I finally had some time to watch the Southampton PL game again and have come to some conclusions/afterthoughts I’d like to share.
- Arteta made a brave decision to push up and press high from the start, with both Xhaka and Partey high up the pitch and three/ four attackers in front of them. When Xhaka played in Pepe with a measured billiard ball, there were four Gunners in the box! Pepe took the chance himself, but had he squared it there were three attackers to convert. It was really good to see so many attackers in the box. It was good to see Xhaka and Partey play in one line a lot too; both were able to put in forward passes whilst also looking after their defensive duties.
- The only problem with this approach is that we left quite a lot of space between defence and midfield during the first half. The Saints cleverly positioned players in that space and through them, especially the impressive Che Adams, they were able to counter attack with speed and menace. It led to a few (half) chances and a team with better attackers could have hurt us from those rapid attacks. Arteta has to think carefully whether a similar approach v the red Mancs would be too risky or not.
- He did resolve this issues during the second half, I think. No doubt the Saints were getting tired and therefore were less able to make the right runs in between our midfield and defence, but we also appeared tighter with the defence pushing up a bit more and both Xhaka and Partey, or at least one of them at any given time, sitting back more. I really liked our composure during the second half, as we had more control and everybody worked hard to deny the Saints the space and time to outsmart us again.
- In ESR and Laca – they could be brothers – we have two great ‘hustlers and bustlers’ in the team. Pepe, like Auba when he is on the pitch, tried this too but he/they are just not made for it, somehow. The brothers constant movement and challenging of opposition players does not allow them much time on the ball and it makes our game so much less predictable. Then a bit deeper Xhaka and Partey do the same but with a clear instruction to protect the shape (and tactics) of the game. I was also impressed with Cedric’s ability to hustle players and deny them time and space.
- It was really interesting to observe Saka in this game. Give him the ball and he will produce danger. We attacked a lot via the left and this gave Saka a lot of space to operate in. Bellerin may be our weakest link right now, but he does help with giving Saka an outlet and he is a decent passing partner too. Bukayo left Bellerin a bit too much on his own in the first half, but this changed in the second half; I wonder whether Mikel had told him to give more support. Saka is playing the ‘Pepe role’ on the right so much better than Nicolas right now, and he was a formidable weapon during the game. Cedric found him with a Beckham-esque high-diagonal ball in an ocean of space, and then he produced a peach of an assist that Laca would have scored with any part of his body other than his arms. On a number of occasions Laca went deep and Saka forward and the young Englishman was able to stay on site a few times. The Frenchman was clearly instructed to pass the ball to Saka in these situations and it paid off for our all important second goal. This ‘free’ Saka role is an interesting development; he played in a sort of Auba role in fact.
- We must guard against giving opponents too much space and time to put crosses into our box, especially from the wings. This is where Bellerin was below par (and Saka should have offered more support initially). We also have to protect our ‘D’ area better from shots and intricate passes, and for this the central midfielders have to come deeper at times (but this improved a lot in the second half). It may take time to get the balance right in the new system.
- Leno was once again solid and his presence and confidence really are energizing and protecting our team. Our CBs could have been more solid on a few occasions, but Leno was there anyway to deal with the danger. Somebody said on the blog that Bernd is the best goalkeeper in the PL. I am not ready to say that but he is getting better and better.
- One of the questions I asked myself whilst watching the game again was: where and how do we need to improve as to beat the Mancs on Saturday? As said before, I feel we need to keep the space between defence and midfield to a minimum, either by all pushing up or by sitting deeper, or a controlled combination of both. We may need a more dynamic CB than Luiz for this, and I am hoping Big Gab is fully focused and fit again on Saturday. Same goes for Tierney who is great at recovering runs and good positioning. It may be best to play Soares on the right, as he is the better FB of the two at the moment. Reintroducing a hungry Auba could also make a big difference, but Martinelli is also chomping at the bit right now; so we have options. Saka will have to play a more defensive role but then surprise the Mancs with a few great runs and dribbles.
- Finally, if I could buy a player from the Saints, who would it be? There are a number of players who could strengthen the Arsenal squad. Ward-Prowse would strengthen any team, both with his skills and mentality. I really like Bednarek, the 24 year old Polish CB. But we have enough good CBs right now. I also liked Che Adams a lot and I think he would be very good in the Laca role. At just 24 there is more to come from him. So I would go for him.
30 thoughts on “Arsenal v Saints Musings: One Super Weapon, Two Great Hustlers, Lessons for MU match | Which Saints Player to Buy?”
