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Arsenal Show Improvement in Arteta’s Coaching Debut – tactical analysis


Arsenal traveled to the south coast to battle Bournemouth. Earlier in the season, the gunners could’ve been considered lucky to get all three points against them at the Emirates. But since Bournemouth has struggled, coming into the game winless in eight matches.

A different manager took the helm for the third time this season at Arsenal Football Club. A former assistant of Pep Guardiola and captain of the club Mikel Arteta started his coaching journey against this struggling Bournemouth side. In this tactical analysis, we’ll delve into why so many were impressed with Arteta’s debut and how Howe’s cherries continue their struggles.


Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

Arteta’s first eleven featured a mix of youth and experience. Interestingly it featured key players despite a matchup with Chelsea upcoming. It can be described as an asymmetric 4-3-3 that we will dissect throughout this tactical analysis. Going through some of the new roles and tactics that are deployed by the Spaniard. Making three changes from Arsenal’s previous match against Everton. Mesut Ozil and Lacazette returned after previously being dropped due to poor form by care-taker manager Ljungberg. Ozil has been involved in five goals in five Premier League appearances against the cherries.

Eddie Howe went for a 4-5-1 variant. Joshua King who is traditionally a striker who partners Wilson played wider out onto the left. Youngster Jack Simpson came in for his second Premier League appearance of the season with Sergio Rico being dropped at left-back.

Arsenal passing patterns and structure

Mikel Arteta implemented a 2-3-5 as a possession structure for Arsenal in his tactics. Which we’ve seen used with Manchester City. Below you can see from WhoScored the average positioning of the away team. Many of the same sequences and roles were implemented such as an inverted fullback and forward. Aubameyang would start out-wide and then move inside. Allowing for his predatory ability inside the box to not be compromised. Instead of where being played as a traditional winger under Emery where he would be put into 1v1 situations against fullbacks. Maitland-Miles was deployed as an inverted fullback which saw him operate primarily in the midfield which is familiar territory for him considering his experiences as a midfielder.

Arsenal generally in possession looked much improved than previous renditions with Ljungberg and especially Emery. Long sustained spells of possession and passing sequences with purpose and direction highlighted were on showcase. Arteta’s men had 61% possession and created 12 chances.

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

(via WhoScored)


One sequence of play that we saw commonly was the usage of Saka as an overlapping fullback. This was used effectively throughout the match and because of the gunner’s astute structure in possession, Bournemouth struggled to come up with answers against this pattern of play.

As you can see below Aubameyang comes inside which creates space in the wide-area for Saka to run into. Maitland-Miles inverting creates a midfield three and allows for the ball to be rotated side-to-side quicker and Xhaka is able to make a timely pass to Saka into space who’s able to create a goal-scoring opportunity. Granit connected with Saka down the flank 21 times throughout the match, and he attempted the second-most crosses in the match.

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

Immediately into the second half, this sequence was tweaked, however. Xhaka would drop into the space of the backline when the midfield would be congested. This created more space for Saka out-wide and opened new passing solutions against Bournemouth’s lines of pressure . Xhaka had more time on the ball and vision around the field making up for his athletic deficiencies. The Swiss midfielder completed the most passes in the match with 90.

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

Bournemouth ineffective pressing 

Throughout Unai Emery’s reign at the North London club, they’ve been poor against teams that intensely press them. Commonly playing out the back was seen as a hindrance rather than an advantage as the gunners would turn the ball over in dangerous positions that would lead to the opposition creating high percentage goal chances.

Eddie Howe set his team out to continue this trend but the execution was poor. They struggled to win the ball back consistently and more importantly created gaps throughout their team that would be exploited. Mesut Ozil specifically would find pockets of space. Deep lying midfielders Xhaka and Torriera would easily find the playmaker as the space in between Bournemouth’s lines of pressure weren’t compact enough and at times a complete mess.

The home side only produced 48 ball recoveries, less than Arsenal who were more passive in their press.

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

Bournemouth struggled in possession

Eddie Howe’s boys last season were well renowned for being one of the most dangerous sides in the league, boasting a better-expected goal than Pochettino’s Tottenham. But this season struggles to consistently be dangerous in attack.  Out of possession, the gunners would allow Bournemouth’s center backs to play with the ball. Once the ball was played to a wide player they’d jump on him. This would also prevent central progression as the central midfielders would be man-marked or passing lane covered. Forcing inaccurate long passes which would lead to Arsenal recovering possession of the ball. Only 17 of their 30 long balls were successful and they only maintained 39% of possession.

Arsenal has been most vulnerable when transitioning into defense. Players across the season have struggled when out of defensive shape, often being caught in numerical disadvantages or not knowing how to defend the space. Bournemouth despite their reputation for being a lethal counter-attacking team traditionally since entering the Premier League, was anything but.

Below is a perfect example where they come streaming forward with numbers as Arsenal defenders frightened continually drop back. But they rarely made the correct pass in these sequences or were simply to slow to make a decision like the attack below where eventually Wilson would get caught by incoming support for the defense. Bournemouth had a 1.3 expected goal. 

Overloading between the lines

The 2-3-5 possession structure supports the tactical principle of overloading between the lines. Having five attackers between the midfield and defensive lines causes disruption to the opposition defensive shape and numerical advantages for the attacking team. As it did on the day for Arsenal. This was specifically effective against Howe’s Bournemouth because they like to play a high-line. The constant movements of the five would mean there was always a vertical passing option available.

From the example below Arsenal created one of their best chances of the game. Bournemouth is trying to maintain their signature high-line while but with all the players to account for gaps are created. Lacazette and Luiz are on the same wavelength as they both identify the space. The striker makes the run and Luiz’s passing range gives him the ability to find him making the run.

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis

This part of Arteta’s tactics also directly assisted in Arsenal’s only goal of the day. As we can see through analysis, Reiss and Saka provide the width in the structure. Space opens up across Bournemouth’s backline, Aubameyang receives the ball in space from a vertical pass and has two players making runs around him in-behind, and they are at a numerical disadvantage of 5v4 in Arsenal’s favor.

Premier League 2019/20: Bournemouth vs Arsenal - tactical analysis


Some Arsenal fans will have reservations considering it was Arteta’s first game but it most certainly only could have exceeded expectations for most. The gunners looked like a well-trained side that had direction and purpose in their play. Producing the third-most shots in an away match since Arsene Wenger left but the cutting edge was missing from star forwards Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang.

Lack of quality may finally be catching up on Eddie Howe as they extended their winless run to nine matches. Through the statistics provided and analysis, we could conclude that a draw was a fair result.

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