It was a highly efficient yet unconvincing performance from Arsenal as they overcame Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage.
Pre-match, Arsenal appeared to adopt a 4-4-2 formation for this first time this season, with Welbeck partnering Lacazette upfront, and Mkhitaryan and Iwobi operating on the flanks. That said, the players’ average positioning indicated that they adopted more of a 2-4-4 formation throughout the match, with Bellerin, and Monreal, once again adopting advanced positions on the right and left flanks respectively.
Possession and key observations
It was a surprisingly even contest in terms of possession (51% to Fulham’s 49%), with Fulham, unlike Arsenal’s recent opponents, showing a willingness to hold onto the ball and attack when the opportunity arose. The attacking initiative of the hosts was reflected in their vastly superior shot count (21 shots to Arsenal’s 9). That said, Arsenal demonstrated a greater willingness in the ball recovery battle (21 tackles and 14 interceptions to Fulham’s 16 tackles and 10 interceptions) and were more incisive and clinical than Fulham when attacking (8 successful forward dribbles to Fulham’s 3, and 5 goals from 7 shots on target, as opposed to Fulham’s 1 goal from 4 shots on target).
In the end, it was Arsenal’s efficiency in front of goal which allowed the Gunners to secure the victory.
GK: Leno (7/10)
It was a solid performance from the German on his first Premier League start. While he could have stayed more up right on the goal he conceded, Leno made 3 saves for the match and was commanding when called upon to deal with Fulham’s 17 crosses for the game.
RWB: Bellerin (7/10)
It was an improved but still underwhelming defensive performance by Bellerin, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) but was solid in his aggression (2 tackles). Bellerin’s defensive positioning was once again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to counterattacks from Fulham. Bellerin’s primary opponent, Schurrle, took full advantage of this, with a goal from his impressive 7 shots for the match, and 2 crossing attempts.
Offensively, Bellerin’s performance was excellent. The Spaniard made a solid contribution to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (2 successful forward dribbles), and he showed excellent attacking initiative with an assist from his 3 crosses for the match, 2 of which were on target.
It was a much better effort from Bellerin, in contrast to his woeful prior performances this season. Bellerin needs to reproduce the productivity he demonstrated versus Fulham, match after match, and with an increased contribution in terms of defensive anticipation, to justify Emery’s decision to repeatedly select the young Spaniard. While Lichtensteiner has performed poorly this season when called upon, youngster Osei-Tutu’s performances for the Under 23 side have been highly impressive, both defensively and offensively. As such, Emery needs to show a willingness to provide the young Englishman with opportunities at right wing back, should Bellerin not be able to consistently produce.
RCB: Mustafi (6/10)
It was a mixed defensive effort from Mustafi. Despite demonstrating good defensive anticipatory skills (3 interceptions), Mustafi lacked aggression in his defensive approach (1 tackle). As a consequence of Mustafi’s lack of aggression, his primary opponent, Mitrovic, was able to influence the match with 3 key passes and 3 shots, 1 of which was on target. Mustafi was also bested by his Serbian opponent aerially, registering 3 successful aerial duels to Mitrovic’s 5. Positively though, Mustafi was solid with respect to clearances (6 for the match) and did manage a key block from a Mitrovic shot in the first half.
More complete defensive performances are needed from Mustafi moving forward.
LCB: Holding (3/10)
It was a poor defensive performance from Holding. The young Englishman failed to show the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (1 interception) and was too passive in his defensive approach (1 tackle). As a consequence, his opponent, Vietto, was able to take advantage (2 shots, 1 of which was on target, and 1 assist from his two key passes for the match). Disappointingly, Holding’s effort to clear his lines was also below the required standard (2 clearances). This put Arsenal’s defence under unnecessary pressure. Apart from that, the young Englishman was able to block a Fulham shot, and he wasn’t tested aerially.
With Mustafi arguably better suited to playing in a three man central defence or as an anchor in front of a two man central defence, and Holding and Sokratis failing to convince as potential alternative central defending options, its a position of concern for Emery.
LWB: Monreal (4/10)
It was an improved, albeit still underwhelming defensive performance from Monreal, who failed to demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipatory skills (1 interception) but was aggressive in his defending (3 tackles). Monreal’s defensive positioning was also again too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s left flank to attacks from Fulham. And that is precisely what Monreal’s primary opponent, Christie, did, with 6 crosses in total, two of which were accurate, and 5 key passes.
