Premier League 2018/19: Arsenal vs Leicester Tactical Analysis
Artwork by @chapulana

This Premier League match analysis was originally published on our network Arsenal site wearethearsenal.uk

It’s been an amazing weekend for the football itself as the Arsenal’s performance was highly praised by football fans worldwide. The team painted on the pitch and got an important win over Leicester City (3-1). And by important I don’t mean the 3 points. I mean that the club slowly started to get its identity back and it has been a pleasure to witness it.

The impressive team effort resulted in a 10th win in a row in all competitions. Although there are still some defensive issues to be fixed, it’s clear that the team is back on track and ready to conquer. Unai Emery is doing great in reshaping the Londoners and the progress could be seen with an unarmed eye.

I shall admit that there were two players that made the difference in the game but it was the perfect connection between them all that impressed me most.

On the other side, Leicester had some great opportunities too but couldn’t take advantage of them. Jamie Vardy wasn’t playing on his potential to help the team score, and the absence of the captain Wes Morgan was crucial for their defensive efforts.

But how did the Gunners impress and why Leicester couldn’t react properly to their press?

Playmaking at its finest

When it comes to playmaking there are two names that immediately pop up – Mesut Ozil and Lucas Torreira. They both made Arsenal’s life easier with their brilliant playmaking skills and took part in all three goals against The Foxes.

Ozil was named captain and he looked more than inspired to get the team to its 10th win in a row, although the whole team struggled to bring fresh ideas during the first half. After missing the trip to Fulham (5-1) due to back spasms the supporters were hyped and declared that the team could perform perfectly fine without Ozil. Well, yes, it might happen in the London derby, but Mesut surely proved them wrong. His performance was undeniably good and even the stats can confirm that. His passing accuracy percentage was 91 with 62 accurate plays. For 80 minutes playing time, he managed to score an equaliser, assist and contribute in the build-up of all three goals. His creativity and great positioning resulted in five key passes, with 1/1 accurate crosses and 1/1 accurate long balls added to that. He dribbled successfully past his opponents twice and won 6/7 of his duels. One thing is for sure – when the German is playing on his potential his performance is out of this World.

 

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That’s Ozil’s perfectly measured through pass to Bellerin, who a few seconds later assisted to Aubameyang for the Arsenal’s second goal.

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One-touch combination between Ozil and Iwobi. Mesut tried to confuse his markers with his body language and instead of kicking the ball with his left foot, he made a pass to Iwobi (who moved great off the ball) with his right. Then Alex gave it back to Ozil who was already in the box and made a parallel pass to Lacazette who was perfectly positioned in front of the goal. While trying to stop Ozil, Harry McGuire left Laca completely uncovered.

The other player that was a key part of the success is Lucas Torreira. His individual actions were all perfectly measured but the connection with his teammates is what made it even more exciting to watch. His impact on the team’s performance was immense as he joined Ozil with 91% pass accuracy, 3/4 accurate long balls, one successful dribble attempt, seven duels won, few interceptions and 8 recoveries. Pretty exciting, eh? Actually, it was Torreira who recovered the possession of the ball and started the attacks for the first and the third goal.

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That’s how the Uruguayan contributed to the third goal. He received the ball from Xhaka and saw an opportunity to start an attack from deep. That’s why he sent a long ball to Ozil.
Arsenal Leicester Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Ozil continued with a class back-heeled action and passed the ball to Guendouzi who ran towards the goal.


Arsenal Leicester Premier League Tactical Analysis StatisticsArsenal Leicester Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics

Arsenal Leicester Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics Arsenal Leicester Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics

After Torreira’s interception, there was a one-touch combination between him, Laca and Xhaka. Granit then made a long pass to Ozil (whilst Bellerin was making a run on the flank) and then again after a great one-touch combination Mesut scored an equaliser.

Confidence masterclass

Alex Iwobi deservedly received the Man of the match award as he contributed well in every part of the pitch. The Nigerian international once again showed that he’s a different player this term and is deserving every single minute on the pitch. Despite his young age of 22, he could be an example of confidence. He performs with such a freedom that it’s impossible to not enjoy it and he gives credit to Unai Emery for that one. Iwobi said after winning the award:

“The manager has imposed a new style and we are enjoying our time. We are enjoying each other and the chemistry is good – it’s not just the people who are starting but those on the bench, as well. The manager has just given me the confidence to express myself and to believe in my ability, which I have been trying to show.” 

He delivered two key passes against Leicester and added one shot on target, one accurate long ball, dribbled past an opponent on three occasions, tackled successfully three times and won seven duels.

