Three things we learned from Arsenal 3-0 BATE
Arsenal punched their ticket for the round of 16 with a 3-0 drubbing of visiting BATE Borisov. The win saw a return to attacking football as the Gunners looked to insure there was no doubt about moving on.
It was a match that saw the return of Mesut Özil and the 4-2-3-1, both of which played a part in seeing off the visitors from Belarus. So let’s have a look at the three things we learned from last night’s match.
Mesut Özil returns and has an impact
The general sense of relief that came from seeing Mesut Özil’s name as a starter in last night’s match was a sharp contrast to the acrimony that came in the wake of his exclusion last week. And while he wasn’t peak Mesut Özil, he still influenced the game in a way that many won’t truly appreciate.
Let’s look at the raw facts first.
75/83 passes (90%)
2 big chances created
100% dribble success rate
68 final third passes (Most on Pitch)
4 ball recoveries
4 key passes
But his influence wasn’t just in the stats it was his general presence on the pitch that had the most impact. Sure, we all want Mesut to provide assists and create chances as well as bang in the odd goal or two. As a pla,yer he is so much more than that and his influence goes way beyond
When Mesut Özil is on the pitch, he is a player you have to account for at all times. Yes, it mostly has to do with what he is able to do with the ball but what he does off the ball is equally as important.
It was once said that football is a simple game, “you receive the ball, you pass the ball, you move to space and you start all over again.” It is exactly what Mesut Özil excels at and what he did quite well last night.
There were multiple moments off the ball last night that signify how important and influential a player he can be. There was a simple exchange between Iwobi, Özil and Xhaka early on that typifies his movement.
Iwobi occupying the space out wide in the final third, sees Özil on an angle just a few scant yards away and feeds him a pass. It’s clear Mesut knows exactly what he is going to do right away as the ball comes in and quickly delivers the ball to Xhaka. His movement, however, is what allows Xhaka to make a successful lobbed ball over the top to Özil who has opened up space with his movement into the box.
It was movement similar to this that helped Iwobi get off a beautiful chance, testing the keeper. Once again, Iwobi and Özil exchange the passes around the 18 and Mesut moves on a diagonal into the box. That movement drags 3 defenders with him and opens up enough of a window for Iwobi to get a better shot away on goal.
If your measurement of whether Özil is successful or not is simply down to assists and goals, you really are missing something about him. He has all that in his tool kit for sure as he was one of the most used passing links in the team.
But If you spend a whole match just watching him, watching him move, watching him find space and be available for the ball and influence play around him – even if he doesn’t touch the ball – then you get a fuller picture of how good he is.
Was he great last night? No, of course not. He showed all the signs you’d expect of a player who hasn’t played in a month. But he was influential and to ignore that is to try and force a story that simply didn’t exist.
Still don’t believe us he was good? Let’s let Alex Iwobi have the final say
“We know what Mesut’s like because we see him in training every day,” he said. “He’s world-class.
“We scored three goals as a result of him playing. I know if I make a run he has the vision to find me.”
Unai Emery gets it right
Last week, Unai Emery and Arsenal traveled to Belarus and with his set up played a turgid display of football. Last night however, Emery knew he had to attack, and he set up his team to do just that.
Emery moved away from the 3-4-2-1 he employed on the away leg and went to the 4-2-3-1 which is a set up to get more out of his team.
While it still looked a little off kilter, it was clear that the formation changes as well as the inclusion of Mesut Özil created a style of play that keep the team on the front foot.
Overall our possession was similar to last week’s, except there was more purpose to it. It could’ve been faster and we could’ve probably executed switches of play more often but overall, with movement in the half spaces and between the midfield.
Emery still opted to have most of his play come down the wings. As the pass map above shows, the most concentrated area of play was down either flank. However, the difference from the previous weeks is that the movement wasn’t flacid. We offered options around the player with the ball and that created opportunities.
Last week we only managed three shots on goal to 16 total shots. This week we managed 22 shots with eight on target. Not a significant change but we created more and we got more on target which is always preferable to the paltry output of last week.
Emery rightfully came into criticism for the putrid style of play we’ve seen from Arsenal in the last few weeks. All the talk of the antagonistic style of play has been thrown out the window and we’ve lacked a clear identity.
Last night he got it just right and even though it looked labored at times, it is a set up that got the best out of Arsenal and insured they were able to move on into the next round.
Still work to do
Yes, we won, and we should be happy with that result, but the fact remains there is still work to do.
There were two occasions that we escaped any danger last night. The first was a streaking winger down the right hand who got inside Monreal and if not for a bad shot into the side netting could’ve put the tie in doubt.
There was also a chance created through good movement that saw the ball meg Cech only to be saved on the line by Lichtsteiner.
Defensively Arsenal are still a mess. Our back four are easily moved and opened up by the opposition. The high line we employ with the FBs pinching up in attack, leaves our centre-backs exposed on the counter.
Attacking-wise we’re still too predictable playing down the flank. And at times the possession is labored and over all quality of passes and decision making lacks the intensity you’d expect of a side of Arsenal’s caliber.
As the Europa League and Premier League wind down, stiffer competition is going to make it harder on Arsenal to achieve their most-basic of goals. There is still time to fix some of this and it can be done with the personnel we have on hand.
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