Arsenal vs. Brentford: Mikel Arteta faces first great tactical test of Gunners’ Premier League title charge

Maybe there’s nothing more Arsenal losses against Everton last week than the amalgamation of a famous new coach, a day off for Mikel Arteta’s team, and the pure electricity that Goodison Park produced when he finally saw the team in blue play with real intensity and purpose.

While Arsenal tended to lose Premier League matches in installments last season, the only previous time they have finished without points this season was a 3-1 loss against Manchester United – they responded with a victory in their next four top division matches, starting with a 3-0 thrashing of the opposition on Saturday. brentford. This time around, the Gunners are losing two games, but even that comes with a caveat that in the FA Cup they have changed significantly and their opponents Manchester Not. Having played more than half of the season, Arsenal have still not lost points in consecutive league matches.

This bodes well for the Brentford team, who are in good shape and have been 6-5-2 in the Premier League since their last meeting with Arsenal. However, recent games have brought with them the first sign that managers understand what needs to be done to slow down the relentless tide of league leaders. Tactically, it starts in wide areas.

After leading his side to a 1-0 win at Goodison Park, Sean Dyche picked up the pace and used an approach that gave Newcastle a point at the Emirates Stadium at the end of the year. Whenever Arsenal gave possession of the ball to their wingers, Everton immediately double-teamed the wingers. This is hardly some unimaginable tactical plan, the product of hours spent staring at the board for a moment of insight, but Dyche and Eddie Howe are credited for understanding what was blindingly obvious in north London during long enough. Gabriel Martinelli and in particular Bukayo Saka two of the most devastating hitters in the league. If you try to protect them one on one, you’re just asking for trouble.

Where the Magpies waited for the ball to find Arsenal’s wide forwards, Dyche’s team was generally more aggressive, especially in defending right space, where Saka can interchange so devastatingly. Martin Odegaard. From the very beginning Alex Iwobi exhausted himself to the bone, especially crushing Ben White so that not a single pass goes to the seventh number of Arsenal.

Iwobi starts putting pressure on White as soon as he feels the pass is going to the Arsenal right-back.

Scout/Premier League

From the start, Iwobi was chasing passes that might not even reach White, so he was determined to cut off what was Arsenal’s most consistent route to goals. Even when the away right-back eventually ducks the initial pressure and finds a pass to Saku, that initial tension forces him to get the ball headed for his own goal. Iwobi to the rescue Vitaly Mykolenko and Saki has no choice but to push the ball back into the overburdened center.

White passes to Saka, but with No. 7 moving away from the net, Arsenal have little chance of launching an attack

Scout/Premier League

Everton had an easier task on the opposite flank, as did Brentford on Saturday. Gabriel Martinelli continues to flicker with menace, but he is not the raging fire of the start of the season. It may be nothing more than a dip in form, but equally the young Brazilian, who signed a new contract earlier this month, doesn’t seem to be in the kind of favorable environment that favors his talents.

In particular, he seems to be missing Gabriel Jesus. The two Brazilians immediately became friends on and off the pitch when Jesus arrived from Manchester City in the summer. The former quickly became a devastating aspect in Arsenal’s attacks. Their striker would form a pocket with Martinelli on the left, like Odegaard and Saki on the right, filled with positional fluidity, fast passing and exciting dribbling.

Martinelli loved it and told CBS Sports in November, “When you play good players, it’s easy. [Jesus] he is always moving. Bukayo is also always ready to play, so it becomes easy to adapt. If sometimes you can see games, he goes wide and I go to the center.

“The goal that I scored against Forest – I was wide, I got the ball, I played Bukayo, he went to the flank, and I entered the box. So I think everyone can see when we change our position. we do it and we always talk about it because we say we are players who love to move and spin and that’s good. It’s hard for defenders to spot us, so we’ll keep doing it.”

Arsenal have dealt well with Jesus’ World Cup injury, from which he won’t return until early March, although he has returned to outdoor work. Eddie Nketiah answered many questions from fans by finishing fourth in expected non-penalty goals (npxG) in 90 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues and joining Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez. But this npxG figure is indicative of the tactical adjustments Arteta has made since Nketiah switched sides. It doesn’t make much sense to force a high-class poacher to do Jesus-style work in formation, it’s better to feed him goalscoring chances and keep him in the penalty area, exactly in the place where Xhaka Granite attacked with greater frequency at the beginning of the season.

Arsenal’s passing net in games played by Gabriel Jesus (left) and their last three Premier League games (right). Notice how much closer FW (Jesus) is to LW (Martinelli) in the left image.


All these minor adjustments ensured that Martinelli remained in something of an island in attack, and when Seamus Coleman and Dwight McNeil doubled it at Goodison Park, no one could match Jesus coming to rob Everton of their numbers.

In preparation for his team’s next match, Thomas Frank no doubt took detailed notes. After all, much of what has worked well at Everton can easily be used by Brentford at the Emirates Stadium. IN Brian Mbeumo And Yoan warned he has two wingers who are ready to do their part without the ball and who have the speed to break into the space left by Arsenal’s full-backs. The Gunners will find it particularly difficult to defend against Oleksandr Zinchenkoflank if he indulges his penchant for drifting in midfield, although it must be said that few defend space better than Gabriel.

The Bees could also point out how effectively Dyche’s men beat Arsenal’s pressure by simply throwing the ball over him into a fairly large frame. Amadou Onana. The Everton card was a kind of circus cannon, but it worked.



No team in the Premier League makes more long-range passes than Brentford and it’s no surprise that they strive for such Ivan Tony. Their first goal against Tottenham and their second against Bournemouth both saw Frank’s team grab the attention of the press, albeit extremely hesitantly, and quickly advance the ball with a long ball that penalized opponents whose full-backs pushed too high. This is a plan that Arsenal can test.

Don’t say what will happen. There may be ways to make life difficult for Arteta’s team, but it’s not a fact that just because Everton and Newcastle have successfully blocked the flanks, any other team can do it, and that Saka can’t just beat two defenders. once per game instead of once. Likewise, it does not appear that the Arsenal manager is unaware of the defenses in place against his team.

“A defeat gives you a lot of opportunities to look at other things and the reaction of the team,” he said at a pre-match press conference. “The response from the team this week has been excellent and tomorrow we are going to put on a great performance in front of our fans to try and win the game.”

An Everton win and a draw against Newcastle might have given the opposition an idea of ​​what Arsenal could stop, but they did the same with Arteta. Faced with an opponent who could try the same tricks on Saturday, we need to see if the Gunners can adapt their approach to give more headaches to defenders.


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