Arsenal vs West Ham: Is 4-3-1-2 the template for success?

After watching Arsenal play against two high pressing attacking teams in Chelsea and Man City, it will be interesting to see how Arsenal go against West Ham, who may be more inclined to set up in a low defensive block and counter attack.

If that is the case, Arsenal will need to force West Ham out of their low defensive block to give Arsenal’s pacey forwards, Aubameyang and Lacazette, space behind West Ham’s defensive line to make off the ball runs into, and give Ozil the passing lane to execute through passes.

To do that I think Arsenal will need to stretch the game vertifically by their central midfielders and attacking midfielder transitioning the ball quickly upfield and with the risk of turning the ball over in the central and attacking thirds.

To counteract the greater risk of Arsenal losing possession in those areas of the pitch, due to misplaced passes, I think Arsenal will also need to reinforce their deeplying central midfield with an extra body, and ensure all three deeplying central midfielders have a proven track record of being productive at long range passing, tackling and intercepting.

Based on the above, the starting line up I would like to see Arsenal deploy versus West Ham is:

GK: Cech
RB: Osei-Tutu
RCB: Sokratis
LCB: Mavropanos
LB: Monreal
RCDM: Mustafi
CDM: Torreria
LCDM: Guendouzi
CAM: Ozil
RS: Lacazette
LS: Aubameyang

Freddie08

Arsenal player analysis: Chelsea vs Arsenal

It was a naive defensive display from the Gunners as they slumped to another loss, going down to Chelsea 3-2.

Formation

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.

Individual performances:

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).

Final Thoughts

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.

Freddie08

The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Cech or Leno, who should start in goal for Arsenal this season?

It’s Cech for me. While Leno might be more used to passing the ball out from the back, the German is an inferior shop stopper to Cech, is prone to making more errors and crucially, is less dominate at claiming crosses.

That last facet of goalkeeping is particularly significant in the Premier League, and it is a key reason why Ospina, who struggles in that department despite being a superior shot stopper to Cech, has been unable to usurp the former Chelsea stalwart.

Personally, I think Arsenal made a costly (£19 million) mistake in recruiting Leno, given they already have two impressive younger goalkeepers on their books in Martinez and Macey.

That said, it doesn’t appear the club has done, nor is it intending to do, their contracted goalkeepers any favours, but recruiting a coach in Emery who is notorious for employing a high defensive line and recruiting and/or retaining relatively slow and immobile central defenders in Sokratis, Mustafi, Holding, and an aging Koscielny.

As previous Premier League seasons have shown, a goalkeeper’s effectiveness is very much linked to the effectiveness of the defensive scheme and defensive personnel that protect them. For Arsenal’s current cohort, it appear that the lack of protection they experienced under Wenger will continue under Emery.

Freddie08

With Kolasinac injured and Monreal underdone, who fills Arsenal’s left fullback position?

The most natural replacement would be Cohen Bramall, who is an actual left fullback, who spent last year on loan with Birmingham City. Outside of that, it’s playing players out of position. I would much rather see Arsenal play a specialist left fullback in the left fullback position as opposed to continue on Wenger’s round peg in square hole approach to squad management.

Either way, with the historically poor defensive production of Arsenal’s central midfield (Torriera aside) and right fullback options, I think it’s unrealistic to expect so many of the same players (e.g. Bellerin, Lichtsteiner, Xhaka, Ramsey, Elneny) to all of a sudden demonstrate defensive capabilities that they have not done so throughout their professional careers (even with Emery’s influence).

For that reason alone I’m not expecting Arsenal to get anything from their clashes versus Man City or Chelsea, irrespective of who plays at fullback.

Freddie08

Arsenal Player Analysis: Leicester City vs Arsenal

It was a naive display from the Gunners as they slumped to yet another away loss, this time going down to Leicester City 3-1.

