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August 2021

Arsenal/Tottenham. Before we head for Liverpool here’s the tactical review.

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by Arvind

Yay. I finally caught the replay of the Spurs game and thought…that it deserved a tactical look at it. Which naturally translates into an article on Untold. So I caught the game after the Saha goal and am basing all my thoughts on the game after around 8 minutes. This isn’t a minute by minute translation of things; there’s enough stuff online that does that : )… but more my own thoughts on some very interesting things I saw during the game … and would love for them to be confirmed by you guys.

1) The High Line and the importance of the BFG(Arseblogger)

For starters our best defense IMO must have Mertesacker in it. No he’s not slow and stupid as the AAA would have you believe. He’s almost always there at the right place. I’m willing to hedge a reasonable bet that it’d have ended 2-1 to someone had Per been playing on Sunday.

For starters I don’t believe Saha will even reach the through ball right at the start..Mertesacker would have almost certainly got there first. I also have my doubts about Bale bursting through that easily for the second goal. I played most of the game on mute (obviously) but listened to a bit this time. Stuart Robson was commentating and he made one valid point about Arsenal being vulnerable to the ball played in behind them. Now what does this mean? Why were we vulnerable? It can mean a few things:

— A poor offside trap being sprung

— Crappy defenders who have no aerial ability

— A non vocal goalie like Almunia

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— Gung Ho centre backs

I’m reasonably sure it’s a combination of 1 and 4. And that’s where Mertesacker is important. To compensate for his relative lack of pace; the whole team will play the offside trap nearer to goal and the 2nd CB will also largely try and remain behind the halfline most times.

Here, because Vermaelen and Koscielny are both very quick; the psychology of the team is… “Hey let’s play further up; let’s play offside further up” because they both can get back quicker.

To add to that both of the CBs also love getting forward so you have a very very offensive backline if you add the full backs and the keeper as well. Now this can work…if we’re keeping the ball. If we’re not and we’re playing a speedy counter attacking team; there’s a high chance of getting ripped on the counter. This isn’t because ‘Song plays like Ronaldinho’ or ‘We should have got Gary Cahill’… its the system that’s flawed.

Our possession game needs to be super super good for this to work. And lets face it, we haven’t been great at times with our possession at times this season; so the role of Mertesacker is really important.

2) The importance of ‘versatile players’ and a tactically aware manager

For a large part of the last two years, partly due to Cesc, we switched to a 4-3-3. But we never fully exploited that due to him being injured too often. Now Arsene is usually loathe to change things and prefers stability in formations unless we’re badly messed up and we end up in a 4-2-4 or something. But this game made me see something very interesting.

He didn’t start with AOC for a reason I thought; or Gervinho. It was because he wanted to keep the ball better. That’s why Benayoun and Rosicky played. And I think it worked. The energy of both these very under rated players and the way the ball stuck to their feet was very enjoyable to watch. Took me back to when we played with Csec, Hleb and Rosicky in midfield in the year Eduardo’s leg got cracked. Movement. Possession. Drifting everywhere. But I digress..

The other very important thing is the role of Theo Walcott. For a year or two now AW has been talking about him ending up centrally one day. I think we’re seeing signs of it this year. Yes he’s still part of an advanced 4-3-3 but watch carefully the spaces he’s taking up these days. Its much more central with RVP playing off him.

Look at Theo after the 2-0 and how forward Sagna was playing. Its more central. And I’m reasonably sure that if if if RVP signs on AND Theo signs on(and I think they will) we will have a very very dangerous frontline.

Now its all about balance. If Theo goes up front; 1 good diagonal ball onto Sagna’s wing can mean a counter and a Spurs goal. So if we’re effectively playing 2 up front we almost certainly need to switch to 4 in the middle with a proper DM.

