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Post Match Review

Three Things We Learned From Chelsea v Arsenal: Still Some Work To Do

Saturday was another step in the process. It was a step towards hopefully restoring Arsenal back to being a solid team and competing for honors. However, it also showed the that process could be a long one and not for the faint-at-heart. So what if anything did we learn from Chelsea v Arsenal?

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day. . . And Neither Will Arsenal’s Defense

If anything needed work at Arsenal it was our defensive structure. Actually, it didn’t need work, we actually needed a defensive structure. And in the first two weeks there are some promising signs and some worrisome issues that keep popping up.

First, I like the fact that there is organization to our defensive line. We’re more organized and we are working to get men behind the ball. There were a few moments when we showed some poor composure deep in the box but overall it didn’t always look like a frenetic panic attack in the box.

Additionally, there are some signs of the fact that players are starting to come to grips with their individual responsibilities especially as Emery has moved to favor a man-to-man set up rather than zonal, especially on set pieces.

Alas, though, there is still work to be done and some of the issues remaining are hurting Arsenal. While we do tend show some organization, what’s missing at times and what was exploited continually early on against Chelsea was a lack of compact shape.

You want to get compact to deny passing channels and to deny space for players to move through and be options to receive those passes. However, below is an image of something I saw a few times in in yesterday’s match. Sitting in front of our 18, the gaps between the MF – in this case Guendouzi and Xhaka and between Sokratis and Mustafi in the back line is big enough to drive a truck through and on the first goal that is exactly what happened.

Arsenal Defensive Spacing vs Chelsea 8.18.18

Arsenal Defensive Spacing

Additionally, the spacing between the lines was suspect as, again with both Guendouzi and Xhaka on the pitch, both were playing higher up leaving too big a gap between the defensive line and midfield line. This changed when Torreira was introduced as his average position was just in front of the two central defenders creating a triangle that effectively cut of any supply channels to Morata.

The Morata goal was a host of errors. And if you look at the diagram below, you can see where they all were. First, Xhaka doesn’t close down Kante on the 1-2 with Rudiger. Nor does Iwobi close down Azpilicueta when the ball travels to him.

Diagram of Alphonso Morata's goal vs Arsenal 8.18.18

How many breakdowns can you find

So, deep in their end, our press isn’t engaged. In fact, one of the commentators mentioned in the match that Özil seemed to be struggling with the system and knowing when to press and when to drop off. Frankly, its not just him, its many in this squad.

However, assuming that’s how Emery wanted them to play, how the two center backs just let Morata drift on the line like they did is comical. They both need to close their spacing and one needs to get tighter to him – in this case it should’ve been Mustafi.

When the ball hits his feet Mustafi is already behind the player and has to adjust awkwardly to try and block the shot. It was almost as if both CBs thought he was offside and didn’t make the necessary adjustments.

That leads me to one of the final issues I was seeing, a complete lack of awareness and communication with what is going on.,

In another moment, N’Golo Kante, playing out wide of the MF 3 for Sarri starts a run from the outside passing in front of Monreal, who doesn’t let Sokratis know he’s coming, so Sokratis doesn’t pick him and the gap is so wide between him and Mustafi and they don’t communicate so Kante makes an excellent run through the middle and if not for a good recovery run, it would’ve been another goal.

As with all things, this restructuring of the Arsenal defensive play is going to take time and patience. One thing is, given Emery’s penchant for video analysis and his making players watch it over and over. They will likely be shown these errors and work to fix them.

The Attack is Going to Be Fine – When We Find Our Shooting Boots

 If we buried the 3 easy chances we had – Auba, Mkhi and Iwobi had – the game would’ve been over well before Chelsea’s third went in.

The movement and fluidity of attack is developing and while there are aspects that still need work – like being quicker and cleaner in transition, once down in the final third, the runs and entry passes to the forwards are excellent.

However, like we did against Manchester City, we’re wasting these great creative chances through poor shooting – without anyone pressuring the shooter. It’s wholly uncharacteristic for someone like Aubamenyang, who is such a solid goal scorer.

Still, we’re getting numbers up and creating overloads in and around the box that we’re taking advantage of. When we were deep in their end, we were looking at 6 attackers in and around the box, the front four of Auba, Mkhi, Iwobi and Özil were often joined by Bellerin and Monreal providing the width or underlapping to allow either Mkhi or Iwobi (and sometimes Auba) provide width.

With Guendouzi and Xhaka/Torreira checking in from the MF to offer outlets and excellent passes from deep, Arsenal have an attacking threat that when it gets clicking will be a threat and a treat to see.

And that’s a good thing because we’re going to need to score a whole lot more, given how we’re conceding.

Emery Not Afraid to Make Changes. . . Regardless of Who You Are

 Last week it was Aaron Ramsey, this week Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil. Regardless of who the player is, Emery has shown that if you aren’t being effective in the match, you are going to come off.

Granit Xhaka was pulled at half-time. When was the last time we saw a half-time sub. I think Emery learned this weekend, that you just can’t have both Guendouzi and Xhaka on the pitch at the same time.  They both got too far forward, and it created space for Chelsea to run through.

When Torreira came in at half the adjustment was quick to see as he opted to stay back, and it looked like at least to me our defensive shape went to a 4-1-4-1 with Torreira forming that triangle we discussed earlier with the two center backs.

Arsenal's Mesut Özil fights for the ball vs Chelsea

Another bad day at the office for Arsenal

Özil’s sub came I think due to equal parts performance and tactical need.  As a confessed Özil apologist and fanboy, even I have to admit he’s not found his rhythm in Emery’s system. I still think it has to do with a lack of service to him from deep which allows him to exploit space between the opposition lines which should change if Torreira starts a match with Özil in front of him.

I am also not a fool and I know Özil still has come to grips with his pressing game yet. The commentators were right, he doesn’t seem to know when to drop off and when to press and at one point in particular I remember David Luiz glide right past him in the MF having all the space and time to do so.

Ramsey comes in and solidifies that pressing game for Emery and had the energy to do so and frankly it was the right move to make. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds and whether Özil can come to grips with it or does Emery adjust a little and give the German a freer role and tactically put someone else in the MF to handle the press.

Still, it was a good thing to see and no player should be given playing time based on name, size of contract or stature within the team.

That’s it for this week’s rendition of “Three Things.” Onward to the Emirates this week and hopefully a win against West Ham.

Emery’s Post Game Interview

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