What’s gone wrong tactically at Arsenal?
Arsenal finished 5th in the league and lost the Europa final meaning with two attempts, they failed to qualify for the Champions League. So what went wrong?
The Gunners finished in fifth place in the Premier League this season and were runners-up in the Europa League meaning with two attempts, they failed to qualify for the Champions League. A half-empty Emirates greeted the players on many occasion with one of the key factors being Arsenal tickets decreasing in demand. So what went wrong?
The away form was abysmal. The Metro even reported in April that the squad was baffled by some of Unai Emery’s tactical decisions. For a team competing for Champions League qualification it was simply unacceptable. The formation that Unai Emery experimented with was the 3-4-3 formation. Emery opted to play with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette as the two main strikers with Mezut Ozil dropped in just behind them. This was, on paper, a good idea from the Spaniard, however, it caused more problems than solutions when all three were on the pitch. Ozil is a luxury player, thus leaving the central-midfield duo behind him over-run on a number occasions.
Losses at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City and West Ham proved that Emery had to continue to tinker with the options available to him. The three forwards failed to cover enough ground throughout the season, when you look at the Manchester City side, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling both work tirelessly for the team. Yet if you were to watch Arsenal play, even against teams below mid-table the forwards fail to recover possession of the ball once given away. Lucas Torreira came in for a lot of stick in the second-half of the season but playing the shield in-front of the back three, you have to have support from the forward line.
The wing-backs/wingers on either side of the 3-4-3 were Emery’s biggest conundrum. Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi all had a stint on the left-side at some point in the season yet none of them cemented the position as their own. Kolasinac was the outlet on the left for the Europa League final and despite finding space during the first-half, the Bosnian failed to seize an almighty opportunity to contribute in one of the biggest games of the season.
Alongside this, on both the right-hand and left-hand side there was a lack of defensive cover. When attacking, both Ainsley Maitland-Niles (on the right) and whoever was picked on the left would bomb forward meaning there were a number of gaps throughout the channels for opposition attackers to exploit. This would go onto cause a number of problems when facing a side that had pace in behind or a player who had the ability to open up a defence with a long pass. Players such as Jamie Vardy, Raul Jimenez and Callum Wilson all got the better of the gaps that the Gunners had left behind and in the Europa League final second-half it became an embarrassment as to how open Arsenal were.
Arsenal approach games away from the Emirates far too passive and negative. The Daily Star reported that the manager has abandoned his trusted tactics. They have to play to their strengths, which is keeping possession off the ball and working opportunities. Far too many times, the Gunners would allow the other side to dictate possession when away from home. However, due to the lack of work-rate from the front players, Emery has to start trying to dominate with the ball at other grounds and not just their own.
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