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July 2021

Arsenal v Villa; the tactical review

By Arvind


That was a nice comforting win and while I was nervous till the end, logically we never looked like losing it. So lets try and see how we played this game, tactically.

Starting off, there was a dreadful challenge by Heskey on Djourou. Isn’t that at least a yellow card? Why are players allowed to hang their elbows out like that?

The attacks for Villa, mostly came down the left hand side, as usual. The problem here is partly with  Gibbs and partly with Gervinho and the closest midfielder. If your full back has burst down the wing and is in the attacking third and loses the ball, there are 3 things that need to happen:

— The right back needs to ensure he is also not forward and make it a wide back three. This enables the Left sided centre back to be closer to the ball and make a clearance.

— The left back needs to try and get back as soon as possible

— Most importantly the midfielder closest to the left wing has to make a run towards the ball and close the attacker out.

What happens with Giibbs is, he is good going forward and took his goal well; but at times forgets to get back for some reason. He’ll make 1 tackle or attempt to win it back but invariably if he misses it, doesn’t get back quick enough. Suddenly he’ll realise there’s danger and sprint back, today we didn’t pay for it…another day we might. He needs to learn that balance. And obviously its not just him; similar to Sagna and Walcott; the left side need to develop a similar understanding. Gervinho did track back today but there’s some way to go to making it seamless.

Just last week I wrote a piece saying our right side was our major weapon these days, and that was true again today. Having said that though, I thought Gervinho and Gibbs did really well too. Gervinho’s feet move faster than his brain though, right now, and when he learns to calm down a little more; he’ll be that more dangerous. He doesn’t hide though and his tricky feet are an asset in a tight game where people are sitting back.

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A beautiful little moment, although quite inconsequential was a piece of play by RVP on the left. Gibbs hadn’t come forward this time and there was a hole on the left. The ball came to RVP. Most strikers would do a 5 yard pass in ward and run central, waiting for the build up. RVP quickly saw a gap on the left wing and ran there; allowing the central players more space. A simple thing but so beautifully intelligent if that makes sense.

Talking of which the simplicity and execution of the second goal was top top class. Our so called DM hits at least 1 gorgeous pass a  game and our so called brainless right winger takes 2 fantastic touches (one from the diagonal ball from LB) and scores. Theo has got so so much better. I don’t understand his critics; honestly. And overall the understanding between Rosicky, Theo and RVP is near telepathic these days. Very very nice to watch. And all with a very high work rate up front…pressing from the front in the true sense. There was a super passing move which ended in Warnock miraculously clearing; it all shows what I’d said in my previous article..Arsenal at pace and with possession are near untouchable. We’re slowly getting there…

The last little moment in the first half which brought a smile to my lips, was Arteta winning a header against Heskey.. ha ha..

The second half was tighter but we rarely looked troubled. Djourou had an excellent second half I thought and was the better of the 2 CBs. Not that Tommy Verm did anything wrong. I just thought DJ did really well today. He realised he wouldn’t be fit enough to go up for corners and stayed back; he also made a couple of vital interceptions and tackles. There was one cross from our right side, watch how Djourou approached the ball, both hands behind the back; take the ball on the body… Corner. Classic.

Mikel Arteta had a lot of space to run into today and didn’t put a foot wrong. He was much further forward today than he usually is, and that’s because Villa were so so poor today. He’s really very similar to Denilson, and had the Brazilian done a little more and been a little more physically strong, we wouldn’t have bought Arteta..but overall while I feel sad for Denilson the way Arsenal fans treated him, I’m happy we bought Mikel. Top class. Hungry. And a super free kick…

Oh and that Alex Song? He isn’t a DM like Mascherano. Anyone reading this and who doesn’t already know…. Arsenal do NOT have a DM currently. Its an unbelievably fluid system where every midfielder gets forward and back. Good stuff. And Song is truly box to box. And dare I say it…its him who is closer to being a sort of Vieira replacement now..than any…

And on Alex Song….how was that tackle late on, on him, not a red card? Clear ankle breaker. Shit. Terrible…

There isn’t much to say about Little Mozart. This run of games have truly shown what a fabulous little player he is, and why he is truly what they call him. He runs and runs and runs all the time…offensively and defensively, and a large part of our form has been his resurgence. Its a joy to watch him play, and when the team’s on form, it looks even better..

And Andre Santos was a little rusty..and Chamberlain in the box… not a penalty. Good tackle I’d say. Ramsey had a lovely little cameo with 1 turn and shot.

Everything is positive and its a great time to be an Arsenal fan. Do chime in with your thoughts : )


Being there: conversations at the game on Villa, Liverpool, Tottenham, the coffee and racism

Our last match – how the referee did.   Everton 0 Arsenal 1

Wrong calls by the refs.  We compare Arsenal,  Chelsea, Liverpool, Man C, Man U, Tottenham

The season so far: Liverpool or Arsenal – which club is in the better position today?

34 comments to Arsenal v Villa; the tactical review

  • Sid

    Gibbs is getting there. Having a run of games, being injury free will obviously benefit his development. Hopefully whoever manages the shambles at Euro2012 will pick Cashley and Baines and not Keiran.

