Tactical Analysis – Have Arsenal finally found their identity?

We Have Achieved Identity by AI

One of the markers of a good team is the identity of it. Their style, their pattern, what they are known for. When Arteta came in, he implemented a strong defensive structure to stabilize the team (which is similar to what Tuchel is doing with Chelsea) and received plenty of criticism for how negatively the team was set up, especially in big games. But that was never Arteta’s full intention. For a man who has played under Wenger and studied under Guardiola, it was undeserved and hasty. Modern managers often employ a back 4 and Arteta had clearly stated that was his preference, too.

But systems can’t be played without the right profiles in the club. Ozil was mentally and physically done playing at a Premier League standard. The board had not been able to bring in a proper attacking midfielder and the clearest option at the club, Smith-Rowe, was struggling with an injury he picked up from preseason. Arteta could not change the system just yet. Patience was required and it almost cost him his job. Desperate and needing to do something, the coach tried out Lacazette and Willian in the 10 role in the Europa League to poor results. His back was really against the wall. Then Smith-Rowe got fit, we left the 3 at the back system behind, and things have not been the same.

To judge Arteta’s Arsenal by how we played earlier in the season is misguided. This current system is a clearer indication of our future under the talented young coach. We are undeniably doing so many things better and are not even close to achieving Arteta’s full vision, yet. We still make plenty of technical errors, bad passes, poor finishes and lack the calmness to see out games. But one thing is clear: we have a way of playing now and that is our identity.

Our identity is a brave, possession-hugging structure with plenty of nuance: our fullbacks go high and one of them often tucks into the midfield. The inverted fullback frees a midfielder to leave the midfield and join the last line of attack in the halfspace which means that one of our wingers stay wide and high. This leaves us with a deep 2-3 structure (both CBs and the midfield pivot + fullback) for compactness and counterattacks. Since Tierney goes wide, the left winger is required to come inside and play as a ball magnet (which is why Pepe, Auba and Martinelli are not preferred there when Willian and Smith-Rowe are available). The central forward has to be complete and dynamic enough to interchange with the No 10 and the inside winger as well as running the channels and stretching the opponent backline. Basically, in the forward line, there is height and depth, ensuring ball retention and runners into the box provided Tierney or another outlet has space for a delivery.

Our identity, clearly, is one that sustains pressure on the opposition third while being remarkably invulnerable to counterattacks. All five attacking channels are occupied, play is dynamic and retentive, there’s counterpressing once the ball is lost, we start building play from the back and retreat into a 442 block if the ball can’t be regained back in seconds.

Our ascension has begun and the clearest mark of it is how we play our football. The next step is in recruitment. The synergy between our coach and the hierarchy will be made obvious. We will see how much they believe in the sporting project and how much they want it. This is the next step and it can make or break the future to come.



  1. If our last two games are anything to go by, we are miles away and i dont get the gist of this article at all.

  2. “Ascension” is a very bold word at this stage.
    We have an identity alright, the same as our manager as a player. Uncreative, slow, plodding, scripted, robotic, and negative in nature without a bone of freedom or creativity.

    We play as a team EXACTLY like Arteta when he donned the Arsenal shirt; sideways, backwards, and wanting possession and ultimately doing nothing creative with it.

  3. Well written, can not agree more.

    It’s a shame the moaning Arsenal supporters are the loudest these days.

  4. A very good tactical analysis. However, I am not sure if our existing players fit the new identify.
    On the way to the FA Cup last year, we played essentially as a counter-attacking team, utilizing the speed of our talisman, Auba. This year, we changed to a more possession-oriented style,
    but struggled initially because we didn’t have an effective playmaker in the 10 role. We were therefore lucky to re-discover ESR and lately find Odegaard.
    The bottom line is, we are making progress, (albeit slow and inconsistent), but there are still many weaknesses in our game:
    – our build-up from the back is slow, monotonous and predictable;
    – we still lack athleticism and creativity in the midfield;
    – we are short of proven goal-scorers in midfield;
    – we need to learn how to incorporate more diagonal passing into our game (to shit low block defenders out of position).
    The real test this transfer season is finding the right players, at the right price, to get us to the next level.

  5. Well as there’s a slight improvement in our final third in terms of ball progression, but without the ball we tend to quickly fall back to defend instead of pressurising our opponent to retrieve the ball back . This puts a lot of pressure on the defence. Again we are very slow when building from the back, which makes us very predictable!

  6. Absolutely delusional article…the only thing that is blatantly obvious about our team is it’s glaring lack of identity…without the counter-attacking component in place, a 4-2-3-1 formation is oft-times unwatchable and ineffective from an offensive perspective, as it constantly allows the opposing teams to regroup defensively even when they commit more players in our end of the pitch…so instead of leaning on our greatest strengths, which were the vast amounts of money we invested in the final third, we instead took the frustratingly scared approach of devising a “system” based on protecting our weakest links…in many respects, it’s simply a dumbed-down version of the Emery scheme, which eventually failed due to it’s overly simplistic nature…furthermore, to suggest that ESR was the key that unlocked the proverbial door seems like a somewhat problematic argument as his involvement wasn’t done intentionally by Arteta and as soon as Ode arrived he was primarily shoehorned into a wide position

  7. If you’re writing an article, atleast get your facts right.

    The games Laca played as 10 was amazing and not poor.
    I remember people critizing Arteta for not using Laca as 10 in EPL since he perform in the role at Europa.

    Smith Rowe was fit long ago before he was introduced.
    And he was introduced because we have many players injured, same as Martinelli starting against Chelsea.

    Luckily Smith Rowe gave an interesting performance and Martinelli can’t bench Auba.

    So I’m not crediting Arteta for Smith Rowe, Saka or Martinelli’s game.

    That been said, I still believe Arteta has a direction and I’m willing to wait for that direction to materialized (even though I don’t trust him with our youngsters now) cos this season is the only season for a long time that, I don’t fear playing and Big 6.

  8. Yes We definitely have a identity in the way we we are presntly playing. We lack the requisite personnel. To start with, MA must pressurise Leno, and Ryan must challenge the German. He, Leno, is taking it too easy.For me, we have so many central defenders, none of which is cut out to play in accordance. with our ‘identity which to me requires a natural ball player. The closest of our central defenders, warts and all, is David Luiz. Wing backs, Tierney is the template to be used in future recruitment/academy-sourced. As far as our DM’ s are concerned, both Xhaka and Elneny need to be moved on. Partey needs to jack up his game. Although he is good relative to Xhaka, Elneny and when he plays as a DM, Ceballos ,whose contract must not be renewed, he,Partey, is not the genuine article in accordance with EPL standards; injury and ertor-prone, and his shooting has been poor up to now. Our AM’s in Saka, ESR and Odegaard are OK. Our central strikers, Auba and Laca, are past their sell by dates. Of the two, Laca would be my preferred one, purely based on effort. Auba is in for the pay to fund his Ferraris to deliver him late for team meetings. Neketiah is just not Arsenal material. So all in all MA still has a lot to do.

  9. Good article. Interesting stuff. Playing relatively complex & flexible systems requires players that can handle it mentally as well as physically, so yes, how the recruitment goes in the next couple of transfer windows will be crucial. Fingers crossed it goes well and Arteta gets the players that he needs to make it all work. If it does then we’ll be very happy Gooners.

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