Formation

Pre-match, Arsenal appear to retain the 4-3-3 formation that Wenger employed versus Burnley. That said, the players’ average positioning again indicated that they adopted a formation that more closely resembled a 4-1-2-2-1 set up.

may-18-lec-v-ars.png

may-18-lec-v-ars-1.png

Possession and key observations

With Leicester City’s recent success built on their ability to cede possession, establish a resolute deep defensive block and counterattack through direct transitional play, and Wenger’s unwavering desire for Arsenal to monopolise possession of the football, it was anticipated that Arsenal would dominate possession. And that is precisely how it eventuated, with Arsenal winning the possession battle 60% to Leicester City’s 40%.

That said, and unlike the match versus Burnley, the poor defensive positioning and performance of Arsenal’s chosen central midfielders were exposed by Leicester City, who did an excellent job at recovering possession in midfield and quickly attempting and executing through passes for Vardy and Iheanacho. This was evidence by:

  • Leicester City’s central midfielders, Silva and Choudhury, recovering the ball 9 times in contrast to Xhaka, Ramsey and Iwobi’s collective 6 recoveries; and
  • Leicester City’s midfield attempting 5 through passes to Arsenal’s 3 (all of which were attempted by Mkhitaryan).

Individual performances:

Given Mavropanos’ sending off after just 18 minutes and Welbeck’s subsequent substitution for Mustafi in response, the respective performances of Mavropanos and Welbeck haven’t been considered due to their limited game time.

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 where Cech’s fault. Cech also did well when called upon to deal with Leicester’s 24 crosses for the match.

RWB: Maitland Niles (7/10)

It was a mixed defensive performance from Maitland Niles, who showed good aggression (3 tackles) but limited defensive anticipation (1 interception). Maitland Niles’ defensive positioning was also way too far advanced, which exposed Arsenal’s right flank to potential counterattacks from Leicester. That said, his opponent, Diabate, largely failed to capitalise on Maitland Niles’ poor defensive positioning and anticipation (1 shot, 1 successful forward dribble, 2, inaccurate, crosses, and 1 attempted through pass).

Offensively, Maitland Niles was impressive with an assist from his 3 crosses for the match and 4 transitional and attacking dribbles.

RCB: Mustafi (8/10)

While Mavropanos started the match, his sending off only 18 minutes in and Wenger’s decision to bring on Mustafi to cover the young Greek’s departure, meant the German played the majority of the match in the right centreback position. In terms of the German’s performance, Mustafi demonstrated solid defensive anticipation (2 interceptions) and aggressiveness (2 tackles). That said, a total lack of support and coverage from Ramsey in the right central midfield position and poor defensive positioning and anticipation from right wingback, Maitland Niles, isolated Mustafi and allowed the quick and efficient Vardy to showcase his talents (a goal from his 3 shots, 2 of which were on target, and 1 forward dribble). Disappointingly, Mustafi also wasn’t able to best his English opponent aerially, with both players registering 3 successful aerial duels a piece. That said, Mustafi simplified defensive approach, which resulted in 9 clearances, was a breath of fresh air as his defensive and attacking colleagues repeatedly over complicated Arsenal’s play.

LCB: Holding (7/10)

It was another solid defensive performance from youngster Holding. Positively, the Englishman was aggressive in his defending (3 tackles) and showed good defensive anticipation (2 interceptions). That said, like Mustafi, Holding was left isolated thanks to a total lack of support and coverage from Iwobi in the left centre midfield position and poor defensive positioning and anticipation from left wingback, Kolasinac. This allowed the clinical and pacy Iheanacho to display his skills (a goal from his 6 shots, 3 of which were on target, and 2 forward dribble). While Holding did win the aerial battle against his Nigerian opponent (2 successful aerial duels to 1), the Englishman could certainly have simplified his defensive approach more often and focused on clearing his lines (2 clearances).

LWB: Kolasinac (5/10)

It was a busy day defensively for Kolasinac, as his opponent Mahrez, seriously tested him down Arsenal’s left flank (a goal from his 3 shots, 2 of which were on target, 3 successful dribbles, 10 attempted crosses, 3 of which were accurate and an attempted through pass). While Kolasinac’s defensive anticipation (1 interception) could have been better, Kolasinac was very aggressive in his defensive approach (5 tackles) as he tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to reduce Mahrez’s influence on the game.

