‘The Press’ tactic for AFC against Chelski by Tom
As Arsenal get ready to face Chelski today, I thought it would be a good time to ask some questions on the future outcome of the new work being implemented by Unai and his staff.
The adaptation of tactics over the premier league seasons has seen Wenger’s 4-4-2 being moulded with our wingers as wide strikers, our forward as a CAM (Bergkamp) and our wing backs as wide midfielders. The tactics progressed ahead of most. Our ideas were new. Crosses into the box were cut back to the penalty box rather then crossed into the 6 yard box (taking teams by surprise), Viera was allowed to win the ball further up the pitch and join up with forward attacks – while Parlour tucked in with Gilberto. Small details that make the difference!
Over the years the tactics offered measures and counter measures by clubs. 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 was soon being implemented. The 3 up top was dealt with by CB splitting wide (requiring more agile quick centre backs, preferred to then solid strong slow defenders) while CDM dropped into defence. There wasn’t really an innovation in tactics but a progression of new measures.
The need for higher pressing to obtain control and opportunity became more prominent in recent years. In the current game there is 3 main types of pressing. There is the Speed Press best shown by Klopp’s teams (allow the opponent to pass from the back but with speed they were ready to close them down – rushing the opponents to make errors – same approach for when balls lost – ‘Gegenpressing’), Sarri press is based on Positioning (Press) then tackling (allowing a lack of passing options) and Peps press which centres around Aggression.
We are yet to see what type of pressing Unai is going to adopt but I sense from his Sevilla and Valencia days he will look to speed.
But the current squad and their skill levels is all that Unai has to work with. By placing Ozil deeper against City meant he would be a better option to receive the ball and keep it (with his greater ball control skill levels) and release – although we are yet to see the fruits of that experiment. Ramsay offered energy further up top and his goal threat was a nice bonus.
It’s against being pressed I am more curious as to how we perform. Cech looked shaky at times, while comfortable at other times – his outcome of passing from the back will be best assessed by understanding who makes themselves available. Guendouzi made a few errors but was making himself available to receive from the defence. However our CB’s were not being allowed to find outballs. And the main concern, although we won’t really know the truth until the season is over – is How confident are the players to want the ball under pressure?
Xhaka and Ozil went missing against City. I recall our defence getting the ball but Xhaka and Ozil not receiving it enough. Like Cech not being judged but the availability being observed – we have to see how often our midfield make themselves available. Again this will be something Unai will need to get them working on then rather then just how we press opponents (which I am sure he will).
For me, seeing how well we develop whilst being pressed high is key to our success. Against Chelski in pre season for the first 20 mins we were shaky. Being pressed high generally we have been shaky. Last year was the best example, and not enough solutions were found to help the players deal with that tactically and emotionally.
A culture of allowing the players to make errors attempting to do the right things needs to be adopted by the fans.
Encouraging the ideas as much as the outcome.
In today’s game, it’s much more then just tactics. While Wenger scrutinised evidences post match and used pro-zone back in 2003/04 (3 years before others), most of his peers drew a line under the match and moved on. Today it’s all caught up.
Man City have FIVE departments of strategic performance analysis. They analyse, for instance, the number of forward passes that goes through the opposition’s midfielders or, more crucially, its line of defenders. They look at what happens in the 20 seconds after the team wins or loses the ball. They pay attention to City’s ball possession in the last third of the pitch, a measure that they found to be strongly correlated with winning matches – and focuses future recruitment on players with high pass completion rate in these key areas.
Its important when we are being pressed we feel confident. Everybody needs to want the ball, at all costs. But over time will it give Unai the evidences he needs to make true changes.
If Unai is going to succeed this season, his ideas first need to see some signs of progress against Chelski today (such is the pressure at the top) But the level of intense detail and stats to work from to make true progress is season long.
I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Iwobi/Nelson played and maybe even Torriera coming in also. It could be Xhaka and Ramsay to miss out but it also could be a good couple of cards to play as subs if the game Unai wants to play on Saturday pays off.
What team would you pick to best suit our new ideas?