Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Brighton Pass Confidently Through Arsenal's Man-to-Man Press

If you can get past Arsenal’s man-to-man counter press, you are doing something right, and Brighton were doing something right yesterday. They confidently use their ball-side forwards to quickly bait movement.

Figure 1.1 - Lewis Dunk passes to James Milner.
Figure 1.2 - Kaoru Mitoma drops to receive the pass from James Milner.
Figure 1.3 - Evan Ferguson drops to receive the pass from Kaoru Mitoma.
Figure 1.4 - Evan Ferguson passes to Adam Lallana, and Arsenal retreat.

If you get to the halfway line, Arsenal will normally allow you to maintain possession and progress into their half. They retreat to maintain that numerical superiority on the far side.

Figure 1.5 - Arsenal get the numerical superiority on the far side as Brighton settle in their half.
Figure 1.6 - Arsenal and Brighton's shape in Arsenal's half.

Once Brighton settle play down in Arsenal’s half, they set up in this fluid 3-4-3 shape, with the 10 dropping, and the two midfielders in the half-space pushed forward. Arsenal countered this by clogging the middle with two ball-winners in the second line and three forwards in the first line. Force Brighton wide and then collapse on the ball.

Figure 1.7 - Kai Havertz wins the ball back off of a misplaced pass.

While Arsenal are very aggressive in the opposition’s half, they are much more timid in their own half, only waiting to jump when there is a mistake. I would have liked to see Brighton be more patient once they got Arsenal in this position.

It’s very hard to break Arsenal’s back line and second line down, but they will allow you to hold as much possession as you like. The longer you hold the ball, the less time Arsenal have to attack.

Brighton were severely depleted due to injuries, and they just played an intense final group stage match against Marseille, in the Europa League, on Thursday. Their team is not comparable in quality to that of last season, and I was not expecting them to play as well as they did. Their performance was impressive both in and out of possession.

It is difficult to come to the Emirates and pass the ball with as much confidence and consistency in their own half. Jan Paul van Hecke was particularly impressive with his blocking ability and awareness in defense, while also completing 96% (79) of his 82 attempted passes. Even when Joel Veltman came off injured in the 27th minute, Brighton didn’t drop off, and 18-year-old Jack Hinshelwood did a great job at dueling 1v1 with Gabriel Martinelli. Lewis Dunk is Lewis Dunk. James Milner found a way to limit the effectiveness of Arsenal’s overload on the right-wing in the first half with his experienced positioning.

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