Tactical Points from Arsenal's narrow victory over West Ham
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A crucial three points for Arsenal, despite a sub-par performance thanks to West Ham’s profligacy in front of goal and VAR.
West Ham operated in a wide 4-4-2 formation with Antonio playing just behind Haller (making runs off the Frenchman) and with Bowen and Fornals providing the width.
Michail Antonio has both the pace and the physical attributes to hurt teams (similarly to Adama Traore) and Arsenal struggled to deal with him all game. The first half was littered with sloppy passes in midfield and West Ham were focused on playing in transition through Antonio.
Sokratis, Luiz and Mari aren’t the quickest of defenders so every turnover in midfield left them exposed at the back but luckily, West Ham failed to capitalise with wastefulness in the final third.
Throughout the first half, Arsenal were very laboured in possession and by the time they reached the opponent’s box, West Ham had enough men behind the ball to defend.
West Ham’s midfield- Declan Rice and Mark Noble aren’t very mobile and the
easiest way to exploit that is through quick, incisive passing and smart movement. But Arsenal moved the ball from side to side very slowly so crosses into the box from the likes of Saka became the main mode of attack.
With Sokratis not getting forward too frequently, Ozil drifted into the inside right position to stretch the play but there was a lack of movement across the front line to stretch the
The lack of cohesion and inconsistency in attack is an issue Arteta is still trying to solve, especially with a crucial round of away fixtures coming up.
Compared to previous games, Arteta made the substitutions around the hour mark rather than wait too long and this certainly paid off. Lacazette’s movement and hold up play made a big difference in the second half, and he ultimately got the decisive goal.
Pepe saw a lot of the ball in the first half but he was guilty of dribbling too much and was rightly brought off for Nelson, who provided a bit more balance to the right-hand side, which had been dominated by two left-footers, making us far too one-dimensional.
Nketiah was left isolated up top with a lack of movement around him (and subsequently kept dropping too deep to look for the ball) and thus Arteta didn’t wait too long to bring Lacazette on in the second half.
One of the big positives of Arteta’s early days was solidifying the defence by reducing the gaps between the midfield and defence. But in the second half, the centre-backs were so focused on Antonio’s pace in behind that they dropped quite deep leaving a lot of space between midfield and defence and Arsenal struggled in transition.