And that’s exactly what Song did alongside Arteta. Dropped back deeper along with Rosicky and Benayoun as well. And here is where you’re suddenly glad you’re playing these 2 instead of Gervinho and AOC; high work rate and better defensively. It almost becomes a very mobile 4-4-2 with roaming ‘wingers’ if you can call them that .. in Rosicky and Benayoun.

And big big credit to Alex Song for ‘sitting’ in the second half. It’s what you’ll increasingly see him do if Theo plays up top. Which I think he will. So much for tactically incompetent managers and prima donna players.

3) Plan execution – near perfect

For the first time; in a long long while I saw a second half as perfect as that. No, not in a football sense. We’ve played far more attractive football many a time before. But from an ‘efficiency’ perspective; it was near near perfect.

I couldn’t count 1 person who played badly or less effectively. I saw Rosicky running everywhere for 90 minutes; ditto Benayoun to keep possession…deep along with Gibbs.

Song and Arteta were more than a match for Scott Parker (good on him for apologizing by the way), Modric and Sandro. RVP was magical with his ball control and even the much maligned Theo who was nowhere as terrible (I’ve seen tons worse) as the match commentators would have you believe had great games.

Iron Man Bac refused to lose and the rest of the defense while quiet…did very well too. I can’t pick a MOTM really. So if there was ever a time to spout a cliche…this is it. It is the TEAM that won this; not an individual player. And that’s all it is really..if we play to 80-90% of our abilities ..every game we’ll have a very very good chance of winning a game. So efficiency wise…this was IMHO one of the best games I’ve seen.

Those 3 factors IMHO were three very interesting things I noticed; which helped us win. I thought it was worth an article on Untold. I’m due one anyway ; ). What do you guys think?

We haven’t finished yet – more thoughts on the match against Tottenham

17 years without a trophy: how Arsenal finally got some silverware

Why March 1 was so important to Arsenal

13 comments to Arsenal/Tottenham. Before we head for Liverpool here’s the tactical review.

  • legolas still trust Wenger

    indeed with all ur points we miss a lot BFG 😀 i love this guy he is a true Gooner and i hope we win 2morow against Liverpool we need it badly

  • Mahdain

    great article arvind.. I agree mert is a very important part of our defence and we missed him greatly in the milan match he would have .handled ibra much better.
    I think you forgot the fact that we were also able to outplay mike dean even with all his antics..i think if we play like that against all pathetic refs then i think we can atleast reduce the number of points they take from us over the course of the season as defeating them alltogether is almost impossible

  • Arvind

    Thanks Mahdain. We do talk a lot about refs anyway so I thought I’d stick to the game : ).

    It is quite hard to play that way though all season…but maybe say 25-30 games out of 38. That’d be nice.

  • critic

    There was a large gap between vermalean and gibbs for the saha goal. Gibbs was jogging back until he saw the ball being passed to saha by adebayor. Also song and vermalean were in no man’s land for the split second.

    What i really want from the players is they should try to get back to their position as soon as they lose the ball and are no where near for pressing. Gibbs sprinting back to cover for saha and midfield players sprinting back to cover for walker’s shot should be the norm in the team’s tactic. It’s sadly not.

    Decent analysis btw.

  • Charlie

    Excellent tactical analysis on Gunnersphere today. It’s good to see some tactical analysis on Untold but i’m becoming disenchanted with this site when I used to think it was excellent. There’s too much about how everything conspires against Arsenal, attacking the negativity and gloating when you get things right. I understand that if referees genuinely are corrupt and against our team you’re doing the club a service by uncovering it but let’s not let that distract from the way that the team is performing, good or bad.

  • Ong Bing

    I agree with you Arvind, so far this game is the best this season, better than 5-3 against Chelski.

    Rosicky that night makes me remember when I saw him first time when he played in Dortmund, he is very young that time, I like his style.

    I remember once in QA session, Cesc asked by one fan, which player did he like to played with in the center, his answer is his best friend Tomas Rosicky.

    I hope our Little Mozart will fit at rest of the season.

