Tactical points from Arsenal's promising 2-0 win over Leicester City
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
Overall, it was a solid performance away from home, but Arsenal's tendency to drop into a deep-low block after taking the lead remains a prevalent issue, and one that should be addressed immediately.
Leicester utilise a similar three-at-the-back formation to the system employed by Aston Villa, so the success of the 4-4-2 last week meant that the lineups required no surface tinkering from Mikel Arteta.
One of the main reasons why this particular formation works so effectively against a back three is that the two-striker high press blocks out the passing lanes into the centre of the midfield, thereby forcing the opposition to focus their buildup through the wide areas, where the wide forwards can apply the pressure on the wing-backs. This was the highlight of the first 20 minutes as the Foxes were forced into making mistakes and turning the ball over, a tendency that has carried over from last season, and one that Arteta's team has had a habit of exploiting.
Furthermore, Leicester was incredibly lethargic from the start. Lacazette was not tracked and could play in the pockets or hang out wide if needed, providing support wherever necessary. Arsenal should have really made the Foxes pay after the second goal, as Leicester were there for the taking. Instead, the front four started to drop off rather than keeping up the pressure for another 10-15 minutes. Not allowing Leicester to settle in at this point could have gone some way towards easing the pressure on themselves.
Despite all the hand-waving and gesturing from the manager on the touchline to push forward, the press started to get erratic and Leicester started looking dangerous. Partey and Lokonga were stuck between being aggressive or dropping off and this allowed Maddison and Iheanacho to drop into the half-spaces and get into the game, and gave Tielemans license to create from deeper areas.
A combination of the switch to a back four by Rodgers and Arsenal dropping deeper meant there was no change to the pattern of play for the start of the second half. Arsenal struggled with the overlapping runners in the 4-4-2 setup as the pressure from the wide areas kept on increasing. Tielemans was also given too much time to thread passes through the lines into dangerous areas. 4-4-2 seems like a solid bet against three-at-the-back systems, but crumbles defensively against Leicester's standard 4-5-1.
The switch from Lacazette to Odegaard brought in some more stability without the ball and Arsenal got a foothold into the game. Things were still being played out on the counter-attack but the Gunners held on to the ball for longer periods to see out the game comfortably.
Another small note was the lack of short goal kicks from Arsenal throughout the game. The back four and goalkeeper were unwilling to play through Vardy’s aggressive pressing from goal kicks and this wasn’t always helpful to relieve the pressure, as it led to too many turnovers.