Arsenal’s Carabao Cup campaign ended early yet again. This time, at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. Unlike their 4-2 victory over Tottenham a few weeks ago, Arsenal were outplayed. Over the 90 minutes, Tottenham proved more intelligent which showed in the 2-0 scoreline.

Arsenal went into the game with a depleted defence. Granit Xhaka continued at centre back and Ainsley Maitland-Niles came in at right back. This was originally a back four as seen in the lineup graphic below:

English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics

Tottenham came into the game with a very strong team with Harry Kane being the biggest miss. However, this played into their hands. Without a natural striker, their front three was able to pick up incredibly dangerous positions throughout the match.

Not only were they a handful for the Arsenal defence, but the Arsenal midfield also. This could be seen in the pace at which their goals were scored.

Tottenham’s pseudo-strikers cause havoc

Both Tottenham goals came from long balls from their goalkeeper. With this, we can see that in these situations, Arsenal weren’t ready and didn’t know how to handle Tottenham’s attack. Furthermore, with midfielders and wingers occupying central areas, their speed, agility and movement off the ball made them harder to pick up.

English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Here Tottenham just win the first ball. However, Arsenal’s sitting midfielders Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi are miles from the play. This leaves Dele Alli in acres of midfield space.
English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
In this instance, Arsenal’s defence should have covered and dropped ASAP. With Sokratis following Lucas Moura, the defence automatically turns into a three. This creates massive gaps in between and behind the defence for Tottenham to exploit.

However, the makeshift defence are caught ball-watching and are rightfully punished.

That space in front, in between and behind the defence was also the direct cause of the second goal. However, what makes the second one more alarming is that Arsenal had changed to a three-man defence at half-time with Laurent Koscielny replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Another long ball from the goalkeeper is won by Tottenham. This time, no one follows Kane as he drops off to collect the ball.

The space he receives the ball in is massive and dominated by Tottenham attackers. The fact that no one follows him in isn’t the only shocking moment but also the distance between Sokratis and Koscielny. Obviously preoccupied with Heung-Min Son, Sokratis feels he has to cover him. But if he keeps a similar distance to Koscielny as Xhaka, he can help change the situation the defence is in.

English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
However, Xhaka jumps out of the line and Sokratis doesn’t cover. This leaves Koscielny stranded and Alli is free to run in behind and score.

Arsenal’s first-half attack

Despite, falling off as the game grew on, Arsenal started well. They created chances well and were on the front foot for a while. What helped them do this was playing in central areas. Although starting in a 4-2-3-1, Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi aren’t the best wide players.

Also, considering they were up against Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose, would’ve been hard to see them beat them one-on-one. Therefore, Arsenal’s best chances came through the middle as seen below.

English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Here, Mkhitaryan, who on paper was Arsenal’s right winger picks up the ball centrally. He drives at the Tottenham defence which fixes the three closest players to the ball. With them distracted, Aaron Ramsey can run freely into the highlighted space to give Mkhitaryan an option.
English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Having beaten three men with one pass, Mkhitaryan continues his run and can’t be tracked. Ramsey has the easy job of just helping the ball back to his teammate.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, Mkhitaryan couldn’t finish when one-one-one with the goalkeeper. However, this showed that on the night, Arsenal could create. When Mkhitaryan and Iwobi came into central areas, this forced Tottenham to concentrate more, creating spaces for onrushing players like Ramsey.

This led to a barrage of Arsenal chances late in the first-half but they couldn’t convert.

Arsenal’s second-half struggles

Chasing the game, Unai Emery made yet another half-time change. Bringing on Koscielny and losing Mkhitryan in midfield. However, this proved to be the wrong change. In the second-half, Arsenal’s attacks were much more lacklustre than in the first-half. This was because, with fewer people in midfield, Arsenal allowed Tottenham to dictate their play as seen below:

English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Most of Arsenal’s second-half attacks came in these positions. This allowed Tottenham to stack bodies in the middle in order to deal with whatever came there way. In this example, Iwobi’s cross hardly makes it into the six-yard box.
English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Nevertheless, Arsenal try to go down the same avenue for an opening. Iwobi finds the initial space well and Monreal plays the ball. But Tottenham’s structure hasn’t changed.
English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
Alli follows Iwobi into the corner meaning there’s yet another body blocking a cross. Iwobi can’t fashion anything so Arsenal have to restart the attack from scratch.
English League Cup 2018/19: Arsenal vs Tottenham Tactical Analysis Statistics
However, in restarting their attack, Arsenal don’t show a change of idea. They just relocate the ball and try to find an opening on the Tottenham flank as they failed to do many times before.

Summary

One of the big questions an hour before kick-off was: ‘Where is Mesut Ozil?’. The answer that was given was that he was left out for tactical reasons. However, following Arsenal’s 2nd loss to Tottenham at the Emirates, it’s clear that his absence had an effect. Had he been available for selection, its very unlikely that Koscielny would’ve come on at half-time, and ultimately, that decision hindered Arsenal going forward for the rest of the match.

However, not every call Emery will make will be right and this will be a learning experience. With that being said, it is clear for all to see that without Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette in the side, Arsenal are much weaker creatively. We’ll see if that changes on Saturday against Burnley.


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