Offensively, Kolasinac was underwhelming, showing limited attacking intent with his dribbling (1 successful forward dribbles) and only 2, inaccurate, crossing attempts for the match.

RCM: Ramsey (5/10)

It was a underwhelming defensive performance from Ramsey, who demonstrated solid defensive anticipatory skills (2 interceptions) but lacked aggressiveness in his defensive approach (1 tackles). Ramsey’s defensive positioning was also poor, as he left too much space between himself and Mavropanos, then Mustafi, and Maitland Niles, which exposed Arsenal’s right wingback and centreback to potential counterattacks from Leicester City down Arsenal’s right flank.

Offensively, Ramsey’s performance was mixed. Positively, Ramsey recorded 83% passing accuracy, and made 4 accurate long-range transitional passes. That said, Ramsey only managed to make 1 successful forward dribble for the match.

CM: Xhaka (6/10)

After an underwhelming defensive performance versus Burnley, it was a similarly indifferent defensive effort from Xhaka versus Leicester City. While he was aggressive enough in his defending (2 tackles), Xhaka again failed to showcase his defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions). While not as bad as Ramsey or Iwobi, Xhaka’s defensive positioning was still poor, as he left too much space between himself and Arsenal’s centrebacks Holding and Mustafi.

Offensively, while Xhaka again failed to meaningfully contribute in terms of forward transitional dribbles (1 successful forward dribbles), his passing accuracy was very good (88%) as was his transitional passing (5 accurate long-range passes).

LCM: Iwobi (5/10)

It was an awful defensive performance from Iwobi, who showed very limited defensive anticipation (1 interception) and lacked aggressiveness in his defensive approach (0 tackles). Iwobi’s defensive positioning was also disappointing, as he left too much space between himself and Holding and Kolasinac, which exposed Arsenal’s left wingback and centreback to potential counterattacks.

Conversely, Iwobi’s offensive performance was impressive, with 86% passing accuracy and 3 successful forward dribbles. My only criticisms of the young Nigerian’s attacking performance was his limited transitional passing (2 accurate long-range passes).

CAM: Mkhitaryan (8/10)

It was an excellent performance from Mkhitaryan, who show great goal scoring initiative (3 shots, 2 of which was on target) and a desire to penetrate Burnley’s rearguard via the dribble (3 successful dribbles). His passing creativity was also excellent, with 1 accurate through pass from his 3 attempts.

CF: Aubameyang (8/10)

It was an energetic and trying performance from Aubameyang, who scored a goal from his 6 shots for the match, 3 of which were on target. In addition, the Gabonese striker made numerous well-timed off the ball runs in behind Leicester City’s backline.

Final Thoughts

Overall it was another naive performance from Arsenal, in which they over committed players in advanced positions, despite going down to 10 men early in the match and playing against a team that is notoriously strong at counter attacking.

Offensively, while Maitland Niles, Iwobi, Xhaka and Ramsey impressed with their transitional play and Aubameyang demonstrated his willingness to shoot, Mkhitaryan was Arsenal’s standout attacker. Despite that, the absence of an extra forward player, combined with Leicester City’s resolute defending in numbers, were hurdles Arsenal couldn’t overcome.

Defensively, Cech was very good and Arsenal’s back four did reasonably well but were left exposed by a lack of support and protection from Arsenal’s central midfield. Iwobi’s defensive effort was particularly poor and the defensive positioning of all three of Arsenal’s central midfielder as well as their wingbacks invited Leicester City to counterattack when Arsenal lost possession.

A number of the defensive flaws witnessed from the likes of Ramsey and Iwobi versus Leicester City are not issues that haven’t arisen previously, and the new manager, whoever that maybe, will need to rectify those failings earlier on in his tenure, whether that be through tactical or personnel changes.

Freddie08

The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Arsenal Player Analysis: Arsenal vs Burnley

It was a much-improved attacking display from the Gunners versus Burnley, as they recorded a comfortable 5-0 victory.