@TA, Good points. I will add my 3 points (Cents) 🙂
1. What i observed was the difference in passing. What i mean is that everybody were trying to pass the first time. There were no extra touches taken. Case in point Xhaka’s first time pass to Laca and Pepe, Saka’s first time pass for Laca, just two touches for his goal, Cedric’s first time pass to Saka, Laca’s first time pass to Saka for his goal etc. This made defence’s task that much harder. I think only Pepe had multiple touches in the final third.
2. We have to improve on our dead ball service, whether its the corner or free kicks. We hardly create threatening situations from dead ball. We don’t have tall players in the box, but we also don’t seem to have good Free Kick takers. I would love to have Ward Prowse from Southampton next year.
3. Being able to use both foots. I think players should be encouraged to use both their foots and should be based on situation. If you don’t have the space or the time to check back to your string side, you should use your weaker leg. Pepe is a prime example, he scored a wonder goal with his weaker foot in Europa league, but hesitates to use it often which give defender’s a chance to guess his actions. Saka is a great example that he uses both his foot depending on the situation like he did for Laca’s Goal. Players should be made to practice to use both foots, i hope they are already doing that. They should be encouraged to use them more often.
Cheers Madhu, fine observations. Two footedness is a great advantage, agreed. I am sure Arteta has his players work on it, but not all will make huge progress.
Hey TA– wanted to expound on the Two Great Hustlers aspect of your post. Something I’d been sensing to a degree– then was shown evidence with an analysis I’d read. Not the vaunted pack-hunting press that have been the lynchpins of Pool or City’s successes the past 3 years. Instead of an incessant method of hounding the ball in numbers or trapping against sidelines? One that chooses opportune moments based on the how an opponent sets up to play from the back.
A situational tactic based on an opponent’s CBs being less-than mid-range passers. In Soton’s case– their deeper lying MFs (Ward-Prowse and Diallo) would take turns dropping back centrally, spreading the CBs wide to skirt the Laca-ESR. Once the MF laid off to the opposite side CB– is where the pressure occurred– forcing the CB to attempt a vertical pass into midfield. The real trap.
Twice in the first 10 minutes– this lead to a goal (Pepe) and what should have been the opener (by Laca). Each time, it was Xhaka with a through pass into space vacated by a Soton MF– before the CBs could recover shape.
Where those Pool/City presses of acclaim require extended periods of energy-expending effort? This situational pressing requires the front tandem and wingers to recognize ‘when’, then act as a unit to influence the direction of play-from-back passes. Then trapping with pressure on out of position CBs– to pass upfield.
Target the weakest passer in the back line. Force the ball to him. Pressure him to make a high-risk pass. The key to this style of press are a tandem like ESR and Lacazette. A pair who feed off the commitment of the other’s effort.
Beautiful comment, JW. Seems very plausible and a clever and energy saving way of trapping the opponent.
It’s like Orcas hunting down a seal 😊🙏
Looked it up. Orcas travel at 35mph (56kph) and seals 18mph (29kph).
Perhaps we should call CBs — SealBs 😄
Nice one, JW. They are ferocious hunters, regularly seen here off the shores of northern Scotland.
Thanks for a nice read Total, I think you covered most bases.
Regarding Pepe, he’s had two of his most impressive performances on the left this season, on the right he’s been fairly ineffective and Saka is pretty well cemented in that position now anyway, so maybe playing our record signing on the left more centrally is the option we need to try to finally get a tune out of our Ivorian?
And in conclusion let us all laugh at Tottenham…
TA, fine observations and lessons for our next game(s), really. I did see Laca work hard in the press but to be effective, all the front 4 needed to do this in tandem, so this area does need improvement. One key weapon we had at Old Trafford was with Elneny joining the front 3 of Auba, Laca and Willian (Partey mopping up any loose balls) to hunt down their defenders and keeper in their attempts to pass out from the back, forcing the ManU defenders to play out hurried passes. Willian is unlikely to start so, we would probably press more intensely with ESR joining Saka, Laca and Auba/Pepe (agree, both do this with less intensity).
We did push up a lot vs the Saints. That’s a ploy we are unlikely to use for long periods this weekend. I won’t mind it too much if we started by pushing up, though, just when the opponents are still settling into the game. Our next opponents have improved significantly, since that game away, with Pogba stepping up these days to give them a reliable out ball. I expect Partey and Xhaka to be busy putting the pressure on Fernandez and Pogba, while ESR takes advantage of any loose balls.
