By Bulldog Drummond
- Arsenal v Manchester United. On home / away form we are clear favourites.
- Elneny and Eddie: what happens now to Arsenal’s heroes against Chelsea?
One of the intriguing factors this season is looking to see how various clubs near the top of the league have performed against each other. And indeed as we have seen before, Arsenal have had a particularly rotten season in relation to taking on other teams near the top of the league.
In fact the poverty of results got us thinking about the poverty of our defence in the first third of last season. That was a prelude to a revolution in the way Arsenal played. Could it be that we are now seeing a second revolution?
If so this could be the moment we get the better of Manchester United, who have the distinct disadvantage of flipping from one manager to another, although they have managed to beat Tottenham twice, and Arsenal at Old Trafford, so with three wins thus far they have outplayed Arsenal who leaving aside West Ham have only beaten Chelsea and Tottenham.
However, it is worth noting that Manchester United have also lost by some fairly spectacular margins – 5-0 at home to Liverpool, along with a couple of 4-0s. Leaving aside their thumping of Tottenham away 0-3 their other wins have been by the odd goal, while when Arsenal have won it has always been by a two-goal margin.
Which is what has made some of us think that just as when Arsenal transformed their approach to defence in order to cut the number of yellow cards, so they might now be in the process of making the most out of the young players they have, by changing the tactics in attack?
Of course we know that some of the punditry is getting a bit extreme as the media launch desperate attempts to show that the gods are against us. Take his one from the BBC. “Arsenal have won just three of their 15 Premier League games against United on Saturdays (D5 L7), and are winless in seven since a 2-1 home victory in November 2008.”
But last season we realised that above all else Arteta is a radical tactician who will take on projects that no one else could contemplate – as with the oft-quoted moving Arsenal from top of the yellow card table to close to bottom, by cutting out tackling.
And I do think we are now seeing another one – although this time Untold can’t claim to be the only group of people who have noticed it as the Telegraph has got in there as well.
What started us thinking about this was noticing just how often Mikel Arteta and Martin Ødegaard have a chat. The manager doesn’t do this with lots of other players – it is primarily with Ødegaard.
Indeed the Telegraph proclaims that there is “one guarantee in almost every match: when there is a break in play, Martin Odegaard (sic) will trot over to the sideline and talk to Mikel Arteta.”
Now this is obviously aided by the fact that Martin Ødegaard spent a lot of time at Real Madrid and Real Sociedad and has excellent Spanish, so the manager can speak in his native tongue, Martin can gather up the ideas, and then using his perfect English, French, Spanish and Portuguese let everyone else know what is going on in the manager’s mind. He’s the club’s official linguist.
But there is far more than this. For as we saw in the slaughter of Chelsea, Ødegaard was the captain, and he handled the task very well. Presumably he will be the permanent captain from next season – discovered early, just as Tony Adams was, but for different reasons.
For Ødegaard is not just the linguist, he is the genius of making passes through the middle third of the pitch. Indeed the stats show that no other club is attempting this with such regularity in the Premier League. It might sound like an obvious approach (just like cutting tackles to avoid yellow cards) but in fact it is revolutionary.
As a result Arsenal are now creating a higher percentage of their attacking moves from the middle third of the pitch than any other club. The latest figures we have suggest that this has now reached 46.3%.
Of course all clubs like to launch attacks through the middle third when they can, but it is not possible all the time because of the big centre half or two facing the players. Liverpool approach this by dividing their attacks almost equally between left, centre and right in the attacking half of the pitch, but that is the usual approach. What is unusual is what Arsenal are now doing. Just compare these figures for attacks launched in the final third of the pitch
|Club||Left attacks||Middle attacks||Right attacks|
Just as we have continued to explore the extraordinary development of Arsenal’s defence under Arteta, we’ll carry on with looking at this second revolution which again could have quite amazing results.
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