Liam Andrews is the Director/Head coach at Futbol Development 1st. He currently holds an FA Level 2 Coaching Badge and Youth Module 2. After each Arsenal match he will break it down highlighting key moments of success and breakdowns in the Gunner’s play.
The starting lineups for Champion’s League Match Day 1were as follows:
Arsenal Starting Line-up:
Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla, Özil; Iwobi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez
Gibbs, Pérez, Giroud, Xhaka, Holding, Cech
PSG: Starting Line-up:
Areola; Aurier, Marquinhos,, Thiago Silva, Maxwell; Verratti, Krychowiak, Rabiot; Di María, Cavani, Matuidi
Trapp, Kimpembe, Lucas Moura, Motta, Pastore, Meunier, Jesé
PSG started the first half with real intention to what was coming for the rest of the half with a great goal which the clinical Cavani, who had no problems scoring with his head in the bottom left inside corner.
The home side found a great balance of short and long passing to ask constant questions of the Arsenal’s defence. When Arsenal have finally got on the ball PSG showed Arsenal how high press defending should be done from attack and then constant CLOSE support from midfield and defence which made it incredibly hard to get out the half – which Arsenal have struggled to do.
PSG were effective in making the pitch small when defending and this hurt Arsenal for passing options. Combine this with ineffective short passing by the Gunners and the first dire state of Arsenal’s first half was clearly evident.
Arsenal also did themselves no favors with limited movement in the middle of the pitch – something that has been dissected recently in other articles. What we should’ve seen or have liked to see to help alleviate this issue was to see the holding player dropping deep to receive the ball with the centre half pushing out to add some width to the pitch when deep in their own zone. That way Coquelin gets pressured he can lay the ball off quickly away from goal. However what we see is Cazorla dropping deep and the centre halves are standing still, which limits Cazorla’s options to move the ball.
Throughout the first half we kept seeing Alexis Sanchez coming short to receive the ball taking away the length of the field a striker adds to play something noticeably in contrast to what but in Cavani was doing by sitting between our centre halves looking for balls over the top or trying to break the line with smart runs.
Arsenal clearly want a striker who can make these kind of runs. The summer run at Jamie Vardy and subsequent signing of Lucaz Pérez show this. Sanchez offers more of a threat coming in from wide running at defending. By dropping deep in to our half at times in the striker role, he isn’t able to do that, nor is able to do what a striker should be doing and that is putting pressure on the opposition centre halves.
Another worrying trend for Arsenal is their lack of pressing and because they weren’t doing it enough against PSG they left Rabiot with way too much time on the ball to run the game and get them up the home side up the pitch quickly. With Arsene’s preferred fluid 4-2-3-1 attacking and MF players freely interchange. However, as has been pointed out elsewhere, often times we see them pushed too far forward, in a straight line with no depth or length and a lack of options. It also does nothing to limit the movement of the ball forward when the opposition have it.
When Arsenal did have the ball they fell into the all too familiar pattern of Arsenal style of what is best called – possession without purpose. It’s the lulling tiki taka with over passing the ball and not a lot of 1v1 situations with players attacking and taking on the opposition
Based on the evidence it looks like Wenger addressed the pressing issue and Arsenal started doing a better job at pressing as a unit. The effect is that they began to win the ball higher up the pitch with regularity and began forcing PSG to make more mistakes.
One of the worrying trends throughout the game was Monreal and his positional sense. Monreal has been a dependable FB for Arsenal now going on 2 seasons. He has established himself as the number one LB over Kieran Gibbs but watching his last few games one may wonder if Gibbs wasn’t allowed to leave because of concerns that Monreal may be on the downward slide this year. Specifically, against PSG he wasn’t tucked in as close to the CB as you’d like and PSG seemed to target this and the result was Aurier looking like the best wing back in the world.
It’s interesting over the last few games how Wenger is using Coquelin. It seems from early evidence that he has been playing in a box to box role – not the classic DM role we think he should be playing. In fact in the second half one of the things that was clear that the Frenchman was trying run behind PSG’s midfield to create scoring opportunities.
Throughout the match PSG’s strength over Arsenal is definitely been their ability to get players running along the by-line and stretching the pitch which continually pulled Monreal out of position. This gave space to Di Maria to slot in Cavani and Arsenal were regularly opened up because of it.
One of the surprises of the night was Ospina’s role in goal. With all the worry about his selection over Cech, the Colombian back stopper has been a joy to watch and showed a great goalkeeping display by keeping Cavani out time and time again.
Overall it wasn’t an effective night for many of Arsenal’s players. Simple parts of the role aren’t coming off like Bellerin not running at their wing back and which was especially frustrating when Giroud came on and is the perfect target for crosses into the box. What is the point running up the pitch to then pass back when you could cross instead?
The biggest adjustment of the night, brining on Giroud and moving Alexis out to the wing, results in Alexis becoming more effective and results in the equalizer. Sanchez was a different player since going out to the left and PSG are struggling to cope with him and it made Arsenal more of a threat on the counter, especially when PSG went looking for a winner.
All teams in group A have got one point from their opening game but you can’t help but feel Arsenal have stolen this result and that might be very important for qualifying or even winning the group.
Arsenal has plenty to work to do if they want to go deep within the tournament but it’s a good result away from home in what was considered the most difficult match of the group stages for them. Arsenal may need to consider being more direct and asking questions of their opposition because possession is pointless without a plan for an end product and a lot this season we seem to be very limited in our creativity. Our defending looks miles better with Mustafi. Monreal was a weak link and really needs tuck in a little bit to avoid that through ball through himself and Koscielny but that also shows they must not talk enough at the back and maybe that’s one area they missed Cech?
If Arsenal is going to play a high press tactic they need to press as a team and keep it compact or it’s easy to pass around you and at times PSG made it look easy but when Arsenal got it right they made PSG give them the ball.
Overall it’s a good result but Arsenal need a lot of work if they are going to do well in this competition which from tonight I just can’t see them competing against a Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid