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Emery Manages Tactical Adjustments to Help Arsenal Defeat Bournemouth – Tactical Analysis


In all competitions, Arsenal had a 100% home-win ratio against Bournemouth before coming into this game. Arsenal held onto their record and moved third in the Premier League table defeating Bournemouth 1-0.

This tactical analysis focuses on how Unai Emery made slight adjustments to his tactics that led to Arsenal keeping its first clean sheet in Premier League




Unai Emery opted for 4-2-3-1 against Bournemouth bringing back Dani Ceballos in place of Lucas Torriera from Arsenal’s last Premier League fixture against Manchester United. Unai managed his squad well and rotated enough in the midweek fixture against Standard Liège to see only one player, Dani Ceballos, starting both the games.

Eddie Howe went with the traditional 4-4-2 formation which he has been using since Bournemouth’s 3-1 win against Everton. He went with the same personnel that won against Southampton and drew West Ham.

A game of ‘non-identical press’

Arsenal started to believe in their game after their second-half performance against Manchester United. They started the game with high and aggressive pressing and continued for the most part of the game. As a result, Arsenal recovered 17 balls high up the field, second-most this season in Premier League games.

4 vs 4 created by Arsenal's high press

4 vs 4 created by Arsenal’s high press

Arsenal’s press was effective most of the time. Guendouzi became the extra man while pressing other than the front four. It was always 4 vs 4 or 5 vs 5 in Arsenal’s final third when they pressed. In this scenario it can be seen Mattéo Guendouzi moved up the field to press, creating a 4 vs 4 situation including Bournemouth’s goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale. Eventually, Nathan Aké miss passed the ball and it went for a throw-in.

Arsenal's high press

Arsenal’s high press

A scenario in the second half best describes Arsenal’s aggressive pressing. This image shows Guendouzi moving up the field to mark Bouremouth’s left-back Diego Rico, Nicolas Pépé covers the path of Nathan Aké, Aubameyang keeps a tab on Steve Cook, Ceballos moves along with Philip Billing, and Bukayo Saka’s body angle makes it perfect to mark both Jack Stacey and Jefferson Lerma.

Bournemouth, on the other hand, did not press Arsenal high enough and gave them the respect which they may not have deserved. Arsenal’s trouble in playing out from the back is known to all and this is one area Bournemouth failed to capitalise for most of the game.

Bournemouth's lacklustre press

Bournemouth’s lacklustre press

Xhaka's deep positioning

Xhaka’s deep positioning

These two images entirely depict Bournemouth’s press. Calum Chamber’s throw-in came towards Sokratis Papastathopoulos. He passes onto David Luiz with acres of space. Harry Wilson sitting deep to mark Arsenal’s left-back Sead Kolašinac. Granit Xhaka realising the situation came deep to give David Luiz an extra man to pass the ball. After Howe brought on Ryan Fraser in place of Dominic Solanke the game dynamics changed and Bournemouth started to control the game.

Bournemouth not pressing Arsenal defence high enough led Arsenal to keep possession and penetrate Bournemouth’s first line of defence 59 times compared to Bournemouth’s 51. The only reason Arsenal had 54% possession and Bournemouth 46%.

Xhaka’s positioning

Xhaka's deep positioning

Xhaka’s deep positioning

Xhaka vs Manchester United

Xhaka vs Manchester United

Xhaka vs Bournemouth

Xhaka vs Bournemouth

The heat maps vividly show how Emery wanted to position Xhaka against Bournemouth compared to other games. Xhaka played a role that most felt he would play at Arsenal in addition to some of his offensive abilities. In the other games, Xhaka was haywire. He was confused about whether to sit back or help his team in offensive areas. He failed in his primary task of providing defensive cover to Arsenal defenders. As a result, Arsenal faced too many counter-attacks.

He was brilliant defensively against Bournemouth and protected Arsenal defence quite well. He made seven interceptions, committed to nine defensive duels winning five of those and seven aerial duels winning three of those.

Xhaka’s positioning helped Arsenal play out from the back when they intended to.

No Arsenal player to pass the ball against Man Utd

No Arsenal player to pass the ball against Man Utd

I had briefly described the reason behind Arsenal’s failure in playing out from the back in the tactical analysis of Manchester United vs Arsenal game. Emery seemed to have solved a part of his mistakes by positioning Xhaka deep.

Xhaka's deep positioning

Xhaka’s deep positioning

Xhaka, sitting deep gave Arsenal another man to pass the ball when they tried to play out from the back. Xhaka slotted in perfectly between the defenders. Bournemouth’s lack of pressing helped Arsenal’s cause.

Emery’s improved tactics

Each week shows Arsenal’s inclination to play more long balls. Arsenal played 12.15% of long balls in the match against Bournemouth, highest since Emery took the charge. The average pass length of Arsenal’s game against Bournemouth was 21.58 which is again the most since Emery took charge and is 2.28 more than Arsenal’s average pass length this season.

Arsenal’s most problems arise when Bernd Leno plays short pass and they try to build out from the back. Leno had a brilliant game, not because of his pure goalkeeping reasons but due to his ability to decipher when to play short passes and when long. Leno played nine long balls with an accuracy of 56%, where his average long balls this season has been 3.19 with an accuracy of 47.1%. He played 12 short passes when the average this season has been 14.25. He played short passes only when he deemed it to be perfectly fit.

Ceballos's pass map

Ceballos’s pass map

Arsenal plays better when they have a ball-carrier at their disposal. This pass map clearly shows how well Dani Ceballos links up with all other Arsenal players. Even if Emery wants to give an opposition greater respect, Ceballos or a ball carrier shouldn’t be the one who is sacrificed. Starting Lucas Torreira along with two other deep midfielders limits Arsenal offensively, even during counter-attacks.


Arsenal looked better playing out from the back against Bournemouth when Xhaka sat deep and acted as a third defender. Xhaka’s positioning also helped Arsenal defensively. There were many positives to be taken from the game for Emery. Arsenal would be glad to have taken all three points without Aubameyang scoring, which is rare nowadays.

Bournemouth’s half-hearted press didn’t give Arsenal any scare when playing out from the back. It is to be seen how Arsenal copes when they are against a high press team.

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