How Arteta beat Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 : Arsenal 3-2 Everton – Tactical Analysis
In this Premier League fixture, one of Europe’s most promising coaches came up against one of the most established and known names in the game. Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti both took over their respective sides on the same matchday. Both clubs were desperate for a change from their previous managers and can look forward to success with these new appointments. Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 23 Premier League matches at home against the visitors and they’ve scored 327 top-flight goals against them – more than any other opponent has scored against another in the history of English football.
In this tactical analysis, we will see how Arteta’s tactics overcame Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 formation, what went wrong for Everton out of possession and the problems with Arsenal’s mid-block.
Mikel Arteta’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation was back with only one change from the previous Premier League match. Sead Kolasinac started at left-back as Bukayo Saka has started the last two matches. Eddie Nketiah got a consecutive Premier League start despite Alexander Lacazette scoring midweek in the Europa League. Aubameyang continued in his role as an inverted forward, and coming into the match he had scored 30 goals in 37 games on Sundays.
Carlo Ancelotti used a 4-4-2 which has been very common in some of Arteta’s recent opponents such as Crystal Palace and Burnley. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been having a great season at the club scoring 11 Premier League goals, with talisman Richarlson started next to him which left youngster Moise Keane on the bench. Lucas Digne was not available which saw 35-year-old Leighton Baines make his seventh start in two seasons.
Arteta breaks down Ancelotti’s 4-4-2
Everton have been a tough team since Premier League and Champions Leauge winner Carlo Ancelotti took over. The Italian football legend had only lost to Arteta’s former employers Manchester City coming into this match, since taking over. His favoured system since taking over has been the 4-4-2 formation which he also implemented at Napoli and Real Madrid.
Mikel Arteta’s tactics would pull this shape apart in the attacking phases of the match, let’s see how he did it. During many of my tactical analyses of Arsenal under Arteta, we’ve seen the use of a 2-3-5 formation on the ball. We’ve also seen him use a diamond pattern during the buildup which allows Granit Xhaka to dictate play from deep allowing Saka to come forward and provide width in attack. Saka has the most assists in the squad with 10, showing how effective he has been from the left.
Because of Saka’s movement forward and Aubameyang’s movement inside it, this pinned the left-winger and right-back in their own half as you can see below. Iwobi, would not press the ball as he was worried about Saka’s movements and did not want to leave his teammate in a 2 v 1. This made space for Xhaka to carry the ball forward as Everton wanted to keep their shape narrow and compact it made this space on the flank. From here this made Arsenal’s first goal as Saka got the ball in space from Xhaka to make a cross into the box which was finished.
After this goal when Arsenal moved the ball into a wide area, Everton were instructed to prevent wide overloads. This was most likely to prevent service into the forwards from the wide spaces and attempt to force turnovers. This was an unsuccessful approach however as it would stretch their defensive shape, therefore, opening up space rather than preventing it. Mesut Ozil would shift flank-to-flank depending on where the ball was and Everton players would shift with him. In this analysis below, we can see the creation of Arsenal’s third goal. Four Everton players move to their left flank to leave Arsenal players in a 3 v 4 in that area. As the defensive shape is so stretched now Aubameyang is now left in a 1 v 1 against the right-back which is a complete mismatch. The full-back is caught watching the ball and is unaware of the predatory movements of the forward who’s able to get in front of him and score.
Everton’s failed press
Everton in their tactics would try to press high in this 4-4-2 as they looked to cut-off central progression through central-midfielder Dani Ceballos. However, with a high press, the team must be committed to attacking the ball otherwise there are problems and things become disconnected. Ceballos would easily find space between the scheme to build Arsenal through the buildup phases, he completed the fifth-most passes in the match. As you can see, the three Everton players are late to press him and the left-sided player is nowhere to be seen to cut off his outlet to Saka, creating a massive disconnect in their press during this phase of play.
This disconnect continued into the next phase. Former Arsenal player and youth product Alex Iwobi would again be involved in another gunner’s goal despite now playing for Everton. Because, as before mentioned, the team would not be fully committed to the press and it would be seen here individually from Iwobi who drops off instead of attacking the ball. This allows for centre-back David Luiz to drive the ball forward and make a perfect pass the Aubameyang making a run in-behind, Everton’s defensive line is now exposed as the press fails and it leads to a fine finish from the gunner’s top marksmen.
Everton threaten in-behind
Arsenal have been a tough team to break down when settled out of possession. The Toffees would see most success against them in possession when they were in a 4-4-2 midblock. Arsenal’s objective was to attack the ball and force Everton long preventing progression into the middle third. Which they did with good effect however the spacing in the shape caused an issue against longballs. As we can see below the defensive line is very tight to the midfield line which resulted in space for the away players to move into and become outlets on longballs. The first and second lines of pressure would be bypassed with one pass as they had 18 successful longballs out of 36 attempted.
This would mean Arsenal would immediately have to drop back and be left into tricky 1 v 1 defensive situations. But the forwards of Richarlson and Calvert-Lewin do not have the pace to truly be a threat in these sequences, as Richarlson only completed one of five take-ons. Through statistics, we can see they created one big chance in open play and despite scoring two goals, none were assisted from open play.
In this tactical analysis, we saw how Mikel Arteta’s tactics overcame Carlo Ancelotti’s. Everton’s forwards were not able to click in the attacking third despite their quality and their press out of possession was unorganised. Arteta’s 2-3-5 shape continues to be very effective in the attacking phase of play especially against teams who use a 4-4-2 out of possession. The relentless attitude of attacking the ball, even in the final 10 minutes with a one-goal lead, continues to lead to great defensive results as Arsenal looked great in open play.