    And also credit to Alex Song, he already gives some deadly assists this season. His last past for Theo is very beautiful, makes me remember Cesc again.

  • critic


    yeah i agree, Untold is not the completely mindbogglingly excellent arsenal blog. But it doesn’t need to be. For all it’s fault shortcomings mind numbing articles(few) it’s a necessary and pivotal part of arsenal blogosphere.

    Ref review
    Ref preview
    Media watch

    These are really brilliant ideas which keep evolving.
    The next thing that is required is the overhaul of this site. All of the categories having different space for themselves.

  • chris from Cambridge

    What I want from the players – or rather from those (he) who are (is) supposed to coach them – is NOT to lose all shape when we attack like some sort of disorganised cavalry charge. Of course we are vulnerable to counter attack. We end up with too many players out of position.

  • nicky

    The best news I’ve heard is the possibility of Diaby playing a part at Anfield tomorrow. I only hope that his longterm injuries are now over and he can produce some of his old form in midfield. 😆

  • Cape Gooner

    @ critic
    March 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    The gap between TV & Gibbs was due to the excellent run that Walker made. He got the ball in the RB position and drove towards the centre circle. He then passed it to left and continued his run towards the LW area. No one tracked him and TV had go to him. That left Saha unmarked, although Gibbs was getting back.

    Gibbs was wrong in not spotting the danger earlier and someone other than TV should have tracked Walker.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    “but let’s not let that distract from the way that the team is performing, good or bad”

    It is difficult to judge that because, as fans, we let the results cloud our judgement. When the ref gets three major decisions wrong in a game, all the same way, it becomes important to make a big deal of this because it has had a huge effect on the result. I read on an Arsenal blog yesterday that Liverpool had beaten Man City in the CC semi-final. That just isn’t true, Dowd beat Man City in the CC semi-final.

  • insideright

    The key to understanding which is our best centre back partnership is to understand the difference between playing at home or away and how that effects, not us, but the opposition.
    Against a team that, in the end, is happy with a draw (as Spurs were) we need to play our most attack minded pairing (Koscielny and Vermaelen) in order to get a chance of building attacks from anywhere on the pitch. Against a team that will attack us (particularly in the air at set pieces) Mertesacker comes into his own.
    Walcott didn’t look half as effective in the first half against a Spurs side defending in depth and relying (successfully) on hitting us on the break. As soon as they were behind and looked as though they might not get the point they came for Spurs pushed forward and left space behind them. Walcott timed his runs into that space and the rest is history. He was never going to score the first two of the five but was always favourite to score the last two.
    Next season when I’m guessing that the wide striker positions will be filled by two from Walcott, Chamberlain, Gervinho and Miyachi (Boltons player of the month in Feb) will be fascinating. Rotation could be far more available to Wenger and we may see those players popping up in the middle more often – maybe even starting behind the striker if Ramsey’s goal scoring levels don’t improve.
    Speaking of which, Lansbury and Campbell anyone?

  • bob

    You can logically separate refshite and our misplays on the field, but they are part of one overall entwined/integrated game which has both psychological and tactical dimensions and you cannot divorce either refshite or tactical blunders from most of the negative results that people analyze here. It’s really getting old to hear the shut up about the refs mantra and look to your flaws when both are clearly part of the same event.

  • goonergerry

    Good article with good points about Merte-and I reckon you are right to point out his positional strength. Slow on the turn he may be-and a not over-exposed defence can compensate for that. Its not always a bad thing to have a weakness in your game-as long as your team tactically compensate. The fact is Arsenal are no where near as aerially vulnerable when he is in the side.

    I felt Spurs exposed us a few times in the first half when they drove forward from the centre of midfield-and at times I was disappointed with our midfielders efforts to cover our centre backs. Defensive duties have to be shared throughout the team- especially with a team like ours whose defenders like to attack in open play. Against Spurs our midfield was exceptional closing down further up the field so thankfully Spurs did not have too many opportunities to damage us.