Tactical points from Arsenal’s emphatic victory over Newcastle
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A convincing result that the fans have been craving for to justify the progress the team is making under Mikel Arteta. A high-intensity second half topped off with much-needed confidence boosters for the likes of Lacazette, Pepe and Ozil.
Newcastle are one of those low-block team who prefer to defend deep and counter with the likes of Saint-Maximin and Almiron. Teams who defend deep always crowd out the wide areas so breaking such teams down requires a combination of off-the-ball movement and quick one-touch passing, which is why Ceballos was preferred over Torreira in the midfield.
Nketiah is a very different striker to Lacazette in that he is more mobile, running the channels and in behind the defence, so it perhaps left the team without a focal point in attack. He might not have had his shooting boots on in this game, but he certainly worked hard by initiating the high press, tracking back to pinch the ball in midfield and covering for Pepe at times.
Any hope of an immediate bounce-back effect after the Dubai trip was certainly not visible in the first half. The passing was generally sluggish and overall play was lacking any sort of dynamism to break such a strong defensive unit.
Despite controlling much of the possession, aside from half-chances for Aubameyang and Nketiah, and a Pepe free-kick, Arsenal didn’t create any high quality chances.
For the first 15-odd minutes, Arsenal gave away possession cheaply and struggled to deal with the likes of Almiron and particularly Sant-Maximin, with Xhaka picking up a yellow for his troubles. Hereafter, Arsenal tightened up at the back and dealt with most of what was thrown at them.
In the first half, Pepe and Bellerin were guilty of hugging the touchline too much and never made any sort of movements inside to open up the game. But all that changed after a firm talk at half-time.
The second half was a completely different story. The energy levels were higher, with dynamic passing and movement with Ceballos at the centre of it all. He won the ball back numerous times in midfield and his passing range was on full display. He nearly got an assist for an amazing through ball to Aubameyang. With the next run of home games coming against similar opposition, it wouldn't be surprising if Arteta persists with the Spaniard, who possess the attributes to break down stubborn defensive units.
Mesut Ozil started to influence the game a lot more and kept drifting into the spaces between the lines to turn and progress the ball.
The noose started to tighten as Arsenal controlled the game completely and should have gone ahead when Nketiah missed a sitter, hitting the bar from a few yards out when it seemed easier to score. The goal finally came out when Pepe produced a great cross to the far post for Aubameyang to head home impressively.
Arsenal kept up the pressure rather than sitting back and the floodgates opened with a second goal arriving just a couple of minutes later, courtesy of some great skill by Bukayo Saka.
Lacazette came on and broke his goal drought after Ozil got a somewhat fortuitous goal after a great passing move. This will certainly be great for both their confidence’s with some important games coming up, and the relief was very much visible on everyone’s faces when both scored.
Bukayo Saka had a great second half and his quality at just 18 is incredible to watch. His ability to dribble and drift past players with such ease is so pleasing on the eye and he also has the strength to shield the ball. He’s already registered 8 assists for the season and surely it’s just a matter of time before a new contract is signed. It will be interesting to see if Arteta persists with Saka for the game in Greece or if the fit-again Kolasinac comes into the side.