  • bc

    Thing is if a player isnt picked for the euros then he is very likely to be picked for the olympics.

  • Gunz


    “Chamberlain in the box… not a penalty. Good tackle I’d say.”

    Watching a non-english web stream, there was a replay of the incident showing, in my view, there was contact with Ox before the ball. So, penalty?

    I’ve uploaded a clip here:

    What do you think?

  • Sid

    Yeah, probably true dat bc, unfortunately. :0(

  • only 1

    “Arsenal do NOT have a DM currently. Its an unbelievably fluid system where every midfielder gets forward and back. ”

    exactly!! almost everyone who doesn’t understood Arsenal’s system is complaining Alex ‘poor discipline’ of his liking to go forward.

  • Damien Luu

    Great writing, Arvind.

    I remember once AW has said that he wanted to make Alex Song a CB. Boy I’m so glad he did not do that 😀

  • Goonergerry

    Arvind Nice one- think you are right about Gibb’s early forays forward being punished by a better side. Thankfully Gervinho tracked back well after the start.
    Also agree with Gunz- not a fair challenge if you go through the man to get to the ball- very difficult to see how AOC could be tackled from both behind and the side without knocking him out the way first. Maybe not foul enough to give a penalty- but not clear cut.

  • Stuart

    @ Gunz

    On the challenge on Ox: On the replay I saw, the player definitely got the ball first, it was a slightest of touch but it did conect with the ball enough to slightly change it’s course. That said, how the ref could have seen it is beyond me.

  • Arvind

    I’m not too sure Gunz. Even if you assume there is a touch before the ball and such penalties having been given in the past, I’m trying to apply common sense here. The defender has almost got it right here, it’s a near perfect tackle…completely safe and of which we see such few these days. So all I am saying is, if you give that as a penalty, its really harsh on the defender.

    @Damian, Goonergerry: Thanks ..glad you guys liked it.

  • Pat

    Very enjoyable article Arvind. Interesting to hear about touches of play like RVP’s. Very encouraging to hear your analysis of Djourou’s game as well.

  • Dan T

    I’m with the author on this one. I thought it was a fantastic tackle on the Ox. I have seen replays and still think it was a fantastic decision. Besides, if the referee isn’t 90%+ sure it’s a penalty then he shouldn’t be giving it.
    If he did get the man 1st it was minimal and in my unqualified opinion it was a great tackle.

  • Arvind

    Thank You Pat. Glad you liked it. I loved the RVP bit too; so simple yet so elegant.

  • Ong Bing

    I am only curious, where we will put Jack when he fit?

    And I think we don’t need another midfielder, specialy attacking midfielder like Hazard.

    Besides the GK, every Arsenal player can play in some position, Ox can play in midfield like in the Milan game.

    In DM position, we have so many player, Song, Arteta, Jack, Coquelin, Frimpong.

    It is very interesting to see if all of our player fit.

    With budget like now, it was very amazing we have player like now. Arsene is not brilliant, he is very very brilliant!

  • Ong Bing

    BTW, thanks for Arvind, Tony, Walter and anyone who writes the article in this site, this site realy make my feeling good.

  • Tasos

    Good analysis Arvind, I like the new tactical view.

    Although I understand your point re-Gibbs charging forwards, I would be less critical and more sympathetic towards Gibbs eagerness to help the team create rather than concentrating more on stopping the opposition, especially as the opening goal came about as a direct positive action between both left sided players, Gervinho pass for Gibbs to finish.

    Finding the right balance comes with experience and the only way Gibbs, and Gervihno for that matter, are going to gain that experience is by playing together and hopefully forming a partnership.

    If I’m not mistaken Gibbs started out as a winger and the defensive side of the full back position is still very much a learning process for him, therefore the potential for improvement remains huge.

  • gunz

    It was a good tackle. i agree, but sticking to laws of the game should it not of been a penalty? If the incident happened on the opposite end of pitch, im sure the decision would’ve gone against and we would say ok there was player contact before ball.

    Btw, great article Arvind. Come on u gooners!!

  • Tasos

    One final stat on Gibbs taken from the BBC website.

    “Did you know? Arsenal have conceded less than half as many goals per game when Gibbs has played in the league this season (0.7) as when he hasn’t (1.6)”.

  • novicegooner

    a fun read for a ‘tactical’ review, Arvind. thank you for this article, and also thank you for spotting subtle things about our performance such as Djourou’s great game and RVP’s superb off the ball movement.

    Djourou did have a great game, growing into the game after a nasty elbow by Heskey. I remembered him making one vital block during a scramble in front of our goal.

    RVP is just an unbelievable player. Just like Juergen Kloop said earlier this season, he’s a unique player who can drop very deep, yet lethally dangerous inside the box without needing to run with the ball (Messi’s style). And that’s down to his jaw-dropping off the ball movement. His awareness of dangerous space is top top class too.

    Defensively, Djourou did just better than Vermaelen today, but Vermaelen’s diagonal cross field pass to Walcott is just awesome.

  • Arvind

    @OngBing: Glad it makes your day better.

