Arsenal tactical Analysis – We need a right-back to emulate Liverpool’s system

Arsenal Needs a Quick Fix. Here’s One.

Arteta’s system has been criticized for the football we play. However, I think it’s pretty good. I’ve only got one problem with it. We lack any hint of a central overload. Our pivot CMs rarely get forward. While this can provide us with compactness in the opposition third, and hide the faults of Holding/Mari defending high, bringing defensive stability, it is not optimal that the CMs never venture forward.

I get that we use wide overloads instead. But we are only really dangerous from the left due to the system’s demands on the right. The system demands a touchline winger on the right who is good at 1v1 and combination play. However, we only have one such plausible profile at the club: Saka. Reiss Nelson, too, but he’s not physically competent. The right hand side in our system is meant to be a creativity hub while the left hand side provides penetration, relatively.

However, we don’t have the players for it. This is why Pepe never looks good there, which is pretty bad for a supposedly superstar signing. Only Saka can fulfill the role at a high level. This means that Arteta’s system is precariously balanced on the availability of Saka.

When Saka does not play, the attack always looks dead on the right, while it looks great on the left no matter what. It is not a systematic issue. It is a personnel issue which Arteta knows about and persists with. Maybe he wants to coach Pepe or Nelson into the role.

The solution for the right-hand side is that Arteta either changes it to reflect the left-hand side dynamics or we buy a competent winger who is good at deliveries, combination and 1v1 play. Since Saka can play as an inside-forward better than Pepe can play as a winger, I’d say that the 1st option is better.


Otherwise, we can use Emile Smith-Rowe as a right-winger. I’m sure he would be better than Pepe at it.

Changing the right dynamics to look like the left dynamics means that the CMs must go wider. Like how Xhaka goes wide to cover Tierney. If both CMs go wide, we will lose central compactness and ship goals.

However, this can be prevented by using a false 9 who can defend in central areas OR by using 3 midfielders instead of two pivots. Of course, this means that you lose the 10’s ability to overload in the 4231.

But by using a false 9 and asking one of the CMs to overload like a 10 per time, you can retain defensive compactness AND your ability to overload. At other times, the 9 should also be able to go wide and overload, leaving the CMs in midfield. But do Arsenal have these profiles?

I believe we do. Partey, Xhaka, Lokonga, Elneny are all CMs. Arsenal only have one 10. ESR. And ESR can play as a wide forward. Lacazette at this point works best as a defensive and false 9. Auba, Pepe, Saka, Martinelli, Balogun can all play as inside-forwards.

The only real profiles we lack for the 433 wide overloads system is the RB and CDM. Partey can play as a CDM, of course, but should only be as a second option because he’s too progressive to be restricted there.

All that is needed is a leggy, dynamic RB like Tierney and a good CDM.

Of course, this is how Liverpool play. But we already play similar to them on the left. I’m only saying that we should do the same thing on the right side.

Why? Is it because it’s Liverpool’s system?

No. It’s because it fits our squad best and our coach can implement it. We are already a team of inside-forwards and non-attacking CMs. We already push high. We already rely on wide overloads to get into the box. We already have Tierney. We already have a low-scoring CF who is useless at everything except combo play, pressing and attacking cutbacks.

Just transition fully into what we are. As it is, this current system requires another 10, a RB who’s comfortable coming inside and combining, a real presence at CF + a touchline RW to work. We do not have any of these 4. Therefore the system looks bad when it’s not.

Our left hand side works. Our right hand side does not. It’s as simple as that. It is not a coaching issue. It is a personnel issue. We simply don’t have the depth nor profiles to attack well on the right the way Arteta wants us to.

As a result, the team looks stilted. So I am suggesting that we simply attack on the right side as we attack on the left side. It would fit all of our forwards and our players more.

Agboola Israel


  1. Liverpool used 4-3-3 when they won UCL and EPL, with these types of players that we don’t have:

    – Three hardworking DMs, who’re good aerially

    – Two attacking wingbacks, who can make long crosses accurately. These wingbacks are their main playmakers

    – Two wingers, who can cut inside and shoot frequently. These wingers are also good headers

    – One false nine, who’s also good aerially and excellent in tight spaces

    Liverpool were much better when they didn’t play with a CAM or a no 10. Klopp also said no playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing

    1. Gai
      The fact remains Arteta like Klopp needs to be good in making a tactical decision that suits the strength of the players at his disposal. Wether he is such a genius is yet to be seen.
      Switzerland manager seem to know how to use G Xhaka at Euros, New Castle Coach brought the best out of J. Willock and David Moyes improved J Lingard. And it didn’t take a long time for Chelsea Turchel to know right formation that won them Champions league.

      Failure or Success in football always ends at the tactical table of the coach. Especially now that Arteta is given some. New players. His employees and the fans will surely have huge expectation from him. I just hope he doesn’t fail us all

      1. If the majority of the fans want a manager who can make a system based on the players’ strengths, we might as well hire Claudio Ranieri

        He was famous for making a highly successful system for Leicester City’s players in 2015. I personally don’t like to watch a defensive counter-attacking team with low ball possession though

        About Steve Bruce, he did make Willock score plenty f goals. But Arteta did a double against him last season and we finished above Newcastle

        1. We did the double against Chelsea and not came out of it.
          Man Utd find it difficult to beat us but which team is the best.

