The tactical points that Arsenal could learn from the NFL

The case of Baltimore Ravens and similarity with Arsenal’s current playing Situation by Beast Mode

Being American, I watch a lot of American football and sometimes I like comparing aspects of different sports.

When watching Baltimore Ravens of NFL, it reminds me of the playing pattern of Arteta’s Arsenal. Baltimore drafted Lamar Jackson as a quarterback 3 years ago, but didn’t start despite being 32nd overall pick. Eventually he became a starter after the 1st season and his inclusion turned the offense from average to one of the best in his first season.

Jackson is an unorthodox kind of Quarterback who doesn’t excel in the most basic attributes of what is required of his position. He is not a good passer of the ball and not accurate for a deep ball thrower, but he has the build of a running back. He is elusive, and as fast as any other running back in the league, and Baltimore incorporated that in their game plan. They didn’t force him to be what he wasn’t, and actually built the team around his other abilities.

So, the first season he tore up the defense and the opponents couldn’t figure out how to stop him. Normally, defense is more worried about the quarterback passing ability, but now you have a guy who will run around with the ball and is hard to tackle. It’s like playing 12 vs 11. It wasn’t pretty style but it did work. Jackson was eventually voted the MVP of that season.

They then meet the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs. The Titans had a different plan that turned out to be the blueprint to beat Jackson and co. Their defense jammed the running lane and made Jackson to beat them with his arm, and not with his legs. They took away his strength and made him a pocket passer-which was his weakness. Another weakness that was exposed during that game was that Baltimore cannot beat teams from behind as their playing style doesn’t allow them to score fast. Normally, passing QBs can change the score with only a few plays, but Baltimore is a running team that consumes a lot of time to score. Jackson’s Baltimore now won only one out of ten games they were behind at half time.

Now the similarities with Arsenal. When Arteta took over (or toward the end of UE tenure), Auba was shifted to the left and the attack went through the left side of the field. MA overloaded the left side with a combination of AMN/Saka/KT and Auba, and this tactic created space for Auba to run into. In some games, AMN overlaps and occupies and pulls away the opponent CB, thereby creating space for Auba. MA was able to get the best out of Auba with this tactic. But just like Baltimore being found out by opponents, Arsenal was figured out too. The other teams have figured out this tactic and nullified that side completely.

The 2nd similarity is that, just like Baltimore being forced to rely on their weakness, Arsenal too is now forced to rely on their weakness- THE PASSING. Other teams are allowing Arsenal’s CB to have the ball as much as they want, and daring them to beat them with the passing. Our midfield is garbage, and cannot pass the ball to save their lives. We don’t have players with quick interchanging passing abilities, and now most of the forward passes are from the CB’s, and is much easier to defend by the opponents.

The other comparison is that Arsenal is not a high scoring team, and can’t come from behind. I don’t have the stats, but I heard from the commentators during the Arsenal vs Wolves game that we have lost all the EPL games that we were behind at half time. Our playing style doesn’t allow us to score in quick succession.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that Arsenal needs to be more dynamic in the attack than relying on only a few tactics or players. During Wenger’s tenure, we had midfielders and wingers who chip in with goals, but now everything is on the strikers. Giroud wasn’t a goal machine, but because of the goals from others we were able to score a lot of goals.

How can we do that?


Tags Arteta Aubameyang Baltimore


  1. I think you hit the nail on the. MA made the most of what he had and won us the FA cup. However everyone know what to expect with us and we have no plan B. This is due to the poor players at his disposal. How are we ment to have a fluid passing game with players like xhaka in midfeild. All our MF options are slow defensive minded players.

  2. Last season Premier League
    Auba 22 Lacazette 10
    Pepe 5.Martinelli 3
    Three players got 2
    Ten players got 1.
    56 goals.

    70 goals would have got 3rd
    So a reasonable expectation is.
    Auba 15 Laca 15 Pepe 12
    Martinelli 10 Nketia 7
    The rest of the team 11.
    The players have the talent.
    Let them play like Arsene let them
    Take the hand break off.

  3. A very interesting analogy Beastmode.To help us overcome our run of poor form, we need to simplify our tactics, not complicate them.Arteta is no doubt influenced by systems and tactics used by Man City , but to be effective , the tactics should suit the calibre of player available to Arsenal.The simple 4-3-3 systems deployed by Leeds and Aston Villa are blueprints which we should consider at least in the short term.In the case of Leeds supreme fitness plays a large part of their game allied to a man for man defensive “high risk” strategy frowned upon by many so called knowledgeable Pundits.As to Villa, their tactics are very straight forward.The role of their back four is first and foremost to defend.Their full backs do not bomb forward for the sake of it, but get down the line when a sensible opportunity arises.The back four players quickly try to find their DM ,Luis who like Phillips at Leeds is always available.They are both quality players but not in the same class as Partey in my opinion.At Villa they do have in Grealish an outstanding attacking midfielder which we, unfortunately do not and without him I suspect they would lose much of their creativity.Watkins , like Bamford at Leeds is very hard working and mobile, continually looking to find space which is difficult in the EPL.They are also pretty good finishers.In Partey, Elneny, AMN and Willock we have guys with real energy to be be competitive in midfield unlike Xhaka and Ceballos who have been totally inept this season.I hope Arteta simplifies his tactics without delay and used Leeds and Villa as role models.

    1. Well, Stans NFL team was a bottom feeder for a long time until recently when they stumbled on a young inventive coach who changed their fortune. Now, they are more competitive than they used to be.

  4. Beastmode…

    Thank you for a great piece! I read your article with so much interest and joy!! It is with such insights as displayed in your article that we are able to develop not only as passive and reactive fans but also as a positive thinking fan base, whose energy the players will ride and benefit from.

    Many may not agree, but I believe it all has been about fine lines between winning and losing. I have seen Tottenham win with just two shots on target and two goals! One-shot on target and one goal! And today, they sit top of the league with confidence brimming. Many of our games would have been different if our strikers were more clinical. Honestly, goals change games! A simple chance taken will do a host of good for the team’s morale.

    Finally, being a chess player, I have seen many times when my game would take a dip whenever I try to add a new skill set to my repertoire. However, in those moments, I often revert to simpler tactics, and then suddenly, I realize that those new skill sets have taken root, and I am able to understand and apply them with ease.

    Why do I feel the same is happening to the Arsenal team at the moment, taking in new skill sets and knowledge has caused a momentary decline in performance, however, with just a little bit more patience, it will be internalized and surely it will resort to long-lasting success!

    Friends, let us remain steadfast despite the present blips, stand firm, transmit positivity, and we will reap the benefits sooner than we can imagine!

    Stay safe!


  5. I’d love to see a Leicester City style of football. I’ve never been a fan of playing from the back. I dint think arsenak have ever had the players that can do this.

    I have said before we have a simular and slightly better team then the one that one the league. Vardy/auba very simular both rely on speed and clever runs. I think atm it looks as if vardy is a bit better but still simular.

    TP/Kante. Enohgh said lets use TP as an enforcer who can also recycle the ball.

    Pepe/mahrez/Saka skillfull decent passers and can chip in with goals.

    Let’s keep it simple and get the ball forward. I want to see the front free running to certain positions as soon as it looks like the opposing team have finished an attack. We should know where those 3 are t all times making particular runs with partey protecting them.

    Isn’t it funny how 6 months ago it was all about defence and now its all about attack

    1. Shortboygooner, I had an article a week ago about the similarity between this team and 2015 Leicester team. This team is made for quick counter attacking style of football if only the embrace it and move on with it. In fact the FA trophy was won thru this tactics.

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