Three notable tactical points we can take from Arsenal’s win over Burnley



Since Emery has come into the club, he has attempted to implement a progressive system of ‘playing out from the back’. This has largely been ineffective so far in his tenure, but on Saturday we saw a much improved formula for this. The notable difference was the mobility and youthful energy in our midfield that enabled the system to work. Ceballos, Willock and Guendouzi represented agile options in midfield who have the speed of thought and feet to enable us to more effectively play through the press from deep areas, and goal kicks in particular. Whilst Granit Xhaka posses several useful attributes, his ability to receive the ball in tight areas and turn is largely limited, so having nimble and quick players in midfield ultimately helped Emery assert some of his footballing philosophy. It’ll be interesting to see if the Head Coach sticks with this midfield or returns to the experienced but almost pedestrian Xhaka.




Something that makes Granit Xhaka so integral to our side in helping us build attacks is his expansive passing from deep areas. In David Luiz, we may have found a smart alternative to Xhaka which will ultimately relieve the reliance we have on the Swiss international. Luiz completed 61 passes on Saturday, including 3 accurate long balls, demonstrating how his ability to find incisive passes between the lines, or expansive passes over the top, could be an incredibly useful offensive asset for us this season.



Despite winning the game and only conceding once, it was far from a comfortable defensive performance. Burnley piled the pressure on us throughout the game, with their relentless wide deliveries met with the physicality of strikers Wood and Barnes. Whilst, on the whole, Luiz and Sokratis dealt with this threat, combined making 13 headed clearances. There was certainly a passiveness about our full-backs and their willingness and urgency to prevent these crosses from even entering the box, which would have entirely nullified Burnley’s threat. This was evident in the Clarets goal when we failed to prevent Dwight McNeil’s shot, which led to Barnes tucking home an equaliser. This must be addressed by Unai Emery.

Anything else you saw? Tell me your thoughts below….

Alfie Culshaw

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  1. If anyone is going to expose us defensively it will be Liverpool and Man City,they have lots of pace in their sides and i am anticipating an end to end game this Saturday,I do not think it will be for the faint hearted and although a win would be fantastic this game may have come too soon in the campaign for us.
    Tactically I would go with the strongest team possible, liverpool will be at us from the off and we will have to be ready for that,Emery will have to be on his metal this week defensively because they are going to be busy.

  2. Spot on Alfie, especially about the differences between the thinking/ feet speed of the young midfielders (Ceballos/ Willock/ Guendouzi) and the old ones (Xhaka/ Ozil)

    Arsenal had better d have playmakers that are able to keep their composures in tight spaces

    Having said that, Liverpool choose to have industrious midfielders (Henderson/ Wijnaldum/ Fabinho) instead of getting another Coutinho and that works well

    I believe Arsenal’s midfield should maintain a balance between technicality and physicality

    1. And yet if you go back a few threads before the season started YOU had Ozil in your team-YOU need to take your time with what you write PAL and not try to be the first that comments.It just continues to make you look more stupid

      1. Everything time I come on here, your always looking to pick fights or arguing with someone.The guy gave his opinion on the piece and your looking to jump down his throat.Is there something wrong with you?

        1. If you are referring to me PAL I would suggest you check the facts before spouting off.@Got No Idea always rushes to post the first comment.The trouble is he forgets what he has previoudly posted.
          Might I suggest YOU get your facts in order before gum beating about means what I post.

    2. There will be matches when Xhaka will play, for instance, when Luiz does not start. There will be also instances when Torreira plays. He is not a gr8 forward passer, but better defender than WIllock and Guendouzi. But I dont see Ozil coming back, except a rotation option in home games against home teams where Dani is rested!

    3. Well said. Unai Emery must find a balance between Technicality and physicality. His team must press high and not be non challant in their approach but fight for all balls. Arsenal defenders must also maintain 120% concentration. Our strikers should also take their chances. Above all, Our full backs should make defending a priority rather than bursting forward at every minutes. I believe if we carefully follow thru this Arsenal will come out victorious

  3. I think the last point can be attributed to Niles as monreal was far better offensivly and defensibly… why didn’t we get a decent RB after selling jekinson and releasing lighstiner

  4. Guendouzi is not any quicker than Xhaka, but your point about having midfielders with ball control and ability to play in tight areas, is extremely important, especially against Liverpool and Spurs in the next 2 games.
    It wasn’t our fullbacks fault, that Burnley could make too many unchallenged crosses. The fullbacks were a bit too often left alone with 2 opponents, because our wingers didn’t track back quick enough. That has been a huge problem for many years, but we are getting better here under Emery. It takes time, but progress is there.

