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Tactical Points from Arsenal’s resounding win at Craven Cottage

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

A comprehensive victory to start the season after a somewhat nervy start:

Formation wise, it was the same set-up as the cup final and community shield with the ball, with Tierney hugging the left touchline while AMN slotted infield to give the extra man in midfield.

As Arsenal attempted to pin Fulham back early on with the high press, Xhaka and Elneny’s eagerness to win the ball saw them stranded high up the pitch with Fulham’s frontline being given too much space. Arteta’s shouts of “Deeper”, “Come back” and “Push back” were very clear to hear and after the initial period, the team balance became much better.

Arsenal’s left-sided trio of Aubameyang, Maitland-Niles and Tierney appears to have become one of our strengths and even though the linkup wasn’t as good in this game, a certain synchronicity of movements appears to be building in terms of who comes to the ball and who breaks the offside trap and so on.

Fulham aren’t really a compact side defensively so there were always spaces available for teams to exploit, but against more compact teams, there’s still a lot of room for improvement for Maitland-Niles in that role. The ability to use his positioning to overload the flank or off-the-ball movement to open up spaces and close control in tight areas are some of the key areas which can make the team even better.

Arsenal always made sure they got large numbers around the goalkeeper while building out from the back and provided Leno with multiple passing options to the defenders. Willian dropped in deeper at times, when required he would support Elneny and block out the passing lanes.

Willian’s experienced in playing so many different formations and positions in his 7 years at Chelsea and this allowed him to settle in the right-wing role with great ease. His knowledge of when and where to press high up the pitch, drifting in to link up with Lacazette or Bellerin out wide was impressive.

Fulham hardly tested Arsenal defensively, even though the possession battle was fairly even. This should be the next stage of taking control of games even more, especially away from home. The efficiency when we had the ball was really good to see in this game but ultimately controlling possession prevents excessive workload, and keep things tidy.

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