We’re going to briefly analyze the main tactical themes in arsenal’s one nil win overwatford so firstly we’re going to focus on watford’s defensive shape then we’ll shift to how arsenal look to approach the game and break down the watford backline and then lastly we’ll focus on saka’s impact from the right touchline.
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So when we break down the game and we do look at the board we have arsenal in their 4-4-1-1 with Lacazette just in behind Aubameyang and watford started the game in a 4-1-4-1 that was pretty much a 4-5-1 so first when we focus on how watford were looking to disrupt arsenal, they were dropping off into that 4-5-1 and what we did see that was integral here was the intent to ensure that the arsenal midfielder sitting in the center circle couldn’t get on the ball.
When we focus on that midfield zone what we ended up seeing was that King was looking to block off the passing lane into Lokonga and then he was stepping into the path of White to ensure that he couldn’t push forward or play positive passes at times.
He did get help from Sarr and that resulted in Sarr looking to block off the passing lane into Tavares but that’s where we also ended up seeing maitland niles dropping off into that zone and that’s where he would have kudzuka looking to push out or simply waiting for maitland niles to push forward with the ball.
If Sarr didn’t push out to Gabriel like i said you would have King blocking off the passing lane into lukonga and susokko looking to push forward to close him down here’s an example of arsenal’s back three with maitland niles dropping into an inside left position and Lokonga caught in that center circle and you could see that king is blocking off the passing lane and towards him and so soko’s prepared to step forward to apply pressure.
if white’s able to bypass the watford striker that means that in that midfield zone it should have been dealing with maitland niles and then tufan was a spare man and he’d be forced to deal with lacazette besides that this was a pretty straightforward approach from ranieri’s men it was sarr and dennis tasked with dealing with tavares and and femenia would be dealing with smith rowe and at times even if smith rowe was looking to drift laterally cathcart could push out towards him as lacazette was dropping off into deeper midfield zones but if he wasn’t looking to shift laterally into that area it would simply be cathcart and nakulu dealing with the bombing and then rose dealing with saka ultimately the pattern of the game was shaped on arsenal’s attacking approach and as we’ve seen in the past they did shift off into more of a 3-2-5 with gabrielle white and tomiyasu holding deeper positions and then out on that left-hand side nuno tavares was given the license to push forward with the hopes of pegging back tsar that does allow maitland niles to drop off into that inside left position to provide cover and that’s where you’d see him being able to get on the ball as kusko wasn’t stepping out to apply pressure on a consistent basis what we ended up seeing was that sar would look to close him down you’d have kudzuga dealing with smith rowe and then femenia could deal with nuno tavares at times we ended up seeing smith rowe shifting out to thattouchline zone and maitland-niles looking to receive the ball in between star and kutzka and there were also times where nuno tavares ended up holding his position and then you see smith rowe holding the touch line and then again maitland niles was either in that midfield zone just ahead of kutzgansar or looking to receive that ball in that gap what could have helped arsenal in this predicament was if they had passers that were able to get the ball out to smith rowe because what we ended up seeing was that if tavares was able to peg back femenia and cathcart was occupied by a bombing if arsenal are able to bypass khutska and tsar then they could get smith rowe in between the lines and then he would be able to lead an attack on that watford back line here you can see susoko stepping towards luconga and focus on arsenal’s left side you have maitland-niles dropping into that inside left position to push
Tavares forward to occupy femenia andthat’s where you see smith road droppinginto space between the lines and fromhere what you want from lucongo is to beable to split sarand kuchka to find smith rowe in that space to run at the back line but he opts to play a square pass out towards
maitland niles meanwhile on the opposite flank what we ended up seeing was that arsenal often had saka in 1v2 positions against dennis and rose while saka was doing a very good job of getting the better of rose in 1v1 when dennis wasn’t tracking back what we ended up seeing was that tomiyasu wasn’t looking to make overlapping or underlapping runs and he was holding a deep narrow inside right position and while that does allow the ball to get facilitated to saka there was often support four rows to make it 1v2 what we often saw in that opening half was that when saka was placed in that position if he wasn’t looking to get the better of either rows or at times dennis was simply tracking back while rose shifted into the penalty area what we ended up seeing was that sako was simply playing the ball back to tomiasu and arsenal were relying on the right back to deliver the ball from those deeper inside right position here’s an example of saka dragging away dennis and rose towards him and there you can see tomiasu unmarked in an inside deep right position saka does a good job of dragging them to the ball and dropping off the ball to tomiasu and from there you can see there are four arsenal players looking to break into the penalty area and although they are outnumbered tomiyasu does a very good job of playing a first-time ball towards the back post as he locates tavares and the bom yang peeling into that zone and tavares does a very good job of towering over his marker to get onto the tomiasu cross however from that position he nods his effort over the net issue that arsenal have there though was that there wasn’t enough support in that penalty area as smith rowe was often dropping off into that midfield zone or shifting laterally between the lines and lacazette in particular was dropping off on the outside of tufan or simply shifting towards the channel to pick up the ball on the outside of dennis or tufan in that inside right position lacazette’s movement didn’t harm watford one because his passing was sloppy on occasion but it also created an issue because there was a disconnect in between lacazette and the front line saka was hugging the touchline tomiyasu was in a deep inside narrow position as well and that’s where he ended up seeing obami and occupying the center-backs with no real support the only real threat that lacazette could provide in that zone was if he was looking to play balls over the top for a bomb yank to make runs in behind because smith rowe wasn’t looking to make those runs or if he could get saka to make runs and beyond rose ultimately this helped out watford in several scenarios because now you could have kutzka and sissoko focusing on lukonga and maitland niles knowing that there’s no threat in between the lines from lacazette and then what you end up seeing is that tufan will deal with lacazette if he dropped off into that midfield zone and if lacazette looked to push forward then the kulu could pick him up and then tufan could shift across to help out dennis and rose with saka therefore when you focus on how arsenal were able towin this game their reliable consistent threat down that right hand side stemmed through saka and although he did have issues because tomiyasu wasn’t consistently making overlapping or underlapping runs.