I do hope Tierney and ESR are fit for this one, though. It is unlikely Arteta will throw on Gabriel this soon, after just returning, unless he has shown great improvement in training (and conversely, Luis regresses). Every player who started on Tuesday will be looking to start
on Saturday, for sure. It will be intense in training.
TA, fine observations and lessons for our next t game(s), really. I did see Laca work hard in the press but to be effective, all front 4 needed to do this in tandem, so this needs improvement. One key weapon we had at Old Trafford was with Elneny joining the front 3 of Auba, Laca and Willian (Partey mopping up any loose balls) to hunt down their attempts to pass out from the back. This forced the ManU defenders to play out hurried passes. Willian is unlikely to start so, we would probably press more intensely with ESR joining Saka, Laca and Auba/Pepe (agree, both do this with less intensity).
Finally, other than their injured CB, Westergaard, I don’t see too many in that side who can improve us, greatly. As brilliant as Ward-Prowse is, playing for them, he isn’t so speedy to me and only comes alive in set-piece situations. We don’t have the tallest players so this may not serve us too well. As for direct free kick taking, Willian, Pepe, Auba and even Laca aren’t half bad. All we need to do is trust ONE player to take dead balls more consistently. That’s how confidence, with competence, is built.
Yeah, Kev. Results from the last two evenings have been pleasing. Always good to laugh at the tiny tots, even more so with Moaningho in charge and struggling to keep hold of his emotions on the touch line.
I see I am back on top of the “Predictions game” log. That’s Arsenal-esque form. Long may it last (for both). 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽🏅💪🏾
Madhu good point about one touch passing. Smith Rowe is particularly good at it, and it makes all the difference. Keeps things ticking along instead of plodding as we had been doing for weeks without a real #10.
Jnyc one touch passing makes the game faster for defenders to think and adjust. They are out of position without recovery time. Can’t help thinking after watching pool yesterday , thier play looks like FIFA 2021 on steroids. Such high tempo pressing, running and attacking. Ours is slow but much better than what we were doing before with ponderous football. We are much better to watch now but some way off to match pool and Manc.
Kev, good point about Pepe being better away from the right flank. He seems more free and himself there. I would like him to be better at protecting the ball in tight spaces or just pass quicker, but I can see that the coaches are improving him.
Good comment Erismus, so good I read it twice ☺️
Agreed on the pressing, yet as per Jws comment, the boys pressed with a combo of positioning and applying one on one pressure. I thought that worked well but we have to be wary of the space we leave behind and between defence and midfield.
Well done Eris in the BK competition. And thanks GN5 for coordinating it all so timely. 👍🏿👍🏿
Arsenal U23 v Tottenham: Hein; Alebiosu, Olowu, Dinzeyi, Lopez; Akinola, Patino; Cirjan, Cottrell, Balogun; Moller.
Subs: Hillson, Oyegoke, Ogungbo, Lewis, Taylor-Hart.
Azeez and Okonkwo not in squad, Patino making U23 debut.
Cottrell puts Arsenal in the lead.
spurs 0 young guns 1
won’t be able to follow the whole game; it’s on you kev
Pour voir LG 😉
Ah, that looks like an old goal…
NJK84 today is your last chance to make your predictions for this weekend.
There will be a extra two bonus points for the correct score between Barcelona and Athletic Bilboa.
Crystal Palace v Wolves
W.B.A. v Fulham
Arsenal v Manchester United
Southampton v Aston Villa
Leicester v Leeds
Barcelona v Athletic Bilboa
I copied this off of another site – it made me chuckle so I thought I would share t on BK.
“As an Arsenal fan, I say to Jurgen Klopp – Mustafi has 6 months on his contract. We’re begging him to stay but he wants to move onto better things. Who are we to hold him back?? Give us a few million and we’ll begrudgingly take it. It’ll hurt to see him go but it’s for the best. YNWA (You’ll never win again!!)”
Scarlett misses a penalty for Tottenham.
Taylor-Hart and Oyegoke on for Patino and Cirjan. Presumably Alebiosu will go to right wing.
5 yellow cards for Arsenal, 3 for Tottnum, it’s a fiesty encounter.
Winning run ends but that’s 6 games unbeaten, credit to Steve Bould for turning it around.
Nice one, Kev.
New Post 🙂
Lol, TA @ 9:52. Not sure how that happened with my post but felt like something you needed to read twice.
That was funny, GN5.