      1. And after dark too! We play many EVENING games in the winter, so one paced Xkaka(very SLOW pace actually!) should be out the door ASAP, as many Gooners seem to agree. I AM MAKING A SERIOUS POINT,even though I make it in jocular tone about “after dark”!

      2. Guendouzi is faster than Xhaka. Xhaka is the slowest midfielder of any top 20 European team. The only player we had that was slower in recent years was Mertesacker and not by much. But Mert had positional intelligence while Xhaka is the exact opposite.

  5. can we just forget about Burnley and focus on Liverpool dear Admin.

    Our defense is my main worry.

    and Pepe is yet to settle in.

  6. Looking forward to lpool which haven’t in a while … But a bit of realism in order … Have so far beaten 2 teams that finished in bottom 8 … Ceballos flashes of Pepe and Luiz in means Xhaka out were the pluses from Saturday but lack of team organization and struggle to play out from the back remain … So it’s work in progress with the scousers as good a test of whether Emery can improve us in those areas ..l

  7. to me i think the play from the back worked well coz burnly were not pressing us high up the pitch which won’t be the case against liverpool,am saying this not without appreciating the work of the youthful midfield, secondly am worried so much about pepe’s defensive duties, with his comeos so far have witnessed in more than two occassions where he just watch as the opposition launch attacks from the right without tracking back to cover up niles. this worries me so much with us caing teams like liverpol, man city, tottenham and other top teams

  8. Good stuff Alfie.

    Been very concerned regarding ANM at right back since Bellerin’s injury.

    Sorry to say but have to admit, Ainsley got an earful from me on Saturday for ONCE AGAIN not showing enough urgency in getting out wide and preventing crosses getting into the box – where let’s face it we have not been strong for a good many seasons now.

    ANM constantly gives the impression of jogging back “into position” half heartedly with the attitude of “O.K. let the centre backs deal with it ……. “DRIVES ME NUTS !!!!!!

    My lad was fortunate enough to be on pro books for a few seasons. He played at R/B or C/B.

    Helping him as a youngster right through local youth football through until he was picked up, I used to drill into him

    This simple advice from a young age seemed to work.

    To my point. Why then can a pro not get this simple mantra, when after all even in the modern game a full backs first priority must be to DEFEND.

    I really loathe ranting on about one (very talented player). But at right back, not for me.

    I know this will get the “being played out of position” response, but it has been a while now. I as much as anyone just wish Ainsley would “get it”.

    I also appreciate with Jenko gone, we have limited options until Hector returns.

    But I just feel Ainsley is without doubt our Achilles heal right now (Liverpool will love “no right back in position”) so I’m just saying (at length unfortunately) – you are a very talented footballer, but you must roll your sleeves up and do the dirty work also.

    As for Nacho on the other flank, more frequently ditto the above – but never giving the appearance of lack of effort. Over the years Mr consistent who I have voted P.O.T.Y. (no not potty) more than once.

    However, we have realized this and grabbed Tierney.

    Here’s to a positive season.

    P.S. SIGN DANI !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Much agree on AM-N and his clear weakness at FB. But, as he is clearly being used out of his position, I do not blame him as much as you have done and put the blame on KROENKES MEANNESS, WHICH PREVENTS US BUYING A PROPER RB. I have zero faith in Bellerin being more than a touch better, since I have seen NO regular effective defending from Bellerin either in all his time as our RB. I SO MUCH agree with you that a fullbacks primary job is to defend his goal and that means cutting out crosses before they happen and also defending existing crosses, (usually from the other wing). In Bellerin, I have little confidence of any real ability to do this properly. Therefore we urgently need a top class RB ASAP.

      1. Hi Jon.

        Agree re’ Bellerin.