Formation

Pre-match, Arsenal appear to switch to the experimental 4-3-3 formation that Wenger has been employing on and off in recent weeks. That said, the players’ average positioning indicated that they adopted a formation that more closely resembled a 4-1-2-2-1 set up.

May 18 Ars v Bur

May 18 Ars v Bur(1)

Possession and key observations

With Burnley’s success this season having been built on their ability to establish a resolute deep defensive block and counterattack through direct transitional play, and Wenger’s unwavering preference for Arsenal to hoard possession of the football, it was no surprise to see Arsenal dominate the possession stakes (64% to Burnley’s 36%).

That said, the difference between Arsenal’s performance versus Burnley and recent matches in which Arsenal have, or been allowed to, dominate possession, is that versus Burnley, Arsenal played to the respective attacking strengths of their chosen central midfield (Xhaka (transitional passing), Wilshere (forward dribbles) and Iwobi (forward dribbles)) and Arsenal’s attacking trio of Mkhitarayn, Lacazette and Aubameyang were highly efficient.

This combined with Burnley’s inability to accurately transition the ball from defence to attack, gave Arsenal the platform to dominate both in terms of possession and the creation of high probability goal scoring opportunities.

 

Individual performances:

GK: Cech (7/10)

It was a quiet day for Cech, as Burnley, who ceded possession and employed a deep defensive block, struggle to effectively transition the ball from defence to attack, which restricted their shooting attempts to just 6 shots for the match, 2 of which were on target. That said, Cech maintained his concentration and was able to comfortably save Burnley’s 2 efforts on target. Cech also did well when called upon to deal with Burnley’s 18 crosses for the match.

RWB: Bellerin (6/10)

It was a mixed defensive performance from Bellerin, who showed some aggression (2 tackles) but failed to demonstrate sufficient defensive anticipation (0 interceptions). As a consequence, his opponent, Gudmundsson, caused Arsenal grief on the Gunners’ right flank (8 crossing attempts, 3 of which were accurate, 1 shot, which was on target, and 2 successful forward dribbles).

Offensively, Bellerin’s crossing accuracy was excellent (2 assists from his 2 attempted crosses for the match). That said, the number of crosses the Spaniard attempted (2) and the number of transitional and attacking dribbles he made (2), relative to Arsenal’s possession, was somewhat underwhelming.

RCB: Chambers (7/10)

It was another good defensive performance from Chambers, who demonstrated strong defensive anticipation (3 interceptions) and solid aggressiveness (2 tackles). As a result, his primary opponent, Hendrick, was limited to just 2 off target shots and 2 forward dribbles. While Chambers wasn’t challenged aerially by his opponent, he did at times over complicate his game when the ball entered Arsenal’s defensive third. Specifically, Chambers got caught when trying to creatively pass the ball out from the back, when he and Arsenal would have been better served had he simply cleared his lines (2 clearances).

LCB: Mavropanos (6/10)

It was another mixed defensive performance from youngster Mavropanos. Positively, the Greek again demonstrated excellent defensive anticipation (3 interceptions) and did well when he simplified his defensive approach and focused on clearing his lines (6 clearances). That said, Mavropanos was again too passive defensively (0 tackles). Luckily his main opponent, Vokes, failed to demonstrate sufficient initiative to take advantage of Mavropanos’ reluctance to tackle (1 shot, which was on target, and 0 successful dribbles). Aerially, while the young Greek certainly didn’t back down from any duels, he ultimately lost his battle against his physically imposing opponent (10 successful aerial duels to 4).

LWB: Kolasinac (6/10)

It was a very quiet day defensively for Kolasinac, as his opponent, Lennon, failed to seriously test the Serb (2 attempted but inaccurate crosses and 1 forward dribble). That said, had Kolasinac demonstrated greater aggressiveness (0 tackles) and showed enhanced defensive anticipation (1 interception), he could have eliminated the minimal threat Lennon caused.