          Keep using excuse of We did the double, we finish above them and forgot Wolves did the double against us, Everton did but we still finish above them, but what is the difference between us?

          Steve Bruce brought the best out of Willock, simple as that.

          We bought White from Brighton, wanted to buy Ramsdale, bought Tavares but none of the team they came from can win Arsenal but yet we bought them cos there coaches brought the best out of them.

        2. Gai
          The reality is that football is getting to a stage where results is what matters.
          Wenger achieved so much with his possession based scintilating football that we have all come to love. But then he won trophies. And Even “the professor” at the latter stage of his reign adapted a 3-4:2-1 to see if the team could play better and get results. EPL have evolved and is now more competitive than ever. I joined Arsenal fan base many years back because of the free flow football that they played.
          But if that won’t win us trophies or raise our position in EPL Change is the most constant thing in life.
          Gai, sometimes, you need to face reality. The obvious in football this days is result and that’s what the fans are clamouring for. It is a sign of insanity to keep doing the same thing the same way when you are not making progress. And this apply to Arsenal board and the coach.

  2. You really know how to keep it simple Agboola 🙂
    What ever happened to the George Graham
    Tony Adams training ground tactics.
    Bash em, kick em bash em again 🙂

  3. Spot on, we need to balance the right with the left. Liverpools 433 constantly shifts, Henderson would drop into a back 3 sometimes allowing Trent and Robinson to push up. Salah and Mane are in more fluid free roles and play on the inside channels of the fullbacks.

    With Firmino they tend to overload the CB 3 to 2 as Trent and Robbo keeps the fullbacks in no-mans land between defending the front line forwards or stopping the cross. You notice to that the fullback cross from around the 18 yard line rather than hitting the byline too because A) if the attack breaks down they have more ground to make up B) it allows them to whip balls in between the 6 yard an pen spot as the defenders are maintaining a higher line and havnt congested 18 yard area yet allowing the opposite wing to attack the ball uncontested.

    Unless the opposition midfield work bloody hard to get back in shape they will have a problem. Every time you plug one gap Liverpool create another overload by pushing midfielders up and opens the attack again. Also Liverpool are fluid in their formation when in possession opposed to staying structured, so it’s makes players difficult to track.

    I think this is what Saka, ESR and Odegaard give us in a different way, to draw out defenders allowing space for the striker. A massive reason as to why we were good on our run in last year. But in this case we need to A) cross much earlier than we do B) move the ball far quicker in the final 3rd rather than going side to side. Get closer and play more 1 touch football drawing fouls or opening up defenses. This would lead to a higher xG which with a confident firing ST means more goals.

    I think getting a swap deal with Bellerin or signing Aarons from Norwich would be a great move. I Also belive we may be moving towards Martinelli and Balogun as our main Strikers. So we need to keep Auba and get him singing again whilst those boys grow into the role.

  4. Full marks to Agboola for a well detailed piece this time that to my mind showed far more truth and proper thought than many of his pieces in recent days.
    This is markedly better Al and shows what you CAN do, so please more of THIS type and less of the non contextual, non perspective ones.

    Whatever anyone thinks it is clear that in THIS piece you have given it much real thought, so praise for that!

    1. I disagree Jon, an am surprised you haven’t also enjoyed some of Agboola’s other pieces lately, particularly as I know you enjoy discussing (or learning from in my case!) football tactics, theory and their potential application to Arsenal as much as I do, even when I don’t always agree with the conclusions drawn.
      And Agboola’s articles always encourage intelligent debate, which we should welcome.
      Agboola is by the way not English, and also still an extremely young man. I think his prose, elequence of writing and technical football knowledge are remarkable for someone of his age. I won’t even mention the time and patience he needs to regularly write and post such in depth articles for the benefit of us avid-reading yet highly critical Arsenal supporters.

      1. guy, I have many times and rightly so, praised Als writing ability and I was, to be fair to myself, prominent among Gooners in doing so.

        I MUCH AGREE THAT HE HAS REAL WRITING ABILITY. It is for precisely THIS reason that I, as a pro writer myself am SOMETIMES , I admit, perhaps a little too hard on him.

        I know he is young and not British but that is not relevant to me, because it is clear that his use of English is totally fluent. Were it otherwise, THEN I would have made due allowances.
        However, simply being a talented writer does not mean my comments on his articles contents, in general, are wrong.

        THAT IS OF COURSE SIMPLY MY FREE OPINION, just as your different views are your opinion.

  5. Even without a new signing there is already a decent international right-back in Cedric Soares, who has played nearly all his games for Arsenal out-of-position covering injured Tierney. Maybe Cedric is worth trying in the position he plays for Portugal? For me it’s the striker situation that really needs to be sorted out urgently before any talk of spending tens of millions on another right back, however this is an area that does need a long-term solution as the article points out.

