It was a naive defensive display from the Gunners as they slumped to another loss, going down to Chelsea 3-2.
Pre-match, Arsenal appear to retain the 4-2-3-1 formation that Emery employed versus Man City, and the players average positioning indicated that they largely stuck to that formation throughout the match versus Chelsea.
Possession and key observations
With Chelsea’s new boss Sarri employing similar tactics to Arsenal’s Emery (i.e. playing the ball out of from the back in an effort to entice the opposition to come forward, before transitioning the ball through the lines quickly to attack, and pressing the opposition high up the field with intensity and numbers when defending), it came down to which teams’ set of players could implement those tactics more effectively. The answer was unequivocally Chelsea, who had 10% more possession than the Gunners, almost double Arsenal’s shots and shots on target, out tackled the Gunners, and completed more successful dribbles.
Despite an excellent defensive performance by youngster Guendouzi and a 20 minute period in the first half where the Gunners scored two goals and missed two guilt edge chance, on the back of great use of the inside channels and cut backs from the byline, Chelsea were too polished for Arsenal, particularly in central midfield and attack.
GK: Cech (7/10)
It was a busy day for Cech, who, while conceding 3 goals, did very well to keep the score respectable, making 7 saves for the match. On the goals conceded, none were Cech’s fault. Cech also did well when called upon to deal with Chelsea’s 15 crosses for the match.
RWB: Bellerin (5/10)
It was a mixed defensive performance from Bellerin, who showed good defensive anticipation (2 interceptions) but was not aggressive enough with his defending (1 tackle). Bellerin’s defensive positioning was also way too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to counterattacks from Chelsea, and ultimately lead to Chelsea’s opener. Bellerin’s poor defensive positioning allowed his primary opponent, Alonso, to dominate down Arsenal’s right flank (1 goal from his 3 shots for the match and an assist from his 3 crosses for the match).
Offensively, it was a similarly mixed performance from Bellerin, with 1 accurate cross from his 3 attempts for the match, but no transitional or attacking dribbles.
RCB: Mustafi (6/10)
While Mustafi was aggressive in his defensive approach (2 tackles), he demonstrated poor defensive anticipation (1 interception). Despite Mustafi being regularly isolated during the match, due to a lack of protection from Xhaka, in the right central midfield position, and poor defensive positioning from right wingback, Bellerin, the German still managed to restrict his primary opponent, Willian, to no attempts on goal and 2 forward dribbles. Disappointingly though, Mustafi wasn’t able to best his Brazilian opponent aerially, with both players registering 1 successful aerial duel a piece. That said, Mustafi simplified defensive approach, which resulted in 7 clearances, was a breath of fresh air as a number of his defensive and attacking colleagues repeatedly over complicated Arsenal’s play.
LCB: Sokratis (5/10)
It was another mixed defensive performance from Sokratis. Positively, the Greek international was aggressive in his defending (2 tackles). However, his defensive anticipation was very poor (0 interceptions). This allowed Morata to showcase his talents (a goal from his 3 shots, 2 of which were on target, and 1 forward dribble). Disappointedly Sokratis, like Mustafi, also failed to win the aerial battle against his opponent (1 successful aerial duel each). And while Sokratis efforts to clear his lines was reasonable (4 clearances), he could certainly have simplified his defensive approach more often.
LWB: Monreal (3/10)
It was a very poor start to the season for Monreal defensively. The Spainard wasn’t aggressive enough defensively (0 tackles) nor did he demonstrate the necessary defensive anticipation (1 interception). As a consequence, his opponent Pedro, influenced the game down Arsenal’s left flank (a goal from his 6 shots, 2 of which were on target, 3 successful dribbles, and 3 attempted crosses, 1 of which was accurate).
Offensively, Monreal was underwhelming, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 attempted forward dribbles) and only 2 crossing attempts for the match, 1 of which was on target.
RCDM: Xhaka (3/10)
It was a poor defensive performance from Xhaka, who was neither aggressive enough (1 tackle) nor did he demonstrate the necessary defensive awareness (0 interceptions). The only real positive regarding Xhaka’s defensive performance was his positioning, in that he was disciplined and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch.
Offensively, Xhaka’s performance was mixed. Positively, Xhaka recorded 83% passing accuracy but he only managed to produce 2 accurate long-range transitional passes and failed to make a successful forward dribble for the match. It was also noticeable how much Xhaka wasn’t able to cope when pressed by Chelsea’s midfield. This resulted in the Swiss turning the ball over on a number of occasions through errant passes.
LCDM: Guendouzi (9/10)
It was a hugely impressive performance for the young and inexperienced Frenchman. Defensively the youngster was very aggressive (4 tackles) and showed excellent defensive anticipation (5 interceptions). The Frenchman’s defensive positioning was also very good in that he was disciplined and wasn’t drawn out of position and into advanced areas of the pitch.
Offensively, Guendouzi was equally impressive, as he recorded 94% passing accuracy, contributed 5 accurate, long range transitional passes, and produced 2 successful forward transitional dribbles. Easily Arsenal’s man of the match.
RCAM: Mkhitaryan (8/10)
It was an excellent attacking performance from Mkhitaryan, who recorded a goal, from his 3 shots for the match, and an assist , from his 5 key passes. The Armenian also manage to produce 2 successful attacking dribbles. The only criticism of Mkhitaryan’s effort versus Chelsea was inability to produce a successful throughball. That aside, it was an excellent showing from the Armenian
CAM: Ozil (3/10)
Unlike Mkhitaryan’s effort, it was a dour performance by Ozil, who showed limited goal scoring initiative (2 shots, both of which were off target) and no real desire to penetrate Chelsea’s rearguard via the dribble (0 successful dribbles) or through his passing (0 key passes and 0 attempted through passes).
LCAM: Iwobi (6/10)
It was a mixed performance by the young Nigerian, who managed a goal (from his two shots for the match) and an assist (from his 2 key passes) but show limited desire to penetrate Chelsea’s rearguard via the dribble (1 successful dribble) or through passes (0 attempted through passes).
CF: Aubameyang (6/10)
His guilt edge miss aside, it was an energetic and trying performance from Aubameyang, who had 4 shots for the match, 2 of which were on target. Aerially though, the Gabonese striker lost the battle with this opposing defender Rudiger (2 successful aerial duels to 1).
Overall it was another defensively naive performance from Arsenal, which followed a similar pattern to Arsenal’s round 1 performance versus Man City. While Arsenal looked a far more dangerous attacking outlet (than last season) thanks to Guendouzi’s quick and repeated transitions and the likes of Mkhitaryan and, to a lesser extent, Iwobi demonstrating a greater willingness to take risks, Arsenal’s central midfield was again overrun by their opponents, with Xhaka particularly ineffective, and Arsenal’s fullbacks were again frequently caught out of position.
With the evident tactical flaws in Emery’s defensive approach unlikely to be addressed or resolved anytime soon, the onus is on Arsenal to outscore opponents, with the knowledge they are likely to regularly concede goals. Given those teams that have historically been successful in the Premier League have based their success of establishing an effective low defensive block and scoring via counterattacking opportunities, Emery and Arsenal’s prospects this season seem bleak.
The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.