Offensively, Monreal’s performance was poor. His assist aside, the Spaniard again failed to contribute to Arsenal’s transitional play via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles) and he showed minimal attacking initiative with only 1 cross for the match.
While Monreal has shown over his career that he can be highly productive defensively when deployed in a traditional left fullback position, he is and has always been limited in his offensive production. With Kolasinac a similar style of player to Monreal in terms of his historical production, but Emery requiring his fullbacks to be productive both defensively and offensively, this maybe a position Emery needs to target in the January transfer window.
RCDM: Torreira (7/10)
It was another fantastic defensive performance from the Uruguayan, who was aggressive in his defending (2 tackles), and demonstrated excellent defensive anticipatory skills (6 interceptions). Torreira’s defensive positioning was also excellent, in that he was disciplined, protected Mustafi, and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch. The Uruguayan’s efforts to stay discipline in his positioning was particularly important, given Bellerin’s poor defensive positioning in the right wingback role.
While it was an excellent defensive performance from Torreira, his offensive production was underwhelming. Despite recording an impressive 84% passing accuracy, he only contributed 2 accurate, long-range transitional passes, and failed to complete a successful forward transitional dribble.
LCDM: Xhaka (9/10)
It was an excellent defensive performance from Xhaka, who showed good aggression in his defending (3 tackles), and, for once, showed the required defensive anticipatory skills (2 interceptions). Xhaka’s defensive positioning was also excellent, in that he was disciplined, and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch.
Offensively, Xhaka was, for the fourth match running, highly productive, recording 87% passing accuracy, and producing an impressive 4 accurate long-range transitional passes. The only real blemish on Xhaka’s offensive performance was once again his failure to contribute in terms of successful forward dribbles for the match (0 successful forward dribbles).
RAM: Mkhitaryan (4/10)
It was a underwhelming performance from Mkhitaryan, who showed good goal scoring initiative (3 shots, 1 of which was on target) but only produced 1 successful forward dribble, and made no key passes or attempted through balls.
LCAM: Iwobi (2/10)
It was also an underwhelming performance by the Iwobi, who showed excellent attacking initiative, with 4 successful forwards dribbles, but failed to produce a shot, a successful forward dribble, a key pass or an attempted through ball.
ST: Welbeck (4/10)
It was a typical hard working but unproductive performance from Welbeck, who provided a nice headed assist for Lacazette’s second goal, but failed to register a shot for the match. Disappointingly, Welbeck also failed to beat his shorter and less physically imposing opponent, Odoi, aerially, with each player recording 3 successful aerial duels a piece.
ST: Lacazette (7/10)
It was another strong performance by the Frenchman, who had 2 goals from his 2 shots for the match. Aerially, Lacazette once again showed his battling qualities, equalling his taller and more physically imposing opponent, Le Marchand, with 1 successful aerial duel a piece.
It was refreshing to see Arsenal adopt the 4-4-2 formation that brought the club so much success at the turn of the century.
Defensively, while Torreira and Xhaka were both excellent, and Monreal and Mustafi showed improved productivity, more is needed from Bellerin and Holding to justify their ongoing selection.
In terms of Arsenal’s offensive transitional play, Monreal again failed to contribute, Torriera and Bellerin were solid, while Xhaka was productive as always.
As for Arsenal’s attack, despite claiming an assist Monreal contribution from the left flank was poor, both Iwobi and Mkhitaryan produced incomplete performances, Welbeck worked hard but was unproductive, and Bellerin’s crossing frequency and accuracy was excellent as was Lacazette’s proficiency in front of goal.
Moving forward, if Emery is wanting to continue to adopt a 4-4-2 formation, he needs:
- greater defensive production from Bellerin and Holding and more complete defensive performances from Monreal and Mustafi;
- superior transitional play from Torreira, Bellerin and in particular, Monreal;
- greater creativity and attacking initiative from Iwobi and Mkhitaryan;
- more all round offensive production from Welbeck.
Despite an improved performance against a willing Fulham side, Emery’s failure to adopt a formation and tactical approach that accentuate the strengths of Arsenal’s elite attackers (Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil), while reinforcing Arsenal’s central midfield with an additional body to protect the defence, remains. It is a problem Emery needs to address for the upcoming fixtures versus Leicester, Sporting, Crystal Palace and Blackpool. By doing so Emery will hopefully put Arsenal in a position where the side is not only winning matches, in the lead up to their 4 November clash with Liverpool, but all 11 players are productively contributing in the respective key performance areas for their positions.
The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.