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August 2021

The Untold Arsenal Tactical Analysis: Stoke at home

By Arvind

This is part of our new series looking back at Arsenal match by match, to see how the tactics are developing. This time we will take a look at how Arsenal played in the Stoke City home game which we won 3-1.

Arsenal offence:

Wilshere driving at the heart of the Stoke defence was a regular theme. As was him getting kicked. It’s a very unique skill, you know. He isn’t a great dribbler or a great assist giver or a goal scorer. But it’s something very very unique that Jack brings to the table.

The ability to run at pace with the ball at his feet..straight into people and though them, as they back off. It’s not a tricky move, it’s not a run like Messi does where he dribbles past them at high speed. It’s just direct pacey running, very much like Theo on the wing. It’s hard to stop that type of offence, unless you stay right on the player..don’t allow him to turn at all. That’s hard to do for 90 minutes. Anyway Jack got kicked again.

The Ozil free kick is actually just a decent free kick whipped into an area. Nothing more. For some reason Begovic doesn’t hold’s not that it’s too fast or moving or slippery. The finish by Ramsey is very very good. Last year he kept getting into those positions and blazing over. The calmness in front of goal he has shown is very refreshing this year.

Gnabry drifted central all game. He was kinda nervous in the first 45..getting into the centre and then making 5 yard backward passes. Understandable really…18 year old kid at Arsenal..first ever game. But he offered little to no width that half. Then you add Wilshere also drifting in and the CMs too and Giroud and Ozil, and it’s a familiar Arsenal story. Super narrow, movement around the box. Gnabry had a much better second half, maybe the boss had a word with him to be more confident in his own ability and go forward and shoot and use his qualities.

The moment we went 2-1 up and went into the 2nd half, we definitely started playing on the counter. We tend to sit deeper, invite pressure and we’re letting people tire themselves out and letting them have the ball. This is possible only if you are confident in your defensive ability. It’s not a skill Arsenal have had in the recent past and we’ve suffered quite badly for not being able to sit on leads and defend it, because so many games are decided by a 1 goal margin. It’s also happening this year in a large part down the thinking process of AW on where Walcott fits into the team. If Walcott gets space, he’s deadly and speed and direct running are very very hard to defend against, so it’s quite certainly a conscious tactic to force opponents to come forward, attack us and then hit them on the counter. It also helps that we have Cazorla and now Ozil who can take advantage of that space.

The 3-1 goal is IMO a bit of a fluky goal. It’s really just a ball into the area and you see that kind of ball and delivery being cleared away all the time. There’s no pace on the ball, it’s dipping and quite far from goal. Bac’s done well to win it sure..but much like Per’s 2nd goal, the goal looping over the keeper like that seems to me like some poor goalkeeping and positioning by Begovic. If Szcz had got caught out for those 3 goals like that, he’d have been crucified for sure.

So much has been made of the Ozil assists, that I want to temper it just a wee bit. Yes they’re good balls, and are assists, but lets not make it out to be more than that. Everyone’s put a lot of balls into the box like that, but you only score those set pieces once in a while. The exact same ball in another game will be eaten up by a dominant CB. All the same, we won our duels and I’m very happy.

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Arsenal defence:

I’m really happy to see everyone defend for the full 90 minutes. You look at Gnabry and Miyaichi and even Giroud even in the last 10 minutes..the amount of close downs and plain old ‘bodies in the way’ moments we had were many. We ended up with Miyaichi, Giroud and Monreal as our very unusual front 3 and they did very very well.

I said Giroud would get 20 at the start of the season and nothing I’ve seen this year has convinced me otherwise. He has a unique combination of upper body strength, a desire to fight till that last minute and a decent technical quality to make it at Arsenal. He’s entering his prime as well. If he continues his hard work, I have no hesitation in saying he can have as big an impact for Arsenal as Didier Drogba had for Chelsea in his prime. In a strange way, Giroud is a better forward for Arsenal than RVP was. He’s in simple terms more suited to the English game defensively than RVP will ever be. He’s in the box playing as a 3rd CB at times and is a direct response to the tactics of a lot of the teams in the league. It’s no surprise IMO that we look solid as a defensive unit with him in the side. It’s down to the keeper and the CBs sure, but you take Giroud out of the team right now and I can guarantee you we will concede a few goals. Concede. Not score less. Concede.

