Tactical Points from Arsenal's Pivotal victory over Leeds
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A high-temp one-sided first half followed up by a nervy second, it just wouldn't be an Arsenal game otherwise, would it?
- Leeds has moved away from the 'in your face' top-heavy style under Bielsa to a more balanced counter-attacking style under Marsch. Their main threats continue to come from the wide areas through the likes of Harrison and Raphinha. Raphinha in particular is a more dangerous player because he consistently generates end-product.
- Playing Tomiyasu down the left was a no-brainer since the Japanese international has all the right attributes- solid in 1v1 situations, rapid change of pace, and two-footed. Tavares has been shaky defensively and Leeds would have looked to exploit that with Raphinha if he had been in the starting line-up.
- Despite not allowing a single shot on goal, the possession stats were similar until the red card. Arsenal suffocated Leeds with the high press and looked to be as direct as possible after recovering possession. Saka and Martinelli were released in 1v1 situations regularly and the Leeds defenders are never reliable in these moments.
- To press home the man advantage in the second half, Tomiyasu was pushed into a deeper midfield role on the left while Xhaka pushed forward as the furthest attacker or helped to create the overload on the left side. Off-the-ball movement is always crucial to disrupting low blocks.
- All the tension in the ground and from everyone watching was mainly because Arsenal weren't pushing for the third goal with the same intensity and thus creating high-quality chances. Additionally, Leeds scored from their first attack of the game which made things messy.
- 2 players need to be highlighted for the improvements they have shown in their respective roles in the last few games:
- The first one is Mohammed Elneny. The Egypt international has always been a steady, keep it simple midfielder when he’s played with minimal risk in his passing. These last few games have seen him be much more active with and without the ball and thereby, minimising Partey’s absence. He’s always moving around to offer himself up as a passing outlet both in the wide areas and centrally to keep things ticking as well as play the right passes through the lines into dangerous areas to find Odegaard. He has also positioned himself very well to intercept and win the ball back quickly to keep up the pressure. These qualities make a big difference against low and medium blocks.
- The other is Eddie Nketiah. I have long highlighted the academy graduate’s lack of physical prowess and holding the ball up against strong defenders. Finishing and pressing have always been visible but it’s this aspect that held him back for the last couple of seasons. But in these last few games, the striker has grown into the role and has shown that he can play the holdup role while also providing dynamism to the role completely missing with Lacazette. He has been willing to drop deep to provide a passing option as well as link up with his teammates and embrace the physical aspect of his role (including winning duels and fouls). He has continued to run the channels to provide a counter-attacking threat as well as improve his off-the-ball movement to open up spaces for his fellow attackers.