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Talking Tactics

Arteta's Arsenal showing extra aggression

Adrian Clarke 10 Jan 2020
Arsenal

Adrian Clarke says Gunners have responded to new head coach's demands for greater pressing ahead of visit to Crystal Palace

Adrian Clarke is looking at key tactical talking points ahead of Matchweek 22.

Crystal Palace will encounter a fitter, more aggressive and better-structured Arsenal side when they entertain their London rivals at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

In the space of just four matches in all competitions, rookie head coach Mikel Arteta has transformed the style of the side he inherited.

The Spaniard has addressed key points of weakness right from the outset and is making a terrific early impression at Emirates Stadium.

The starting point for Arteta's revolution is high work-rate, a trait he no doubt picked up working as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City for three-and-a-half years.

He recognised that the Gunners were not pushing themselves hard enough, with and without the ball, and immediately instilled in the players a fresh appetite to impose themselves on opponents through intense physical effort.

Distance per match in 2019/20 PL
Head coach Team distance (km)
Unai Emery 107.6
Freddie Ljungberg 108.4
Mikel Arteta 112.1

The data is startling.

The average distance covered per 90 minutes has shot up by 4.5km from Unai Emery's regime. During their 2-0 home success over Manchester United on New Year's Day Arsenal ran over 114km.

They are looking fitter and stronger with each appearance, so Roy Hodgson must prepare his Palace side for a serious physical examination.

Most distance by Arsenal 2019/20
Opponent Distance (km) Head coach
MUN 114.2 Arteta
CHE 112.7 Arteta
NEW 111.8 Emery
MCI 111.8 Ljungberg
WHU 111.6 Ljungberg
BOU 109.5 Arteta

Arsenal are clearly spending a lot of time working on their collective press at the club's London Colney training centre.

The players are closing down opponents with ferocious intensity and doing so in a more coordinated manner than we have seen from them in years.

They are particularly dangerous opponents for teams seeking to play out from the back.

Across Arteta’s first three Premier League matches, his side have won possession inside the opposition half an average of 19 times per match.

Under interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg that figure stood at 10.7 over the same number of contests.

Palace may well opt to play longer passes in order to bypass this press.

Possession won in opposition half
Under Ljungberg Poss. won opp. half Under Arteta Poss. won opp. half
v EVE 11 v MUN 14
v MCI 16 v CHE 19
v WHU 5 v BOU 24
Average 10.7 Average 19.0

Arsenal’s improved ball retrieval is not just down to hard work, but is also the consequence of the sound positional structure Arteta has implemented.

The back four is narrower than it was under Emery, with the full-backs not expected to fly forward.

And in central midfield Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka are playing with discipline, so all three departments are compact out of possession instead of stretched.

From this solid base, Arsenal are winning the ball back more often, and enabling star playmaker Mesut Ozil to shine.

From turnovers he is finding space and receiving earlier passes before the opposition are set.

Like most of his team-mates, the German's form has already improved markedly under his new head coach.

Arteta's next target will be to build on the positive start to his reign by claiming his first away win at the expense of Palace.

Also in this series

Part 1: Lo Celso can spring Spurs style change against Liverpool
Part 3: Moyes has system ready to stun Sheff Utd

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