Koscielny is an absolutely fantastic defender. The 1st goal is all Koscielny for me. Not Jack or Ozil or Ramsey. He’s gone in and won the ball and set the counter attack off. He’s quick enough to do that and very very good technically as well. If he just cuts out those last ditch lunges from his game he’ll be a super super class even. I hope we win something this year; I can see him very easily going to Bayern or Barcelona if we don’t win something in the next 2 years – he’s that good.

The Stoke goal is a weird one to concede. It all starts with Kieran Gibbs losing the ball upfield with a risky pass – that’s the 2nd goal we’ve conceded this season due to him losing it upfield. It’s something to work on for sure. Then a ball comes in over Mertesacker, who doesn’t jump for some reason to try and win it. Arnautovic’s drifted in far post with neither Sagna nor Gnabry tracking his run. The rebound comes out and nobody tracks Cameron, the RB. If we’re playing man-to-man, its Gibbs or Wilshere. If we’re zonal, which I think we are, its Flamini or Gnabry. Yet another collective goal to concede after the Fulham game where Bent scored.

Sagna at RB worries me a bit these days specially towards the end of games. I counted at least 3 balls into the box in the last 10 minutes from the LW. The crosses were poor and we escaped but I can see a better left back or winger punish us for sure. Maybe he’s a little more tired these days towards the end of games and which is why he sees his future as a CB. I’m just not sure how much game time he’d get if he became a CB at Arsenal. And yet, I desperately want to keep the man. He’s so so important as a person to the team and maybe as a backup RB over the next 2 years. I can’t see him starting next year though, specially if Jenkinson improves and all the hype about Hector Bellerin is true. Hopefully he gets better too and I’m sure he’s working really hard – it’s what Bac does.

Gibbs had a slip when it was 1-1 and only a slip by the awful Kenwyne Jones let us off. Else it was 2-1 Stoke and a totally different game. Gibbs has improved a lot this season, but I’d like him to think a bit more about defending first and then going forward. He does that, but will be better if he gets that into his game.

The impact of Mathie Flamini is fantastic. He’s primarily been playing as a DM, though I’m loathe to call him that as he does so much more, but he is sitting back a bit more. He’ll give a 5 yard ball, move into space, another ball..move again. Its interesting what he does with the full backs. The moment he passes to Gibbs and Gibbs goes forward, Flamini goes into LB to keep the shape. A super super signing and I’m so happy we have AW again. Not many would have brought him back.

Arsenal are keeping their shape when we defend much much better, specially closing out games. Watch even Ryo closing in on the RB slot at the end of the game. Shape = stretching the opposition out = tiring them out and giving them less space and less opportunities to overload an area.


All in all, a game in which Stoke huffed and puffed a lot but couldn’t blow us down. If TV5 can come back for one of the CBs and we still look stable, that for me will be awesome and a big part in us finishing top 2 at least. That’s the only area we haven’t rotated and been tested. Giroud too..yes but Bendtner’s a decent backup and our overall offensive game is such that we will score. We need Per to be fit, he’s the glue..and I hope TV 5 can come back super fit and in form. We’ll need him.


Arsenal anniversaries for 5 October: from updated article on first Cup match to doing to the double

  • 5 October 1889: First ever FA Cup match played by Arsenal  See also here
  • 5 October 1896: Rushden Town 5 Woolwich Arsenal 3, United League
  • 5 October 1912: Title winning form from Woolwich Arsenal
  • 5 October 1925: The new WM + zonal marking counter attack system played for the first time in a 4-0 victory over West Ham
  • 5 October 1927:  Samson Haden sold to Notts County for £1350
  • 5 October 1929: Cliff Bastin league debut for Arsenal v Everton
  • 5 October 1936: Gerry Ward born in Stepney
  • 5 October 1953: First game for Len Wills
  • 5 October 1953: Floodlight opening friendly at QPR Arsenal 3 QPR 1
  • 5 October 1964: Frank McLintock signed from Leicester for £80,000
  • 5 October 1966: Debut for Tony Woodcock v WHU
  • 5 October 1970: Arsenal beat Tottenham at Highbury.  Later did it at WHL to win the league.
  • 5 October 1974: Last game for Jeff Blockley

13 comments to The Untold Arsenal Tactical Analysis: Stoke at home

  • WalterBroeckx

    sorry off topic but the only team that hadn’t lost a game so far Everton just lost.