Offensively, Kolasinac’s performance was mixed. On the plus side, he scored a cracking goal and showed plenty of attacking intent with his crossing (4 attempted crosses for the match). That said, Kolasinac’s effort in terms of transitional and attacking dribbles (1 successful forward dribble) was very disappointing.

RCM: Iwobi (6/10)


It was an indifferent defensive performance from Iwobi, who showed solid defensive anticipation (2 interceptions) but lacked aggressiveness in his defensive approach (1 tackle). While Burnley didn’t offer much in terms of an attacking threat, Iwobi’s defensive positioning was disappointing, as he left too much space between himself and Chambers and Bellerin, which exposed Arsenal’s right wingback and centreback to potential counterattacks from Burnley down Arsenal’s right flank.

Offensively, Iwobi was excellent, with a well struck shot from an Aubameyang cut back, 92% passing accuracy, 2 successful forward dribbles, and an accurate through pass. My only criticism of the young Nigerian’s attacking performance was his limited transitional passing (1 accurate long-range pass). That said, given Wenger’s tactical decision not to deploy any attacking midfielders between Arsenal’s central midfield and forward lines, Iwobi’s passing creativity and forward thrusts in the attacking third were essential.

CM: Xhaka (6/10)

It was a similarly indifferent defensive effort from Xhaka, who was aggressive enough in his approach (2 tackles) but failed to showcase his defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions). That said, Xhaka’s defensive positioning was very good, as he screened the space in front of Arsenal’s centrebacks Chambers and Mavropanos.

Offensively, while Xhaka again failed to contribute in terms of forward transitional dribbles (0 successful forward dribbles) and creative passing (0 attempted through passes), Xhaka’s passing accuracy was excellent (95%) as was his transitional passing (8 accurate long-range passes).

LCM: Wilshere (5/10)


It was a poor defensive performance from Wilshere, who demonstrated a lack of defensive anticipatory skills (0 interceptions) and lacked aggressiveness in his defensive approach (0 tackles). Like Iwobi, Wilshere’s defensive positioning was also poor, as he left too much space between himself and Mavropanos and Kolasinac, which exposed Arsenal’s left wingback and centreback to potential counterattacks from Burnley down Arsenal’s left flank.

Offensively, Wilshere was excellent, recording 91% passing accuracy, 2 successful forward dribbles, and an assist for Kolasinac’s goal, from his 1 attempted through pass for the match. My only criticism of Wilshere’s attacking performance, like that of Iwobi, was his transitional passing (0 accurate long-range passes) which was sorely lacking. That said, with Wenger not deploying any attacking midfielders between Arsenal’s central midfield and forward lines, Wilshere’s creative passing and dribbling in the final third were vital, as it enabled Arsenal to convert Xhaka’s accurate and direct transitional passes into goal scoring opportunities for the Gunners.

RW: Mkhitaryan (8/10)

It was an excellent performance from Mkhitaryan, who show great goal scoring initiative (3 shots, 1 of which was on target) and a desire to penetrate Burnley’s rearguard via the dribble (3 successful dribbles). His passing creativity was also very good, with 1 accurate through pass from his 2 attempts.

CF: Lacazette (8/10)

It was a clinical performance from Lacazette, who scored a goal from his 2 shots for the match. The French striker also registered an assist for Aubameyang’s opening goal, with a low and hard cross from the right. In addition, the Frenchman made several well-timed off the ball runs in behind Burnley’s backline. All-in-all an impressive performance.

LW: Aubameyang (8/10)

Despite being misused by Wenger and played out of position, it was an excellent performance from Aubameyang, who showed great goal scoring initiative and efficiency (2 goals from his 2 shots for the match), provoked Burnley’s defence via the dribble (2 successful dribbles) and registered a nice assist for Iwobi’s goal with a cut back from the by-line.

Final Thoughts

Overall it was a much-improved attacking performance from Arsenal, in the last home match of Wenger’s tenure.  It was great to see Arsenal actually play to the respective attacking strengths of their chosen central midfielders, and that provided Arsenal’s attacking trio with a great platform to showcase their talents and they duly obliged.