        My post was comparing one poor option, with another poor option – if that makes sense ?.

        My logic being at least Bellerin claims to be a “bona fide right back” (of sorts) by trade.

        The lesser of two evils scenario.

        We seem to agree – we need a “proper” right back (amongst other continued areas of improvement).

        1. AJ, yes your post is unarguable. But the bottom line remains that AFC do NOT have any RB who is worthy to play there. NOT EVEN ONE. TOP TEAMS HAVE TWO USUALLY. It is not who is better between Bellerin and AM-N; rather it is that NEITHER are good enough. BELLERIN IS LESS AWFUL ONLY and that is not good enough!

  9. I vehemently disagree! Playing out from the back was an absolute failure versus Burnley. They penned us back in our own half and the ball barely made it past the half way line. It reminded me of the backwards and sideways passing among Arteta, Mertesacker and Jenkinson only that this sideways and backwards passing was happening in our own box! Emery must abandon this needlessly risky style of play. It puts a lot of pressure on our defence the ball does not go anywhere since everyone is overloaded in our half.

  10. At times we played from the back in silly situations. Obviously it’s an instruction from Emery but sometimes Arsenal looked amaturish at it. Leno is so reluctant to kick the ball even when he should. When Bellerin and Tierney are back I’ll be more confident. Even at Liverpool and City sometimes the goalkeeper will kick when appropriate.

  11. Its a man’s game on Saturday. No experiments Mr time for inexperienced soft and wet nosed teenagers in midfield. Torreira is a must. Xhaka shud start if only for his experience and range of passing. The Willocks and Nelsons have had their time in the sun..its now serious business. Theirs is the future not the present. Hoping for the best result against Lpool Im optimistic but also surely wont be easy

    1. Xhaka will be a bystander against the pace of Mane, Salah, Firmino and Co. Will require Willock for his commitment, energy and pace in the midfield. Willock did not do anything bad in the last two games, he deserves to start. Nelson & Mkhi – no. Not aware of Torrera’s fitness. Since everyone has forgotten Ozil, so do I and he stays out. PAL upfront, Cabellos, Guendozi and Willock in the middle of the park, defense remains the same although I would prefer Chambers to Socrates.1 point for the gunners.

      1. I’ll drop willock for torreria, I think we need two ball playing defensive DM against liverpool n we have them. Plus torreria is better at interception and providing cover to our defence. I think this how we should setup in away games. Two DM n ceballos behind the front three.

  12. Firstly, Alfie, it is good to see you actually write, rather than speak,this time It is much preferable on a debate site to have written words to chew over. I much agree with your thoughts about a new mobility in midfield with the new and faster more able players than Xhaka, whom I think a rank bad player who should leave us ASAP. Your well made point about our full backs not cutting out crosses is also a fair one and is a clear weakness. AM-N is, thanks to lack of spending money, played embarrassingly out of position at RB , though he struggles manfully and is clearly a talented player, when FINALLY played in midfield, where he clearly belongs. I have not much faith in BELLERIN when he returns being much better at cutting out crosses either. I have never seen any REGULAR satisfactory defending from him and think he is also out of place at FB. In common with many, I suspect Tierney will prove a fierce and able warrior and have high hopes BUT as yet they are only hopes.

    All in all though a good article and more of these please and forget the blogs, which seem to have failed to get much interest anyway.

    1. My last 14 posts on here have been written ?‍♂️ And, once again, Jon, the videos did well on YouTube, not all my content is fully purposed to generate interest on here.

  13. I thought their goal was lucky without the deviation the ball would have never got to Barnes that’s for sure,Luiz had a decent chance and he was at the start of the move in our box and ending it in their box with a bit of luck he could have scored,the guy showed determination!

  14. I think people are giving too much credit to Liverpool,they dree5 to Chelsea and were lucky bti get the 3 points against Southampton,we need to keep Robertson and Alexander busy and with our full forwards they might think twice before charging forwards and we need our full backs to help them by going forwards, I’ll play AMN who is quick enough to recover when going forwards my dilemma is who to play Montreal more solid defensively or kolasinac too keep the full back busy by charging forward but not as solid defensively,what do you think??

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