Arsenal vs Leicester: A Tactical Breakdown

(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Arsenal 4 (3.10) – (0.57) 2 Leicester 

After Arteta’s side travelled to Selhurst Park to face an erratic Eagle’s atmosphere, next on the itinerary was a journey back to the more familiar side of London, and back to Emirates Stadium.  

Despite the apparent threats of both sides, Arsenal are able to escape both matchweeks with maximum points, and 6 exceptionally carved out goals scored.  

During this article, I aim to identify and thoroughly discuss the tactical aspects in what turned out to be an exceptional game of football, with YouTuber ChrisMD even stating on Twitter, “Wenger ball is back!” 

THE ARSENAL SHAPE 

With rich influence from greats such as Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola, Arteta sets out his sides with the only goal being to win football matches, becoming detached to his famous FA cup, pragmatic tactics.  

via whoscored

Despite resembling the common 2-3-5 system there are many tactical tweaks that Mikel made that ensured Leicester were limited, and their key players were not able to effect the game in a larger percentile.  

LEICESTER CITY 

A brief breakdown on the opponents is needed first before deep tactical analysis; what their strengths are, and are they able to be stifled by Arteta and his men? 

Brendan Rodgers currently faces an injury crisis out wide, with Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira facing extended time on the side-line, so a change was needed. To combat this, Rodgers takes upon a narrow approach to attempt to overload central areas  and create numerical advantages to distribute quickly to forward Jamie Vardy. 

FLUID AGAINST THE FOXES 

Leicester City adopt a diamond in midfield to create 4v3 overloads, however Mikel was able to counter this with the use of a certain Ukrainian. With 68 touches and 96% pass accuracy, Oleksander allows the Gunners both technical foundations and tactical fluidity.  

Arsenal were able to maintain rotational triangles in wide areas to create numerical overloads to progress the ball inside. Take the example below, where the movement off and on the ball creates an opening for both Granit Xhaka and Oleksander Zinchenko. 

Here, against a deep block Arsenal are able to maintain possession due to the triangle formed as shown. What is significant is that the trio’s technical security means that all 3 can rotate into each other’s respective positions, as shown throughout the game. 

With movement and energy being a focal point of Arteta’s coaching, dynamism of Zinchenko and Martinelli here allows the complete breakdown of the Leicester City last line. The sequence is finished through the ball being swept to Bukayo Saka, and his cross-finding surprise recipient Granit Xhaka, who’s close range header deflects off the near post.  

With 44% of attacks coming from that left-sided triad, Leicester City were handed problems all afternoon, and the goals that followed surprised nobody.  

DEFENSIVE STRUCTURE 

Arsenal intend to adopt and apply an effective high press, the goal even without the ball is to score for Mikel Arteta. To achieve this, either Odegaard or Martinelli joins the dynamic Gabriel Jesus with the aim of going man for man with often ball complacent centre backs.   

And the boss would be pleased with the way his team went about his requests. With only 19% of the game played in Arsenal’s third (via WhoScored) Arsenal carried out a disciplined press, whilst maintaining the central shape. Unlike Crystal Palace-who aim to progress to wide men,-Arsenal had to stay central, due to Rodgers use of 4 central midfielders.  

Although an effective defensive structure was maintained, two weak goals were scored however Saliba’s own goal was a one-off occurrence, and no analysis is necessary for the breakdown of the goal. On the other hand, Leicester’s second was a simple reverse pass to Maddison down the right flank where Zinchenko is initially caught out of position.  

Iheanacho (oval) is able to operate in the right half space unopposed, with Zinchenko too wide initially. Zinchenko must touch into Gabriel’s side to ensure the forward does not have a free run at Arsenal’s centre back.  

Although there were a couple things Arteta would like to tweak, it is important to note the conditions in which the game was played in, clocking in at 35 degrees Celsius at the Emirates.  

via getty

2 games, 6 goals scored and the ‘Arteta way’ is becoming more apparent by the day with consistent, silky football and structured and tactically excellent displays both on and off the ball. Up next, Bournemouth at Vitality Stadium. 

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