Wow! That was a bad performance by the Gunners who could have and would have lost the match by 5 or 6 goals, if not for some poor finishing by Spurs and some excellent saves by Cech.
The match was a great example of a manger (i.e. Pochettino) who has a clear and pragmatic vision of:
- how his team are going to regularly create clear goal scoring opportunities;
- how his team are going to recover possession from the opposition; and
- how to accentuate the strengths of each player in the team and mitigate their individual weaknesses.
It was also a great example of a manger (i.e. Wenger) who no longer has a clear and pragmatic vision and is to egotistical to admit it and gracefully exit.
Formation wise Arsenal appeared to adopt a 2-4-4 setup despite being setup in a notional 4-3-2-1 prematch.
While Arsenal managed to have an equal share of possession, the Gunners simply failed to do anything meaningful with the ball nor play to Aubameyang’s strengths and were easily kept at arms length by Spurs. Defensively, the absence of any sort of defensive strategy (pressing, deep block, etc.) was there for all to see again as Mustafi and Koscielny were left horribly exposed by Arsenal’s porous midfield (though Xhaka was relatively solid defensively).
In terms of individual performances:
Was the difference between Arsenal losing this match 1 nil and 5 or 6 nil. Sensational shot stoping and was strong aerially. It is somewhat sad to see such a great goalkeeper spend the twilight years of his career at a club whose manager has such little appreciation for defence.
A strong tackling performance from Bellerin (3 tackles). That said, Bellerin’s positional play was again poor (0 interceptions) and he failed to cut out his opponent Son’s crosses. Offensively, Bellerin showed no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) and while he showed really willing with his crossing (4 attempted crosses), accuracy was again an issue (only 1 accurate cross). It was an improved performance by Bellerin, though Maitland Niles appears to remain a more productive option in terms of defensive interventions, forward dribbles and accurate crosses.
An excellent positional performance from Mustafi (5 interceptions) but he was no where near aggressive enough with his defending (1 interception) and surprisingly struggled aerially (2 successful aerial duels). That said, his main opponent Ali really struggled to make any impact on the game (1 shot on goal, no attempted through passes and 1 successful forward dribble). In addition to his fine positional play, Mustafi kept his game nice and simple, reflected in a total of 5 clearances. While there were some flaws in his performance on the day, the German remains Arsenal’s most productive central defender by quite a distance.
An underwhelming defensive performance from Koscielny (1 tackle and 1 interception), as the Frenchman largely failed to curb the influence of his main opponent Eriksen (2 shots on target). That said, Koscielny was solid aerially (4 successful aerial duel) and he tried, in the main, to kept his game nice and simple, with 4 clearances. Despite a sub par performance versus Spurs, Koscielny clearly remains Arsenal’s 2nd best central defender.
A solid tackling performance from Monreal (2 tackles) but his defensive positioning could have been better (1 interception). His opponent Trippier was easily the victory in their duel, with 3 successful forward dribbles and 3 crosses for the match (1 of which was accurate). Offensively, Monreal offered nothing in terms of penetration via the dribble (0 successful forward dribbles), however, he was solid in his crossing with both of his crossing attempts finding an Arsenal attacker. While it was another solid performance by Monreal, Kolasinac is an equally solid defensive option and offers greater offensive production than the Spaniard. The Serbs ongoing absence is another baffling decision by Wenger.
An awful defensive display from Elneny (0 tackles and 0 interceptions) as his opponent Dembele (4 successful forward dribbles and 1 off target shot) bypassed the Egyptian with ease. Offensively, while his passing accuracy (85%) was very good, he offered nothing in terms of transitional passing (0 accurate long passes) and dribbling (0 forward dribbles). He also failed to offer anything in terms of creative passing (0 through passes). A complete and total lack of production match on match from Elneny. He needs to be dropped asap even if it means giving the likes of Maitland Niles, Da Silva or Shef an opportunity in central midfield.
A solid defensive display from Xhaka (2 tackle and 2 interceptions) but he needed to position himself deeper to block the passing lanes to Kane and work harder to screen Arsenal’s centre backs. He unfortunately wasn’t helped by horrible defensive performances by his central midfield partners Elneny and Wilshere. Offensively, Xhaka’s passing accuracy (94%) was excellent, as was his transitional passing from defence to attack (6 accurate long passes out of 6 attempts). The Swiss failed though to offer anything in terms of transitional dribbling (0 forward dribbles) or creative passing (0 through passes). Overall I think he did enough in terms of his key performance indicators to warrant his selection for the match versus Ostersunds. If only Elneny and Wilshere had equalled Xhaka’s output in those key metrics, the match may have turned out distinctly different.
Another underwhelming performance from Ozil. While his passing accuracy was very good (84%) and he showed good attacking initiative (3 successful forward dribbles), the German failed to attempt a through passes and only had 1 shot for the match (which was off target). He really doesn’t seem suited to playing in a wide attacking midfield role. A victim of Wenger’s tactical mismanagement, Ozil desperately needs to be returned to his natural central attacking midfield position and supported with mobile strikers (plural) ahead of him.
A disappointing performance from Wilshere who, while deployed in a central defensive midfield role alongside Elneny and Xhaka, seemed to abandon his post to occupy a central attacking midfield role instead. Defensively, he failed to contribute with just 1 tackle and no interceptions. Offensively, Wilshere’s transitional play via the dribble was excellent (4 successful dribbles), he showed some goal scoring intent (2 shots, 1 of which was on target), he tried (but failed) to create with his passing (2 unsuccessful through passes) and his passing accuracy was okay at 81%. Good offensive effort but bad defensive performance. For me, Wilshere is not producing enough defensively or in terms of assists to justify his selection in the centre of Arsenal’s midfield..
A very disappointing performance by Mkhitaryan who had no shots, no successful forward dribbles, no through passes and just 79% passing accuracy. That said, he has proven that he has all the tools to produce goals and assists in either of the wide attacking midfield roles. He just needs the tactical setup to compliment his skills and style of play.
Welcome to the life of a mobile striker in modern Wengerball. After successfully employing a tactical set up which totally deprived Lacazette of any regular clear cut goal scoring opportunities (and in the process destroying the Frenchman’s confidence), Wenger has made a good start to replicating that effort for Aubameyang. 0 shots, 0 dribbles and 1 successful aerial duel says it all. Like Mkhitaryan and Lacazette, Aubameyang has proven that he can produce end product. He too just needs a tactical system that accentuates his strengths and hides his weaknesses.
Overall it was a disappointing performance by the Gunners and loss to Spurs always hurts that little bit more. That said, what annoyed me the most was Wenger effectively blaming Lacazette, in his post march press conference, for Arsenal failing to get any points from this match. Both chances that fell to the Frenchman in the final few minutes were by no mean clear cut goal scoring opportunities and Wenger has totally destroyed Lacazette’s confidence by failing to implement a more vertical or counterattacking system that plays to his goal scoring strengths. The same thing will happen to Aubameyang, who is a very similar striker.
Add to that that blind Freddie could see that Arsenal don’t have central midfielders with the necessary defensive and transitional skills (despite there being a whole host of players with that skills combination that Wenger could target – Demme, Gonalons, Illarramendi, Fabinho, Krychowiak, etc) and the whole situation reeks of an Arsenal legend, in Wenger, desperately clutching to power. I pray the end of his reign is near.
The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.