Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Arsenal's answer is Fabio Vieira

August 27, 2023 — Arsenal has overcomplicated a change in midfield dynamics. When Fabio Vieira was introduced into the game, it reintroduced old concepts from last season, and they began to look like a winning team again. But they drew to Fulham.

Figure 1.1 - Arsenal overload the right-wing, 4v4, with Thomas Partey leaving space behind Ben White.

The first glaring issue is that Thomas Partey is not a right-back, he is a 6, but Mikel Arteta persists with this flawed experiment. I’ve covered the reasons why it’s flawed in this post linked here.

Overloading the right-wing to isolate the left-wing is the goal. This has not worked.

They move the ball back and forth across the pitch like a crab with no penetrative progressive pass. There is less end product. They are not bombarding the goal.

When they switch play to Gabriel Martinelli, the two options for him are Jakub Kiwior and Kai Havertz. This is a downgrade right now when you compare it to last season when he could play off of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Granit Xhaka.

Both Zinchenko and Xhaka have better decision making, are more nimble and agile, cleaner one-touch passing. They make that run to the corner to cut the ball across goal. Havertz doesn’t have the decision making yet, he’s mistiming runs, offside, and when he gets the ball in the penalty area his cut-back passes are sloppy.

Martinelli is on an island. It’s him against the right-back. That’s the only option. And the runs aren’t being made for Martinelli to cut a pass across the box if he beats his man.

The chances created are lower quality when you compare them to those created when you overload the left-wing to isolate Bukayo Saka on the right-wing, like they did last season.

Figure 2.1 — Ball is switched to Gabriel Martinelli, and Fabio Vieira makes the run to the corner of the box, while Jakub Kiwior joins in to form a triangle.

Fabio Vieira knows how to make the type of runs Granit Xhaka made last season, to the touch-line. Overload with that triangle on the left-wing; Nkeitah, Saka, and Ødegaard can attack the cut-back pass.

Figure 2.2 - Fabio Vieira wins a penalty.

It’s a winning repeatable formula. Switch from the holding midfielder to the left-wing, overload, break to the corner, and win a penalty or cut a cross across goal. Simple.

Figure 3.1 - Scramble for the ball that gets kicked out to Fabio Vieira.

As a Fulham player goes down injured in the box, play goes on. Look at the space Eddie Nketiah finds himself in, central.

Figure 3.2 - Fabio Vieira picks out the pass to Eddie Nketiah for the goal.

Inch perfect pass to Nketiah equals goal. You might get this type of pass from Leandro Trossard or Gabriel Martinelli but not Kai Havertz.

Figure 4.1 - Bicycle kick by Fabio Vieira. HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images

This bicycle kick capped off the perfect 34 minute cameo. If that performance doesn’t earn Vieira a start, I don’t know what will. He is ready.

He is what they need between the lines to get the best out of the center-forward, to create chances for those isolated on the right-wing, to help Martinelli break into the penalty area.

Figure 5.1 - Suggested lineup to overload the left-wing.

Overload the left-wing to isolate the right-wing. Have Declan Rice attack zone 13 at speed. Allow Fabio Vieira to make those runs into the top left-hand side of the box.

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