What you can say in that second half was that tomiasu did do a better job of pushing forward to pull away markers following maitland-niles pass across dennis it should place saka in a 1v2 as dennis was looking to track back but focus on tomiyasu’s positioning here he’s looking to make an underlapping run that he didn’t make in that opening half and it pulls away dennis and it allows saka to cut across rose and tufan and from here he’s dragging away sissoko but also focus on the other midfielders tsar and kutzka are ball watching and that allows smith rowe to make a run into the penalty area to drag away cathcart.
when saka does play that pass it should play smith rowe in this legitimate goal scoring position however unfortunately for arsenal the pass is slightly overhit and the ball falls into the path of foster but more importantly what was important was how arsenal were able to get the ball to saka there were times where you ended up seeing maitland niles lakonga or white who was consistently pushing forward sliding the ball to saka but that would allow dennis to shift across because tomiyasu wasn’t offering a threat what should be stated is that when saka did receive the ball on occasion in that second half with dennis shifting over saka was still able to create chances here you have saka once again in a 1v1 against rose with sisoko shifting over to provide cover and that creates a 1v2 disadvantage for the arsenal right-sided attacker what saka does well is that he cuts across rose and from here he’s up against ahsoko and that creates a large gap to play a pass into lacazette ahead of nokulu and here lacazette has two options he can make the run beyond the kulu or look to make the run across him into right half space to receive the pass but the issue that arsenal encounter here is that while saka is looking to play the ball between rose and sissoko lacazette makes the run off the center back and that halts the attack.
But another interesting modification that we witnessed from arteta was that what they ended uplooking to do was to get tomiasu on the ball pull dennis towards him and that would allow tomiasu to slide the ball across dennis into the path of saka and that would allow saka to get into 1v1 with rose or at the very worst push over susoko or tufan to provide cover and from there saka’s main threat was that he was able to drag away markers towards the ball and then he was looking to find teammates in pockets of space due to the fact that he was able to draw so many players towards him even if you focus on the build up to how arsenal were able to get into a position to score the winner focus on the right hand side it’s saka on the ball ahead of tufan dennis and rose and you can see that tomiyasu made an underlapping run and he’s pulling out susoko.
what sakadoes well here is that he has four watford players focused on the ball and his movement and he ends up sliding out the ball to lacazette and from there because tomiyasu was pulling away rose and sissoko and dennis and tufan were focused on saka it created enough space for lacazette to get a delivery into the penalty area here you can see lukonga freeing the midfield zone looking to split sisoko and dennis to find odegaard in between the lines when lukonga plays that pass this is what odegaard did better than lacazette he’s looking to instantly play the ball out into the path of saka to placement of 1v1 as nokulu does step forward to apply pressure as that play develops saka is now in a 1v1 with rose and you can see him dragging away three watford defenders with dennis looking to track back saka ends up taking the ball towards the byline he pulls away nakulu and rose you have dennis watching sissoko looking to cover the front post and that leaves order guard free at the edge of the box when saka looks to cut back he’s taken away two of those defenders susoko’s in the six yard box dennis hasn’t recovered his positioning and that allows sakura to play the ball back to odegaard free and right half space he ends up eventually pulling out susoko and that results in odegaard beating susoko in the 1v1 and then firing an effort from a tight angle that did go in but a bomb yank tapping it in from an offside position ruled it out in the early stages of the second half it’s tomiyasu sliding the ball across dennis forsaka and it places him in a 1v1 situation with rose but you could see dennis looking to track back to make up 1v2 as he knows tomiyasu isn’t pushing forward.
Saka does a very good job of taking on rose and carrying the ball towards the byline and that results in saka taking away three watford defenders out of the game as two fine shifts across to provide cover with all the arsenal players looking to break towards the box saka’s pullback does go behind lacazette but he’s able to recover the ball and he ends up laying it off into the path of an unmarked Lokonga placing him in a legitimate goal scoring position however unfortunately for arsenal from this area lokonga ends up firing a tame after that foster so as you can see this was another comfortable afternoon for my keller tata’s men but it was bukayosaka’s ability to pull away markers that created space for his teammates and it played a key role in the build up to arsenal’s best chances.