  • Ian Jenkinson

    Nice article Arvind, well done.

    And a very happy St. Invincibles Day to you all!

  • gary

    Sorry, but i find this kind of article boring. Not suited for Untold Arsenal. Leave this type of thing for the know-all bloggers. You know them. legrave and the like. We all watched the game and have our own opinions. I realy do not care what your opinion of Sagna, or any other player is. I trust wenger to make that kind of judgement calls. Very boring article even though i am a huge fan of untold arsenal.

  • Nelson Wong

    Really like the point about Giroud.

    Normally, the mission of the striker is to score but I do not see that as important at the current Arsenal as the other team because this team is far more free flowing and any of the front 4 man at the front + two wing backs and the two mid fielders are allowed to get into scoring positions. The issue is to break the physical opponent and Giroud is perfect for the job.

    He can also fall back a bit if the team is hard pressed in the middle against very physical guys. He has the EXACTLY quality missing in the mid and front (especially last year without Flamini).

    Must give credit to Wenger on it. He knows the problem and Charmak has some potential but his work rate can’t match that of Giroud and then he lost his ability to score.

  • Mick

    I suggest you just don’t bother reading and commenting on ‘this type of article’ if you find them boring. I like it and so do lots of others, there is room on Untold for all sorts of posts and they do not all have to meet with any one persons approval.
    Why don’t you have a go at writing something interesting for us.

  • OMGArsenal

    Great tactical analysis Arvind but a bit disjointed. However it does confirm what many of us already know….the shape and defensive coherence of the team, combined with the excellent chemistry of Ozil, Giroud and Ramsey are making all the difference.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Another great analysis. Agree with your points, especially on Giroud, the RVP thing is a bold claim to make but see exactly where you are coming from. Can see a few players in this team one day being seen as arsenal greats, could Giroud be one of them, the simple answer, yes he can. We are worryingly dependant on him, Nick will really have to step up if called on. That was a strange game, in some ways, we out stoked stoke, the set piece goals! and sure I even saw Flam indulging in a bit of rotational fouling.

  • Florian

    It’s so interesting that Szczez had another quiet game. Apart from the goal, which he didn’t know very much about, the defense sheltered him from trouble. He seems to have cut down on those hazardous moves, and his cross interceptions are way better than in the first few games of the season.

    Disclaimer: I’ve been a goalie myself in the high school, so please understand if I sometimes pay too much attention to this position:)

  • rantetta


    Yes, I’ve enjoyed this article. Keep ’em coming please. For me, Untold does a great mix of stuff, and whilst tactical analysis may not be “Untold” – out there on the web, one reason I appreciate your contributions is that I don’t have to go to some likely depressant site to see some take on how a particular game went. (I could read any newspaper, and then slit my wrists, if I were so inclined, which I’m not, and I don’t read the papers).

    So Florian, you were a goalie. There’s no problem with looking at particular positions. Indeed, there are valuable contributions to made with comments about any article on Untold, in my view.

  • Florian


    I ended up like that in a way similar to Jean-Marie Pfaff, who by his own admission was forced into goal by his teammates when he was a child, so he doesn’t spoil their matches. Never played professionally, I can assure you:)

  • Unbelievable belief

    Surprised that you forgot Preston North End!

  • Unbelievable belief

    Gary is missing a serious point.
    A build up of these type of articles over a few seasons gives us a sound basis for judging the logic of Wenger’s decisions and the Players responses to how he has asked them to play.
    How others use thiscan we respond with facts to the ‘no tactics’ crap or ‘can’t defend’ nonsense.
    It ain’t boring.
    Keep it up Arvind.

  • Arvind

    Thank you everyone who like this article and the series. I love looking at the tactical side of the game and extracting patterns from it.

    @Gary: That’s fine and if you don’t like it, you do not have to read it. That’s your choice. I do however, plan to keep writing through the season as long as Tony publishes them. So maybe next time, if you see, “Arvind” and “Tactics”, you could ignore it : )