Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics


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Reassembling Arsenal’s Invincibles

Arsenal played behind closed doors against Watford. Mikel Arteta gave us a first preview into what the second striker role might look like for Kai Havertz and Leandro Trossard.

It is difficult to draw many conclusions from short highlights of a match mixed with youth and first-team players, the full 90-minute replay isn’t available, but we can focus on the usage of Leandro Trossard.

Figure 1.1 - Reiss Nelson drives with the ball forward into the left-half space.

Gabriel Jesus was used at right-wing, in the absence of Bukayo Saka. Not an unfamiliar role for Jesus. He debuted last summer in preseason at right-wing.

Figure 2.1 - Leandro Trossard switches with Eddie Nketiah.

Leandro Trossard played as the second striker just behind Eddie Nketiah. This between-the-lines attacking midfield position suits him. He’s someone who can dribble in tight spaces and then attack the right of Nketiah or the left-wing with Reiss Nelson.

Reiss Nelson was fairly inverted infield from the left-wing. Nelson inverting allowed Trossard to push further infield and switch with Eddie Nketiah whenever he wanted. Nelson would either fill the space Trossard left until Nketiah could rotate back, or move wide to open up a large pocket of space for Nketiah.

Figure 3.1 - Arsenal defending in the middle third.
Figure 4.1 - Arsenal defending higher up the pitch.

I mentioned in this post that I thought Dennis Bergkamp’s role as a second striker best suited Kai Havertz.

Figure 5.1 - Arsenal vs Manchester United on September 21, 2003.
Figure 5.2 - Robert Pires inverts while Ashley Cole fills the space on the wing. Dennis Bergkamp brings down the ball.

Have Kai Havertz sit in the right half-space off Gabriel Jesus and let him hold up play for Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, and the right-back.

Figure 5.3 - Freddie Ljungberg receives the ball.

Hover between the lines to connect play.

Figure 5.4 - Gilberto Silva takes the ball deep while Patrick Vieira makes a run into the left half-space.

Declan Rice loves to make these same bombing runs forward into the left half-space like Patrick Vieira made in Figure 5.4.

Emulating the past is common within football, and what better historical benchmark to copy than “The Invincibles”? Kai Havertz is such a specific profile. It only makes sense that this is a variation of the end goal. Why else would you sign him for so much money?

A slower, strong build who can hold up play and dribble between the lines. The calm within a storm. Leandro Trossard will be good for rotation or competition for this role.

That would give Emile Smith-Rowe a spot to compete with Gabriel Martinelli at left-wing, with Trossard preoccupied rotating with Havertz.

I’m not sure what this means for Martin Ødegaard, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and the rest of the shape. Ødegaard must start, but Jakub Kiwior could be favored over Zinchenko. I have my ideas; a diamond.

Figure 6.1 - The rotations in a 3-4-3 diamond.

Allow Kai Havertz to attack his favored space on the right, Gabriel Jesus in the left-space, and Martin Ødegaard central. The rotations would be dizzying. The opposition’s initial press and center-backs would be outnumbered 3v2.

We’ll have a clearer picture as the preseason progresses and more of the first team get involved.

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