Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Declan Rice's Position Dictates How Threatening Arsenal Are

Declan Rice’s position on the field dictates how much pressure Arsenal put on the center of the pitch because Martin Ødegaard and Kai Havertz have to drop. The more they drop, the more isolated the wingers and center-forward are.

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of Arsenal's shape with Declan Rice joining the back line, then drifting out wide to the right.

Havertz and Ødegaard have to drop to help connect play to the front line, but this movement back leaves them alone, outnumbered by Fulham’s back line and second line.

Figure 2.1 - Declan Rice drops between the center-backs.
Figure 3.1 - Declan Rice moves into the right half-space.
Figure 4.1 - Declan Rice moves wide to the right.

Arsenal have their No. 6 move wide to the right of William Saliba when the team advances into Fulham’s half. You can see Thomas Partey do the same in this post.

This blocks off the passing lane from White to Saliba, which often forces Rice to play the ball elsewhere.

If Martinelli were to receive the ball out of this overload on the right, his only option would be Kiwior and a double-teamed Nketiah.

They can never take advantage of the isolation on the left when they overload the right. Havertz is too far away on the right side of the pitch to be of help.

Figure 5.1 - Declan Rice receives the ball at the top of the box.
Figure 6.1 - Declan Rice carries central.

When Rice advances central, Ødegaard and Havertz can proceed forward in the half-space, putting an equal amount of pressure on Fulham’s center-backs and allowing Nketiah to find more space between the lines.

If Rice is too far back, Arsenal have no threat. If he’s too far wide to one side, the other side is often too isolated because the far-side midfielder is forced to move with them. If he’s higher, Arsenal often look threatening because the midfielders can pin defenders wide and Fulham are forced to come out to challenge Rice.

Arsenal are reliant on the position of Rice on the pitch. Where he goes, the play goes. He drops between the center-backs far too often when the opposition sits back.

Figure 1.1 - Arsenal's passes from minute 67 onwards. Credit to James Benge of CBS Sports for the image
Figure 1.1 - Bukayo Saka attempts to dribble the ball with three Arsenal targets in the box.

Rice favored positioning himself on the right side of the pitch, which forced Arsenal to go through Bukayo Saka.

Pass to Saka, overload the far-side of the box, and pray he can create something out of nothing. Arsenal did not complete a pass into the penalty area between the 67th minute and the 95th.

Match: Fulham 2-1 Arsenal, 31 December 2023

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