Premier League 2018/19: Brighton vs Arsenal
Arsenal’s difficulties when caught on a counter-attack are growing bigger and caused problems against Brighton too. Unai Emery used the best available starting XI but this couldn’t help to their defensive performance and they lost the lead after a series of counter-attacks. As I’ve mentioned before the lack of pressure that the players put on their opponents and the failure to hold onto the ball played a huge part in their defensive actions.
Brighton managed to get a point out of the game thanks to their consistency when it comes to turnovers. The players were focused enough to take advantage of every Arsenal’s mistake and it all paid off with their equalizer. However, the team has got a lot of issues in the backline too as there were tons of individual mistakes. A combination of not so perfectly measured actions resulted in the Gunners scoring.
The Seagulls completed 324 passes compared to their opponents 711 and won the point with only 74% pass accuracy compared to the Arsenal’s 89% and still managed to draw (1-1). Was this point a Christmas gift or they put hard work to deserve it?
Have you watched a movie a thousand times?
Watching Arsenal being completely sloppy during a defensive transition is like watching a movie a thousand times, however, there is no happy ending. Brighton’s counter-attacks were a result of the Arsenal players not reaching the ball on time and losing the loose ball duels. Then failing to make the transition and reach their opponents. And there are only two reasons for them not conceding more goals against Brighton: Bernd Leno and the Seagulls’ lack of a good finish. Although the team had 12 shots, compared to seven for the Londoners, only three of them were on target.
All defenders are lacking the needed speed, as in this case Kolasinac was outrun and couldn’t help during the defensive transition. Brighton’s players managed to form nine counter-attacks and five of them ended with a shot. On the other side, Arsenal did it five times but couldn’t perform properly in the final third.
Positional disorganization, squad changes and formation
It seems like Unai Emery is still wandering between a few starting XI options and that has a bad influence on the whole team’s performance. The only thing that we should not put in doubt is that Aubameyang and Lacazette should both be starters. The other positive out of this game is that you could see Sead Kolasinac being combinative, contributing well and switching positions.
This time the Spaniard’s tactics didn’t work out. He once again tried to boost the team up after the break. After changing Mesut Ozil for Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette for Aaron Ramsey early on, he tried to bring more creativity on the wings. I assume the manager brought Iwobi on, replacing Ozil because he usually puts more pressure over his opponents and has a greater defensive contribution. You could see the German’s efforts, but his pressing duels weren’t quite on point. Although we could question Iwobi’s impact on that game.
The formation changed from 4-3-1-2 to 3-4-2-1 and the only player that brought something different during the second half was Ramsey. He didn’t manage to show off, but having in mind that the whole team was less active after the break, he tried. Emery explained what was the expected improvement in the second half:
“Tactically, some matches I did that and I wanted to control it better with the positioning on the pitch. But in the second half, we couldn’t do our ideas on the pitch for imposing ourselves and this imposing positioning can give us more options in attacking moments to score. We created fewer chances in the second half”
The team had only one shot on target after the equalizer and got too worried about positioning, tactics and etc. The positive thing is that the overall chemistry between Aubameyang, Lacazette and Ozil is there, they just needed some more time on the pitch to convert it into goals.
There is a concern about Arsenal’s long-term future. Unai Emery needs to find a way to prepare the team so it could take advantage of the fast starts. They don’t happen too often, but when they do, the players fail to keep up the lead and allow being outplayed. Not every time a substitution would help and he should make decisions for a starting XI that would be able to carry on a whole 90 minutes. Otherwise, the player will get tired while chasing the win during the second half and start losing in the blink of an eye.
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