Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Havertz's runs from deep in Arsenal's 4-4-2

Arsenal’s 4-4-2 was built to get Kai Havertz in those deeper pockets to try to test and time that pass beyond Aston Villa’s high-line. The timing of the run and pass was well executed, based on the trigger to pass to Ødegaard and Zinchenko.

Figure 1.1 - Freddie Ljungberg receives the ball.
Figure 1.2 - Arsenal's 4-4-2 versus Aston Villa.

Arsenal replicated that classic Invincibles 4-4-2. Obviously Trossard is not Pires, Jesus is not Henry, and Zinchenko is not Cole, but those are the roles.

But to get Kai Havertz in those Denis Bergkamp type spaces, you need a center-forward next to him. Havertz wasn’t playing as a midfielder, he was playing as a second striker. Playing deeper than Jesus.

Figure 2.1 - Kai Havertz positions himself deeper off Aston Villa's high line.
Figure 2.2 - Oleksandr Zinchenko plays Kai Havertz in.

What I liked about the choice of role for this particular match is the position he took up. Aston Villa have the most well organized high-line offside trap in the Premier League, but you need those deeper runs to time the pass over their defense.

Get Diogo Carlos to jump out, and then attack the space behind him with well timed runs.

Figure 3.1 - Marc Cucurella begins his run while Reece James has the ball on the far side.
Figure 3.2 - Raheem Sterling makes a run from a deeper position in a pocket.
Figure 3.3 - Conor Gallagher makes a run from deep.

Chelsea showed us how you beat a high-line offside trap earlier this season against Tottenham. Instead of sitting on the line, you need to make runs from deep.

Sit in a pocket deeper, away from the high-line, and then attack space at full speed. It gives the player passing the ball time to react to the run, and the player receiving the ball will have the head-start speed advantage up against the opposition’s defense.

It is the only way to test the offside trap, and even then, it’s still hard to time the pass to the run.

Figure 4.1 - Kai Havertz positions himself deeper off Aston Villa's high line.
Figure 4.2 - Martin Ødegaard plays Kai Havertz in.

The trigger for the run from Havertz was the pass to Zinchenko or Ødegaard. Havertz would turn and run beyond Diogo Carlos, and then it’s a simple foot race.

The problem is, Kai Havertz isn’t particularly fast, so when he was played in Diogo Carlos and Ezri Konsa were able to catch up with him, but I love the thought and execution of the pass. Arsenal tried this same run all throughout the match.

Figure 5.1 - Kai Havertz positions himself deeper off Aston Villa's high line.
Figure 5.2 - Kai Havertz makes a diagonal run triggered by the pass to Martin Ødegaard.

In the same way Bukayo Saka makes those diagonal runs on the wing, out to in, to receive, Kai Havertz made a similar diagonal run from deep, out to in.

So not only does that deeper position set him up well for the run behind Aston Villa’s high-line, it also opens up space ahead of him to receive when he makes those diagonal runs.

Look for Arsenal to repeat this same tactic against teams that use a super high-line, like Tottenham.

Players like Ødegaard, Zinchenko, Partey, Jorginho, and Vieira are key because you need the run but you also need those high volume passers who can pick out that run.

Match: Arsenal 0-2 Aston Villa, 14 April 2024

Players: Kai Havertz, Martin Ødegaard, Oleksandr Zinchenko

Back to top Share on Twitter Email this post Copy link