through different routes but there’s just no one stepping up to salvage a bad performance.
A clear lack of identity is hurting the season at the worst possible juncture and Arteta’s post-match thoughts said the same thing.