Defensively, while Burnley never really threaten Arsenal’s goal, definite defensive improvements are required from Bellerin (defensive anticipation and aggression), Mavropanos (aggression) and Kolasinac (defensive anticipation) moving forward.  The defensive liabilities Wilshere and Iwobi bring to Arsenal when deployed in central midfield (both in terms of defensive anticipation and aggression) were also evident, and against better quality opposition, would have been more effectively exposed.

Based upon their respective career productivity levels, the Arsenal careers of Bellerin, Wilshere, Iwobi and several other players in Arsenal’s current first team squad, could very much be over at the completion of Arsenal’s last 2 Premier League fixtures.  That will very much depend upon who is replacing Wenger and whether that individual possesses the objective ruthlessness to halt Arsenal’s slide into mediocracy, by jettisoning those players who have demonstrated their inability to consistently contribute on the pitch.

Freddie08

The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.

Arsenal Player Analysis: Manchester United vs Arsenal

Despite going down 2-1, it was a much-improved defensive display from the Gunners versus Manchester United.

Formation

Arsenal reverted to a more traditional 4-2-3-1 formation pre-match, and the players’ average positioning indicated that they stuck to that formation in game.

April 18 Man U vs Ars

April 18 Man U vs Ars (1)

Possession and key observations

While in Arsenal’s recent matches, the Gunners have, or been allowed, to dominate possession, that wasn’t the case versus Manchester United, who won the possession battle (59% to 41%).

That said, there were excellent defensive performances from Chambers, Kolasinac and Xhaka, and even the typically porous Bellerin.

And while Xhaka was highly effective at directly and efficiently transitioning the ball from defence to attack, the same couldn’t be said of Maitland Niles. Arsenal’s attacking midfielders also failed to take enough risks with their passing, which starved Aubameyang of high probability goal scoring chances.

Individual performances:

GK: Ospina (3/10)
It was a disappointing performance from Ospina, as is weakness at claiming crosses was acutely exposed. From Manchester United’s 3 shots for the match, Ospina was only able to produce the 1 save, and he struggled to deal with Manchester United’s 34 total crosses. Given the sheer volume of crosses from Manchester United, it was evident the Old Trafford outfit were attempting to target the Columbian’s aerial weakness, and while it took a late header from Fellaini, Manchester United ultimately succeeded.

RWB: Bellerin (7/10)
It was a strong defensive performance from Bellerin (3 tackles and 3 interceptions), as he showed improved defensive anticipation and aggressiveness.  Despite Bellerin’s strong defensive performance, the Spaniard was unable to contain his opponent, Young, who posed a significant threat down Manchester United’s left flank (8 crosses, 4 of which were accurate, and an assist).

Offensively, while Bellerin’s crossing accuracy was reasonable (1 accurate cross from 2 attempts), his production level in terms of crosses was poor. The Spaniard’s productivity in terms of transitional and attacking dribbles was also poor (1 successful forward dribble).

RCB: Chambers (9/10)
It was a strong defensive performance from Chambers, who, like Bellerin, demonstrated strong defensive anticipation and aggressiveness (3 tackles and 3 interceptions). As a result, his opponent, Sanchez, struggled to influence the game (1 shot, which was on target, and 0 successful forward dribbles). Notably, the Englishman flourished when he simplified his defensive approach and just cleared the ball as it entered Arsenal’s defensive third (9 clearances). Chambers was also solid aerially, ousting Sanchez 3 successful aerial duels to 0.

LCB: Mavropanos (7/10)
It was a mixed defensive performance from debutant Mavropanos. Positively, the Greek demonstrated excellent defensive anticipation (3 interceptions) and, like Chambers, did well when he simplified his defensive approach and focused on clearing his lines (4 clearances). That said, Mavropanos was a bit too passive defensively (1 tackle). Luckily his main opponent, Lukaku, failed to demonstrate sufficient initiative to take advantage of Mavropanos’ reluctance to tackle (1 shot, which was off target, 0 successful dribbles). Aerially, the young Greek wasn’t really challenged by his Belgium opponent (0 successful aerial duels each).

