Morning Gooners and happy Friday bestowed unto thee.
I’m still feeling good about The Arsenal after that surprise win on Wednesday night. It was everything you’d hope from the Arsenal team but what I’ve been repeating in my mind is the tactical approach by Arteta and how he got it so spot on. I find it interesting that we all get hung up on formations, but to borrow a line of thinking from Clive Palmer from the Arsenal Vision Podcast, I am starting to realise that looking at teams as set formations is quite an archaic way of watching football matches.
On Wednesday night the team sheet came out and everyone said “he’s gone with a back three” and with White, Gabriel and Holding on the pitch – all traditionally centre halves – it’s easy to understand why that line of thinking was given priority on everyone’s lips. But the reality of modern day football is that a lot of teams change the positions of the players on the pitch multiple times, so whilst for the purposes of putting in a team sheet to the Premier League might have suggested a back three, I didn’t actually see that happen to often if I’m honest.
When we had possession of the ball – particularly on the flanks – White played more like a right back. He was behind Saka and the England international had plenty of opportunities to have a run at Alonso. In terms of position on the pitch, of course we had less of the ball so Saka had to drop in out wide, but to my simple eyes I didn’t see any difference between when Bukayo plays as a ‘right winger’ to when he supposedly played as a ‘right wing back’ on Wednesday. I did see a difference in Nuno’s positioning and I think the addition of Holding in the middle enabled Gabriel to drift just a little bit over to cover, but Gabriel wasn’t really playing that far over as a left back at times; I saw us switch to what looked like a back four during the game and occasionally Xhaka tucked in between Gabriel and Holding, to make us a little more compact. It enabled Nuno to push further forward and as the game went on you could tell his confidence was growing (he won the ball and played the pass for the third goal, Eddie’s second).
So to me I saw us play as a back four, a back three, a flat back five in a straight line when Chelski were attacking us. We shifted positions so much in the game and the number of minutes in which we actually played with a back three and wing backs felt like it was minimal. So getting hung up on the fact the tactical approach was down to a certain formation just feels a bit wrong to me. And probably irrelevant.
I do think what is important though, is also recognising that every game has its own game-state and the one tomorrow will have a totally different dynamic to it. I suspect we will have a little more of the ball than we had against Chelski. Us being at home will also dictate our attacking approach; I don’t think that the plan from Wednesday night should be mapped out in exactly the same way that the match was mapped out by Arteta and his team on Wednesday. So my overriding thoughts as we go in to this tough weekend fixture (and it will be tough no matter what people say about United’s form) because they still have plenty of quality players – is that I hope Mikel is taking the time today – in between the press conference and the game – to go through a game plan with the players that is slightly tweaked from Wednesday’s win. I don’t know what that should be, I don’t know if it should mean changes in the team line up, but my hope is that we see an acknowledgement from the manager and his staff that we will need a different flavour of approach against a hurting opponent who will see this game as an opportunity to get themselves right in the mix.
The press conference is later and we’ll get team news and I wonder if Arteta will hint at any incomings in to the first XI. Gabby starting perhaps? Tomiyasu fit or at least in the squad? Perhaps he’s looking more closely at Pepe? There are plenty of things to consider and hopefully he’ll give us a hint of that later on this afternoon. It’s probably more likely than not that he won’t, but we’ll see.
And that’s about all I’ve got for you today folks. Hope you have a good one wherever you are and I’ll be back early tomorrow for the usual ramblings ahead of what is going to be a massive game for us against Man United.
Catch you all then.