Tactical Points from Arsenal's sterile draw to Burnley
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A drab goalless draw to cap off a disappointing month with the upcoming break providing a chance to freshen up and focus on the league.
With personnel very much limited, changing the set-up from Thursday’s cup loss was not viable, so continuing with the hybrid 4-3-3 formation that was effective in some moments against Liverpool made sense.
Odegaard in the mixed role does play to his strengths in terms of dictating play but also takes away his effectiveness in feeding the runners in behind, which played a big role in the team’s success in December. But the Norwegian does not shy away from doing his role defensively and seems to anticipate and intercept play really well.
As always, Burnley set up in their standard 4-4-2 formation with narrow wingers to stay compact, and the two effective ways to disrupt this setup- quick switches of play combined with quick passing and movement. Arsenal certainly tried to switch the play to isolate Martinelli and Saka against their full-backs but the speed and surprise of the pass are just as key as the idea itself and this allowed Burnley to cope rather easily.
Moving from the double pivot to a single holding midfielder does have a big impact on our build-up play and as both the games have shown, everything remains stagnant with centre-backs hogging most of the ball. Lessons can be learnt from the way Liverpool dealt with Fabinho being marked on Thursday and how they coped to keep playing their style.
Smith-Rowe hasn’t trained for a couple of weeks so it would be harsh to criticise the youngster for his performances but saying that, there were too many occasions where he was a bystander and wasn’t doing enough to receive the ball in the half-spaces.
Martinelli and Tierney on the left weren’t always linking so off-the-ball runs were important to break up the double/triple teams on Martinelli and this was sorely lacking. Both Tierney and Smith-Rowe stayed deeper when Martinelli tried to be direct and that forced the Brazilian into dead-ends. On the few occasions when Smith-Rowe switched out wide, he was able to have the beating of Tarkowski and create some opportunities like the Lacazette miss, for example. The front five in a 4-3-3 need to be very fluid for it to be effective and the understanding has to build for it to be used in the future.
Every time Burnley are pushed deeper, they love to pack the box and support the keeper on the line so being direct and quick from transitions is the best way out to beat this trap. Covid-induced fatigue has left teams across the league struggling in terms of ideas and this young Arsenal team could do with a break to recharge and get things back on track.
The small positive is that we have only played two league games this month and a poor month hasn’t impacted the league standing too much.