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Tactical Points from Arsenal's wonderful victory at the Bridge

Updated: Apr 22

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

A crazy, frenetic game in all departments but a crucial win in a London derby that could end up being a big confidence booster for the final few matches:

  • Something had to change after three losses on the trot. Despite tactical and personnel changes, nothing seemed to be working out on the pitch in all departments as the team needed to rediscover its playing style. Chances weren't being taken and clinical finishing by the opposition from defensive errors further compounded Arsenal's misery at a very crucial juncture of the season. A game at the Bridge is perhaps not the ideal game on the back of this run of form but alternatively, having struggled to break deep blocks down, this was the perfect game to be the underdogs and regain some confidence.

  • For the initial 20 minutes, Arsenal set up in a 3-4-2-1 formation with Saka as a wing-back to soak up the early pressure. It was essentially a man-to-man high press to unsettle the home side and forced a lot of turnovers. Over the last few games, Chelsea has looked very vulnerable defensively from turnovers whole playing out from the back. Sloppy passing from such moments prevented this tactic from neutralizing Chelsea's build-up play over sustained periods.

  • As the confidence started to grow, the formation moved to the regular to 4-2-3-1 and counter-attacks saw larger numbers being committed in and around the box. Off the ball, this change meant it was no longer a man-to-man press, and dealing with Werner's off-the-ball movement left a lot of spaces in the central areas. Chelsea never really pushed either of their midfield pivot to capitalise on this.

  • The other big threat defensively coming into the game was going to be Reece James's ability vs Tavares defensively but Tuchel playing Azpilicueta as the wing-back helped Arsenal greatly despite the defending for the second goal.

  • The linkup between Saka and Odegaard on the right allowed the winger to isolate himself against Alonso and be a consistent threat. This feature of the build-up play has been missing recently in the poor run of form and it was a much-needed fix to the attacking woes. Chelsea players were slow to react defensively throughout the game and Smith-Rowe’s runs into the box were rarely being tracked and this opened up the passing options around the box.

  • With big games coming up, the pivot of Elneny and Xhaka is likely to be retained to keep things simple and progress the ball through the different outlets. It might be the most conservative option of the ones available but in such a defining period, the goal to be in the Champions League is the only thing that matters.

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