Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

The battle for the center of the pitch between Lens and Arsenal

The battle for Lens is the center of the pitch and they won that battle against Arsenal. Stopping Declan Rice and Martin Ødegaard was the key to haulting Arsenal’s progression into the final third.

There is a caveat. Not allowing Arsenal to progress through the center of the pitch is a very effective method to stop them but only if Ben White is not on the pitch. If he is on the pitch that overlapping run on the right-wing opens things up.

Super odd that Kai Havertz did not move to center-forward once Fabio Vieira came on for the injured Bukayo Saka.

Gabriel Jesus remained at center-forward with Vieira at right-wing, instead of Jesus on the wing.

I don’t think it’s wise to put a controller like Fabio Vieira at right-wing. They need those cutting runs in that Gabriel Jesus can provide or they get locked moving back and forth like a crab. They rely on that movement to open space for Ødegaard at right center-mid and then Havertz at left center-mid.

Later in the 2nd half, Leandro Trossard moved to center-forward with Gabriel Jesus on the left-wing, but Fabio Vieira remained at right-wing.

Kai Havertz is very stiff and slow to play the ball. He appears like he’s playing at half speed, not in sync with the rest of the Arsenal squad. This has begun to improve slowly as each match goes but Fabio Vierira has looked more comfortable in his natural center-mid position in place of Kai Havertz when he has been played there.

Figure 1.1 - Takehiro Tomiyasu starts his overlapping run, behind Bukayo Saka, as two Lens defenders move to challenge Saka.
Figure 1.2 - Bukayo Saka sees Takehiro Tomiyasu making the run.
Figure 1.3 - Bukayo Saka passes to an unmarked Takehiro Tomiaysu.

This is a game where they missed Ben White’s overlapping runs. That run was always on and Takehiro Tomiyasu attempted the overlap occasionally. He’s not as nimble or accomplished a crosser so these chances were not as menacing. They will need that run if they put a controller like Vieira at right-wing because Vieira will rarely take on his man 1v1.

The overlapping runs from Lens on their right-wing was the main danger when Arsenal turned the ball over. With Zinchenko inverted it’s a 2v1 for Gabriel, and Gabriel normally has to back out of challenging to cover the man behind.

Arsenal are going to go full defensive against Manchester City on the weekend if they don’t have Bukayo Saka. Mikel Arteta seems fairly set on keeping Kai Havertz at left center-mid which means this second half against Lens was be a good preview of how they will attack.

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