Why Mikel Arteta’s tactical approach against Aston Villa made sense

After Arsenal crashed out in a damaging 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa at the Emirates, Mikel Arteta inevitably came under scrutiny for choosing to change his system.

Arteta returned to the approach he used earlier in the season, with the much-maligned Oleksandr Zinchenko coming in at left-back, Gabriel Jesus playing up front and Kai Havertz moving to an attacking midfielder role , after playing up front in recent weeks. . Judge by the score alone, and it was a disastrous decision. But as always, things are a little more complex.

These two changes essentially went hand in hand. Jakub Kiwior performed poorly at left-back in the midweek 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich, so Zinchenko’s return was not a huge surprise. Takehiro Tomiyasu is another option, but Arteta’s use of Zinchenko was a more positive choice that helped Arsenal dominate possession in the first half.

In turn, this allowed for an attacking option to be used in the left central midfield slot, as Zinchenko drifts into that area, freeing up a midfielder to become a bonus striker. That’s the role played by Havertz, one of a new generation of curious players who have operated as both No. 8 and No. 9 this season.

Throughout the first half there were some promising moments. Villa’s high line has caused serious problems for their opponents this season, and the defense is particularly adept at stepping in to catch an attacker offside when he begins his runs high against them. They have more problems against deep runners, and so Havertz starting his runs from midfield rather than attacking made sense.

Zinchenko was often the player trying to find those runs, including that ball thrown behind the back, which Havertz took a heavy touch on…

There was also this longer pass, which allowed Havertz to score on goal – although there was a delayed offside flag after the move was completed.

Then it was Martin Odegaard who found Havertz’s course in this channel. Here he was pipped to by Villa centre-back Diego Carlos, who was named man of the match at full-time. The fact that he was so important to Villa’s performance, particularly in the first half, shows just how much trouble Havertz’s movement caused.

Here is another type of situation that is a little different: Havertz exploits the space in the channel to recover a ball from Leandro Trossard behind the back. The shot is a bit tame, but the danger was there.

Certainly more problematic has been the performance of Jesus, who has struggled to return to the goalscoring form of his first games at the club since suffering injury problems last season.

Here his movement is excellent to collect the ball from Odegaard behind the back, and his awareness to bring in Bukayo Saka is also encouraging.

But then Jesus checked and held his position on the edge of the box rather than rushing towards goal – not a huge crime here, but a common theme when he’s out of form aim. Also note Trossard at the far post, demanding a pass.

Here is a comparable situation. Note that Trossard calls for the ball again on the opposite side. Odegaard plays the crucial pass and Saka has the ball behind on the right.

Jesus chooses to head towards the far post, but can’t get there quickly enough to get behind Carlos. A better option here might have been to get between Villa’s central defenders and facilitate Saka’s pass.

Instead, Saka tries to pass the ball across the box, and it is blocked.

Here is Odegaard releasing Saka again. Jesus, this time, is in a good position waiting for a ball between the defense and the goalkeeper. Saka, spotting the players at the far post, launches a cross over everyone’s heads.

Jesus made other bad decisions. In Arsenal’s next attack, Saka crosses from the left for Jesus at the far post, and he tries to beat Emi Martinez at the near post with his head.

This was never going to work; a looping header towards the far post, where Trossard was lingering, would have been better.

This Arsenal move involving Jesus, Odegaard, Saka and Ben White on the right was excellent and allowed Jesus to block a shot.

He probably has the right to take this shot, even if Trossard made an excellent run for a fallback, into space at the penalty spot.

Arsenal constantly found themselves in advantageous positions and then struggled to match the cross with the right run.

This situation, in which Zinchenko overlapped Trossard and then sent the ball to the far post, was particularly frustrating. Arsenal had no one there with Saka injured.

Saka, meanwhile, also struggled to make the right choices. Another excellent pass from Odegaard put him behind Lucas Digne…

But the problem was a slight error in control with the outside of his left foot, which took it wider than he would have liked.

This meant Pau Torres could cross and narrow the angle, convincing Saka to shoot at the near post rather than sending the ball across goal.

But Arsenal were ahead throughout the first half, and although they narrowly avoided conceding when a defensive mix-up allowed Ollie Watkins to hit the post, Arteta’s side really should have lead 1-0 five minutes before halftime. .

For all of Odegaard’s incisive passing, this chance simply came from a lucky bounce: his shot was deflected into the path of Jesus. For once, Jesus made the right choice. For once, Trossard got the pass he wanted.

The angle behind the goal shows what a goal this should have been.

Clearly, even though Arsenal failed to win the game in the first half, they largely lost it in the second.

Villa’s near-total domination was a marked contrast to the first half. “The only way to win here is to maintain possession,” Unai Emery said afterwards. “If we had tried to stay behind for 90 minutes it would have been difficult. The plan after halftime was to continue building, avoiding their press and with (Nicolo) Zaniolo we started to retain the ball better.

Arteta’s substitutions can certainly be questioned, even if they were partly aimed at avoiding fatigue ahead of a grueling second leg at Bayern.

He indicated that Odegaard’s replacement, with Emile Smith Rowe replacing him, was for fitness reasons. The other change at the same time was perhaps more significant: Jesus left and was replaced by Jorginho, rather than another striker. At this point, Arsenal were not trying to complete their moves, simply trying to gain a foothold as Villa piled on the pressure.

But Arteta’s initial approach had merit. Havertz’s runs in the channel caused more problems for Villa than anything else. Arsenal’s failure to capitalize on these situations was down to poor decisions, poor finishing, strong defense and goalkeeping, and a bit of bad luck.

This of course does not hide the fact that this result could well have cost Arsenal the title.

News Source :
Gn sports

Back to top button