    @Tasos: I’m completely for giving Gibbs as much time as he needs. And AW doesn’t get left backs I am happy to trust the kid and the manager. I did praise all the good that he did too during the article; so if I came across as being too critical to him, let me assure you that I am behind him 100%.

    I however do intend to point out our weaknesses in overall play as and when I see them in a respectful manner to all involved. That’s the purpose of this article and all others. Specially if AW is reading the article too : )

    @gunz: Yes maybe. I am just saying; I wish these kind of tackles never get punished and the bad ones do. Glad you liked the article.

    @novicegooner: Thank You. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Isn’t that how you wish everything in life should be? Fun? : ). I hope to keep writing and improving my own analysis.

  • novicegooner


    for me, the word ‘Arsenal’ is synonymous with the word ‘fun’ because Arsenal is the only thing that can give me a 100% fun at the end of an exhausting weekend. Reading UA just makes it a perfect fun.

    About Gibbs
    I’m with right there. His talent is in going forward joining the attack because he is more of a winger rather than a fullback. But because AW puts him in a FBL position, he should learn to improve his defensive qualities. and I think he can learn a lot from the best right back in EPL, one and only Sagna.

  • Arvind

    @Novicegooner: Yes I know how it is. Specially after clicking on 10 other links on Goonernews. Now I just ignore the usual suspects. Recently its been fun to read Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool forums though ; )

  • Ong Bing

    About Gibbs.

    I can not see it now, but I believe Wenger must see something special in Gibbs. He sell Clichy and not panic buy a big name LB, because he now and he believes he has another good LB.
    He sell Clichy not only makes room for wages, but also give Gibbs more times to play.

    Remember when people said we must buy big name GK?
    Who now our 4th GK is good?
    And now who think to swap Wojciech with Schwarzer? (Fulham maybe)

    One thing I like from Arsenal is we make a superstar not buy it. It makes you very proud when we success, Kolo for example, now his 1 month salary is more than our transfer fee when we bought him. We bought him only 500,000 pounds!

  • Tasos


    Hope I didn’t come across too negative, debate is always healthy on this site.

    You’re doing a good job here, keep it going.

  • Mahdain

    Mike Dean for the fifth time vs QPR

  • Tasos


    Predictably poor from the PGMOL. Dean with Probert 4th official.

    And to top it off….Blackburn v Man Utd. Ref……H Webb.

  • Mahdain

    @tasos pathetic really…the fact that we will be getting dean for the FIFTH time and third time in a space of just two months says a lot..they are trying to end our unbeaten run whatever it we already have had dean/dowd combo twice and since that didnt flourish they are trying the dean/probert combo.. honestly im really disgusted

  • Mahdain

    so thats dean,halsey,webb,mason,dowd and now dean again…just four matches passed and it was the same before the spuds game only it took 3 games that time with dean,foy,marriner,swarbick,dean again..seriously PGMO you suck

  • Mahdain

    so in order it would be like this
    Dean,Foy,Marriner,Swarbick,Dean,Halsey,Webb,Mason,Dowd and now Dean again…where is Mike jones? where is Mark Clattenburg? hell eventhough im really not eager on them that much but where are Friend and Taylor? have you got any answers Riley?

  • bob

    On Theo: what’s not to understand: he’s grown before our very eyes and become far more clinical than he was even earlier this season with a a lot of nervous misses, little clinicality and inconsistent crossing. It’s not that everyone who was noticing that and saying it then was so wrong. But, imo, it’s that he’s now becoming consistent and lethal, putting it all together. Surely Sagna and focused practice and his determination have begun to create the player we’d dreamed of.

  • bob

    The Hives of Reality are predictable. Our fans need to protest this inside/outside Emirates and write about it on ours and other blogs. The PGMOL needs to know we are on to their tricks and we ought to be vocal and demonstrative; not quiet and tsk-tsking each week. There’s no incentive for people to raise objections however when we are on a winning roll. But one of Riley’s killer bees is bound to cost us and perhaps then there will be a protest that moves past tsk-tsk.

  • Mandy dodd

    Agree on the protest bob, but as tony mentioned in a recent article, some fans already have a slightly obscene chant in store for fergies refs, that will only catch on as time goes on and embarrass more than a few! Maybe the Webb of deceit will be exposed by the masses!

  • bob

    Cheers, Mandy!

  • Mahdain

    @bob but some of our fellows still live in denial and call all this paranoia and ofcourse the term i now really hate “it all evens out”..who told them so?have they made any research?here at untold we have proved thats nothing but a big fat lie used by the media trying to justify the bent refs calls…
    alas atleast there is a good number of us who have started to see the pl for what it is…bent. A search of mike dean on twitter will show you how far we have come

  • Arvind

    @Bob: I am only saying; if a player has talent he should be give time. So while there may be a point in what you or whoever said about Theo earlier..there’s too much of raw skill in the guy to write off.

    And the worst part is…if you go on to a forum after Theo has had 1..I repeat 1 .. bad game…you’ll find “fans” asking for him to be sold. The masses have their favorites..Theo is NOT one of them. That’s what I am saying.