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Another great combination. Iwobi’s off the ball movement was well timed to receive the ball from Mesut, who dribbled past a couple of players. Alex then did the same with his marker and reached the box to create a great opportunity. Schmeichel saved.

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The Nigerian international contributed defensively too. Despite being well-positioned the defenders didn’t expect this pass from Ndidi. He delivered the ball to Iheanacho (who made a speed run towards it) and the only person there to prevent the goal was Iwobi who used his speed to reached Kelechi in the split-second he was shooting.

Speed and explosiveness

If you’re wondering what’s the result of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s speed and explosiveness, let me explain – 16 goals and 5 assists in 22 games.

That means he scored one every 105 minutes. Only Liverpool’s Mo Salah has netted more in that timeframe. He’s netted eight goals from eight starts in all competitions this season. It turns out that he is the perfect weapon from the bench. I don’t mean he doesn’t deserve a starting XI spot, but coming on fresh against tired defences might turn out as a crucial part of the team’s success. The Gunners are deadly dangerous on speed and that’s exactly when Auba comes to place. Adding Lacazette’s killer shot and football sense, it’s no wonder that the defenders panic when competing against them.

Unai Emery, a.k.a the Sculptor

Emery is doing a perfect job reshaping Arsenal by far. He managed to implicate his vision and tactics and the players seem to respond well. After the amazing Ramsey goal against Fulham, composed of various one-touch passes, the third goal on Monday proved once again that “the Emeryball” is working well.

Alex Iwobi was the only player not to touch the ball in the build-up. Twenty-one seconds and nine passes after Bernd Leno had the ball at his feet, Aubameyang was converting a superb Mesut Ozil cross. This one-touch efforts get the best out of the players and turns out to be shaping as the Arsenal’s style of play which was long gone in the past few years.

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Another one-touch combination. Aubameyang and Ramsey used a mix of on and off the ball movements to fool their markers and get the ball further.
Arsenal Leicester Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics

Still not there yet

Although the Arsenal’s supporters are flying out of excitement after the recent events, we should admit that there is still much work to be done. Unfortunately, the defensive crisis is still on the agenda as the team experiences some trouble at the back every once in a while. With Nacho Monreal’s absence, Lichtsteiner had to play on the left, which wasn’t quite comfortable for him. It got even deeper when he picked up an injury and Emery had no option on the bench. Luckily, the manager is known for his strong decision-making when it comes to substitutions and transformed the team quickly enough so they can get the best out of the situation. He had to move Granit Xhaka (whose mediocre performance in the middle wouldn’t be missed) on the left-back and bring on Auba and Guendouzi to switch to 4-4-2. And this brought an instant success with the team scoring two goals in three minutes. The bunch of individual mistakes during a defensive transition may cause the Londoners a lot of trouble in the upcoming fixtures, but the improvement in Bellerin’s performance that assisted twice in the game is a proof that it’s been worked on. Well, he contributed in front of his own goal too, but it was in a desperate effort  And I should not miss praising Bernd Leno’s performance as he is the main reason for Arsenal conceding only one goal during the first half.

No captain, no party

After picking up a second red card in the Premier League this term, Leicester’s captain Wes Morgan was absent during their loss to The Gunners. The Foxes played with a back-three and Harry McGuire had to take the responsibility and replace Morgan in the middle. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to do it properly as he was often exposed. Arsenal’s speed attacks turned out to be a huge problem for the defensive line as most of the times the team’s defensive transition wasn’t perfectly timed. Ben Chilwell contributed well with some runs on the flank (including the one for Bellerin’s own goal) but he experienced a hard time getting back on position and helping defensively. Which was crucial as all three goals came from this area with Jonny Evans failing to stop Hector Bellerin’s speed runs.

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A map of Leicester’s efforts in front of the goal.

The whole midfield line couldn’t find their style of play and the only danger in front of Bernd Leno came from James Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho as Vardy’s performance was mediocre. The team managed to counter-press well during the first half and didn’t allow the opponents to pass the centre line but it was all gone until the end of the half.

Summary

Unai Emery seems to be unpredictable with his starting line-up but one thing has been proven this term – he is in control of the dressing room and he turned Arsenal into a second-half team. The improvement the players have after the break is easily noticeable and is the turning table of their performance. With strengthening the defensive line and trying not to concede in the first half, this could become a thing for The Gunners.

Leicester needs a backup leader for situations when the captain is missing as their performance without him seems disorganised and chaotic. It also seems that switching from back-four to back-three is not effective enough and Claude Puel should think of better options.