LWB: Kolasinac (6/10)
It was a busy day defensively for Kolasinac, as his opponent Valencia, tested him down Arsenal’s left flank (7 attempted crosses). While his defensive anticipation (1 interception) could have been better, Kolasinac was very aggressive in his defensive approach (5 tackles). Offensively, Kolasinac was very poor, showing no attacking intent with his dribbling (0 successful forward dribbles) or with his crossing (0 crossing attempts for the match).

RCDM: Maitland Niles (5/10)
It was a mixed defensive performance from Maitland Niles, who was aggressive in his defensive approach (3 tackles) but demonstrated a lack of defensive anticipation (0 interceptions). In terms of his defensive positioning, the youngster was a bit too central which exposed Bellerin in the right wingback role.

Offensively, while Maitland Niles passing accuracy (92%) was excellent, his transitional passing (1 accurate long-range pass) and transitional dribbles (2 successful forward dribbles) were insufficient, which was particularly disappointing given the opportunities Arsenal had to counterattack.

LCDM: Xhaka (9/10)
It was an impressive defensive effort from Xhaka, who was very aggressive in his defensive approach (4 tackles), and showed solid anticipatory skills (2 interceptions).

My only criticism of Xhaka’s defensive performance was that, like Maitland Niles, Xhaka’s defensive positioning was too central at times, which isolated and exposed Kolasinac at left wingback.

Offensively, while Xhaka again failed to contribute in terms of forward transitional dribbles, Xhaka’s passing accuracy was excellent (90%) as was his transitional passing (7 accurate long-range passes).

RCAM: Mkhitaryan (7/10)
It was a solid to impressive performance from Mkhitaryan, both in terms of his goal scoring initiative (1 goal from his 3 shots for the match) and forward dribbles (3 successful dribbles). The only component of his performance which let him down was his passing creativity (0 attempted through passes).

CAM: Iwobi (4/10)
It was a poor performance from Iwobi, who failed to produce a shot or attempt a through pass. The only real positive of Iwobi’s performance was that he recorded 2 successful forward dribbles.

LCAM: Nelson (5/10)
It was an underwhelming performance from Nelson, who, while showing some goal scoring initiative (2 shots), failed to consistently provoke Manchester United’s rear-guard via the dribble (1 successful forward dribble) and was too safe with his passing (0 attempted through passes).

ST: Aubameyang (5/10)
Apart from a cross from Bellerin in the first half, which Aubameyang arguably should have done better with, it was another match for Aubameyang in which Arsenal’s attacking midfielders failed to create clear cut goal scoring opportunities for the Gabonese striker. Despite this being a recurring theme for Aubameyang, as it was for Lacazette before him, Wenger continues to employ a tactical set up which fails to play to his mobile forwards’ strengths, depriving them of any regular clear cut goal scoring opportunities. The longer Wenger continues failing to adopt a tactical system that accentuates the Gabonese striker’s strengths and hides his weaknesses, the reduced return of investment Arsenal will receive from their record purchase.

Final Thoughts

While there were disappointing attacking performances from Bellerin, Kolasinac, Maitland Niles, Iwobi and Nelson, there was much to like about the defensive efforts of Arsenal’s wing backs, Chambers and Xhaka. With Manchester United showing a far greater willingness to attack in numbers than expected, counterattacking opportunities, which Aubameyang craves, were there for the Gunners’ taking. While Xhaka did his best to quickly and accurately transition the ball from defence to attack, to enable Arsenal to take advantage of those counterattacking opportunities, Arsenal’s attacking midfielders were too conservative with their passing and attacking play to capitalise themselves or create high probability goal scoring opportunities for Aubameyang.

This has been symptomatic of Arsenal’s attacking play under Wenger over the past decade, and it is hoped a change in manager at season’s end will bring about more effective attacking play from the Gunners.

Freddie08

The stats referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.whoscored.com.