Connect with us

Talking Tactics

Did the red card help Arsenal? Chelsea vs Arsenal – Tactical Analysis


Mikel Arteta and Arsenal yet again met Frank Lampard and Chelsea after facing them less than a month earlier in the Premier League. Arsenal came into the game nine points behind the blues. Arteta called the game “a must-win match”, calling to break a winless streak of seven games at Stamford Bridge. If there was ever going to be a time to do it the opportunity was certainly there as Chelsea had uncharacteristically lost six home games this season.

It was a wildly entertaining game put on by the two sides that included a penalty, red card, and late goals. We’ll see how the young coach’s tactics changed over the course of these events through this tactical analysis.


Premier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal 2-2 - Tactical analysis Premier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal 2-2 - Tactical analysis

Frank Lampard played with a 4-3-3 which is what he’s commonly used throughout the season but would almost play like a 4-2-3-1 with Matteo Kovacic and Jorginho making a double-pivot in possession. Interestingly however he played N’golo Kante over Mason Mount. Kante had a poor performance against Newcastle and Mount has created the most ‘big chances’ of any English midfielder in the Premier League. Maybe more understandable seeing that Mount has only missed one game the entire season. Christian Pulisic missed out through injury.

Mikel Arteta staying consistent has he has with his 4-2-3-1 shape. Sead Kolasinac and Sokratis missed out through illness and injury. Seeing Bukayo Saka continue as a make-shift left-back and Shkodran Mustafi at centre-back. This was also the second match of Aubameyang’s suspension. The big news of the team, however, was the return of Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard was given the armband as he once again came back from injury.

Lampard wins initial setup

Chelsea’s midfield has been formidable in the Premier League this season, Jorginho has the 4th best xGBuildup play in the league only behind Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, and Fernandinho. As we saw in the game at the Emirates he ran the show after he came on and manager Frank Lampard set up to do the same here.

The 4-3-3 against 4-2-3-1 on paper possed problems for Arteta on paper, as the midfield could be at a numerical disadvantage, and how it was executed on the pitch in tactics caused even more issues. Arsenal attempted to press in their 4-4-2 shape but the adjustments of player’s positioning by Lampard would open up space all over the pitch.

In the analysis below you can see on the left, Kovacic (LCM), would drop into the fullback space as Emerson (LB) came forward this would pin Pepe (RW) back, giving Kovacic space and time to exploit. On the opposite flank, Kante (RCM) came forward pinning Martinelli (LW) back. This left Ozil (AMF) in a 2v1 against Kovacic and Jorginho. The Italian midfielder made the third most passes in the match with 60.

To stop Xhaka (LCM) and Torreria (RCM) from pressing forward Willian came inside creating a 2v2 vs Arsenal’s center backs and with Kante also moving forward they needed defensive support from the double-pivot to prevent a central overload.

Premier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal - Tactical Analysis

Chelsea (blue) vs. Arsenal (red).

Chelsea pressing pays off

Chelsea has used a well-coached man-oriented this season and has been a huge part of their tactics. Showcased in a victory against the likes of Ajax in the Champions League it would also create a massive problem for Arsenal. The visiting side struggled to progress the ball against this press. Bellerin’s positioning was poor and he would almost never recognize where he should be to pin Chelsea player’s back and create space during the buildup phases. As you can see below, every passing option is covered. The blues athleticism throughout the squad allows them to maintain this throughout the match. We can see how effective this was through statistics, they only allowed a staggering 8 passes per defensive action, the league average best is 7.89 put on by Leicester City.

remier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal - Tactical Analysis

This would lead to a decisive event in the match. Mustafi looked to make a backpass to goalkeeper Leno, being under pressure of incoming Abraham he miscued the pass and sent the Englishmen through on goal. David Luiz brought him down inside the box receiving a red card and conceding a penalty. Down a goal and man, it was an advantage for Chelsea who had a firm grip on the game as the Gunners hadn’t mustered a shot on the opposition goal yet.

remier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal - Tactical Analysis

Did the red card give Arsenal a tactical advantage?

Arteta for the second time in three matches faced playing a match a man-down. He like last time against Crystal Palace went to a 4-4-1 out of possession. Playing a compact, low block with the goal of limiting space and vertical passing options. Arsenal’s average xGA since Arteta has come in is a strong 0.83. Chelsea has struggled to break down organized low blocks, but on the other hand, Arsenal has struggled to generate chances in counter-attacking situations so the match was set for an interesting tactical matchup.

Lampard decided to try and do this by creating an overload between the midfield and defensive lines. Sending both Kovacic and Kante forward, but this would only limit passing options and congest the middle of the pitch rather than create more of both as Lampard wanted. Every time Jorginho found Kovacic in the second half it was a sideways pass into a wide area.

During the buildup phases, Arteta bravely sent Arsenal to press Chelsea in their half and with great success. As with Kovacic and Kante so much further up the pitch, Jorginho would be isolated and closed down quickly in numbers. Jorginho made six failed passes after the red card compared to two before as before he had support from Kovacic in midfield to assist against lines of pressure and create space.

Premier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal - Tactical Analysis

The flanks were their primary routes of assault due to the congestion through the middle. Emerson attempted 13 crosses, the most in the match and created five chances also the most in the match. On the opposite flank of the left-back youngster, Hudson-Odoi attempted the second-most crosses in the match and completed the most final third passes on the pitch. This was helped by Chelsea creating numerical advantages in the wide areas that because of being a man down Arsenal couldn’t do much to change these sequences.

This would sometimes leave Hudson-Odoi isolated in 1v1 situations against make-shift defender Bakayo Saka. But the youngster held his own against the talented forward winning 5/5 of his tackles.Premier League 2019/20: Chelsea vs Arsenal 2-2 - Tactical analysis

So after all this why do I ask if the red card gave Arsenal an advantage? Between Chelsea’s two goals in the match, Arsenal kept an xGA of 0.5 showcasing their struggles for the second game in a row against a deep block. Lampard’s adjustments of tactics to try and generate more chances only did the exact opposite. The midfield was disjointed from the attack and the attackers couldn’t put together a passing sequence to break into the penalty box. Chelsea may have scored two goals but both were from set-pieces.


Arsenal showed huge commitment and belief to gain a point despite being down a man at Stamford Bridge. Arteta’s in-game and situational management certainly has been put to the test now being faced with multiple games with 10 men. The xG metrics tell us the Gunners struggled to create chances, only amassing only a 0.7 xG, but were clinical when the chances came and a moment of magic from Hector Bellerin provided the point.

As we saw in this tactical analysis, Lampard’s team couldn’t effectively break down a compact defensive shape. Relying on crosses to create the chances rather than refined passing sequences didn’t work out for them and seemed like a move of desperation as this problem is becoming a common problem of their season. Some would argue the absence of Reece James could have changed their fortune in service from wide as he’s proven to be an efficient attacker in the final third with 35 crosses attempted the opportunities were there.

More in Talking Tactics