By Tony Attwood
“…the Arsenal hierarchy seem to have opted for a different, almost riskier approach, investing in six young talented players who will no doubt take time to bed in and flourish in red and white.
“The risk stems from the fact that Arteta, along with technical director Edu, have opted for a long-term strategy when Arsenal’s glaring issues are very much short-term, the north London outfit crying out for some ready-made additions to strengthen a decline that seems to hasten with every passing match-week.”
That is from the Mirror, and it raises some interesting issues. Let us start at the end with “a decline that seems to hasten with every passing match-week.”
Let’s look at Arsenal’s last ten games shows six wins, three defeats and a draw.
|02 May 2021||Newcastle United v Arsenal||W||0-2||Premier League|
|06 May 2021||Arsenal v Villarreal||D||0-0||Europa League|
|09 May 2021||Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion||W||3-1||Premier League|
|12 May 2021||Chelsea v Arsenal||W||0-1||Premier League|
|19 May 2021||Crystal Palace v Arsenal||W||1-3||Premier League|
|23 May 2021||Arsenal v Brighton and Hove||W||2-0||Premier League|
|13 Aug 2021||Brentford v Arsenal||L||2-0||Premier League|
|22 Aug 2021||Arsenal v Chelsea||L||0-2||Premier League|
|25 Aug 2021||West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal||W||0-6||League Cup|
|28 Aug 2021||Manchester City v Arsenal||L||5-0||Premier League|
Of course we have the problem of introducing new players into our squad and introducing them to our unusual tactics of cutting out tackling, while also accommodating the radically changing tactics of other teams..
This is of course another topic that the media don’t like, generally feeling that tactics is too difficult an issue for their readers to grasp. But that’s a shame since our regular analyses of tackles and fouls is already showing some strange features this season.
For example, Chelsea are putting in three plus extra tackles a game this season, but the fouls against them are coming down by two fouls a game!
West Ham are going tackle crazy putting in just under 4.5 extra tackles a game, but the fouls against them are also down.
Tottenham’s tackle rate is up slightly, but the fouls against them is down by almost three fouls a game!
Last season, we worked hard to squeeze tackling out of our game, and yes out of the top eight clubs in the league last season Arsenal were right down at the bottom when it came to tackles – thus giving referees far fewer excuses to award fouls and yellow cards against them.
But now Manchester United have started to follow this tactic, cutting their tackling rate by 3.5 tackles a game. And already it is having an effect reducing their fouls per game by 1.89.
Thus in keeping the tackling right down and trying to squeeze it out further, Arsenal and Manchester United are following a similar pattern, removing the chance for referees to penalise them.
But the vagaries of the referees are deeply ingrained. Chelsea’s tackling rate is going up and up, but the number of fouls they are called out for are going down and down. The same for West Ham and for Tottenham. Tackles up, fouls down.
Now we established some time back that the tackle is the key element in getting a foul given against you. Not the only way of doing it but a main way. So what is going on?
Certainly Manchester United could be feeling aggrieved at the moment and Chelsea and West Ham must be laughing their heads off. I’m not suggesting referees are being bought, but that old belief among refs that Chelsea and West Ham are clean football playing teams which leads to giving them the benefit of the doubt over tackles, really could do with being looked at.
So what now? Arsenal are clearly changing their entire defence around, and as a result are having to instruct the new comers in the ways of PGMO, its variable attitude to tackling and the Arsenal approach of cutting tackling out. And indeed this is what was taken advantage of by the opposition in the first three games.
But as the new players are instructed in the Arsenal “cut out the tackling” approach so the referees will be forced to reduce the number of fouls against the club, and matters should improve.
|2021/2 tackles pos||Club||Tackles per game 2021/2||Tackles per game 2020/1||Up or down||Fouls per game 2021/2||Fouls per game 2020/1||Up or down|
|10.||West Ham United||18.00||13.52||+4.48||8.67||9.66||-0.99|
The tactics files
- Bournemouth v Arsenal: the team news, Jesus’ problem, and winning records
- Bournemouth v Arsenal: injury update, and the record between the clubs
- Bournemouth v Arsenal and Tottenham’s yellow card bonanza
- Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the dirtiest team of all?
- The great injury conundrum: how can Arsenal cope, and how are other clubs suffering?