  6. This is brilliant AI, this is type of article that I like to read and learn from.
    At least those that say we have no tactic can now see.
    We progress ball but lack personnel to execute in the final 3rd and I hope we sign a reliable Rb at KT level

    1. But I bet you Arteta did not see that cos if he does, he will prioritizes those positions more than any other positions.
      The amount he has spent this summer is enough to buy players lacking in those systems but what happened? We bought players anyhow we want as long as the player has talent and not rectifying the issue we have in our team.

      Mourinho bought 2 players in his 2nd EPL winning tenure at Chelsea. Fabregas and Diego C.
      Conte did not buy much but solve the main issue which is Kante.

      We need a DM to compete and bench Xhaka and we got none(cos to me Lokonga is Guenz replacement and Partey’s understudy) we need a RB, GK, ST and a CM more than we need a CB but we spent huge on White. I believe White can’t do much than Saliba.

      Onana is available for peanuts but we’re going for 30M Ramsdale.
      White and Ramsdale’s money will cover a very good RB, CDM and Onana’s positions and with Odegaar’s fee which can also pay for Aourar or Fekir, it means 4 lacking positions covered appropriately. With only ST position remaining which we can manage with diz 4 goods players.

      I know with this 4 goods players we can sustain with Saliba, Mavropanos, Laca and Auba till next season. And who knows how they will perform with this 4 goods additions?

      But what did we do? We bought average players in a position we don’t need for now and average players in a position we need good players.

  7. Great piece Agboola – I can’t believe you are only 20 years old(!) and I hope you persevere with the written word as your career, but without ever forgetting to contribute to your admirers here as your analysis is always spot on.
    Even with my rudimentary tactical acumen it is obvious that our imbalance between left and right is seriously hurting us. The left hold up nicely with the correct selections (tierney and – horror of horrors – Xhaka to fill in – I also thought Nketiah worked well there in pre season), but the right side is horrible and carries no threat at all. Pepe, whilst he can be individually excellent sometimes, does not work in this system at all. I agree saka is currently it, although ESR is worth a try, as is trying out Tavares as RWB imo. Chambers is at best solid, at worst a liability as a FB. Or maybe we can still buy one in?
    I really like Tavares going forward though, so I hope he gets some decent opportunities.

  8. We have an international RB in Cedric, we gave him a long contract and all of a sudden he’s frozen out. He’s an experienced international and I would like to see him given another chance. If we are not going to sell Bellerin or buy another RB he can’t do any worse surely.

  9. Very interesting article from a guy who has a sound grasp of football personelle and tactics.The fact that you highlighted the weakness of Pepe as a RW, is a subject I have raised on numerous occasions but it seems Arteta is intent on giving him chance after chance To prove himself influenced no doubt by his exhorbitant transfer fee.Pepe might just be effective for Arsenal as a conventional LW or as an unconventional CF but as a RW, he is simply bang average.In the same way AMN ,who It seems we are unable to sell is only effective as a RWB or perhaps as a RW where he started his career.

    1. Pepe needs more coaching guidance with regards to his role. He also needs an effective RB to support/overlap and/or Strikers/midfielders that will help create space. The limited quality in these other areas has also contributed to Pepe’s underwhelming performances.
      An alternative would be to play a counter-attacking style with him in the RW position. If Arsenal had midfielders who are quick and accurate his strengths would become more apparent . Pepe can be quite deadly from counter-attacks as has been seen at times.
      He is unlikely to be similarly effective as a LW. In this kind of role his role would be mainly to be a creator of chances and, in my view, this would limit his effectiveness. I can only see this working if Arsenal have a consistent world class striker.

    2. Grandad, IMO Pepe is wasted on the right wing. He is not the type to benefit from being an inverted winger.

      He should either play on his natural left side OR in a more central role, though obviously not as a target man but more withdrawn, where his eye for a goal will give him even more productivity than he showed last season.

      I thought 16 goals while playing on a wing that did not suit him was a good return.

      So I do not agree with those who do not rate him and I think him far better than many realise. In the correct position , I am convinced he will prove me right.

  10. Lack of a good RB stifles our attack since

    1. Chambers never really overlap due to his lack of pace leaving the right winger in a 1v2 situations.

    2. This also leads to opponents being able to focus more players on defending our left side hence nerfing tierney attacking capabilities.

    3. Since opponents don’t have to make a central mid drift to the side to support his left back and winger like xhaka does to cover tierney, the middle remains congested making more difficult for ESR to find those pocket of spaces.

  11. Dont agree with the article at all really, picking on Pepe, saying we play like Liverpool in any department or look like them is so far from reality. Klopp is a dynamic, enthusiastic coach his players play like him, our Coach isnt, micro manages and our players play exactly how i see Arteta, Dull! And Negative! Dont compare us to Liverpool or Klopp, we are so far from that it is embarrassing.

  12. I can see everyone is praising this article when Mr Israel didn’t even reference where he got it from. I can say for sure he didn’t come up with this as i’ve read this on twitter before.

    1. Actually, now you mention it, I am pretty sure I’ve read a comment very like your one just recently on twitter….

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