Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City | After the frenzy that was the World Cup, the club season is finally back, with Manchester City and Arsenal kicking off proceedings with a cracking game at Wembley. Vishal Patel has done a Tactical Analysis of the game.
Many regard it as just an over-hyped friendly, and many think of it as the first official game of the season, but one way or another, the Community Shield is an occasion that always gets us excited about the new season.
A lot of players were working their way towards fitness, and a lot were missing through injury; Manuel Pellegrini was without some key members especially in defence while Arsene Wenger on the other hand was crucially without his World Cup winning German contingent. He did however, pick a strong side featuring 3 of his new signings including Alexis, and Debuchy, who both started on the right, and formed an impressive combination through the game.
Arsenal: Sczcesny; Debuchy; Chambers; Koscielny; Gibbs; Arteta; Ramsey; Wilshere; Cazorla; Alexis; Sanogo
Manchester City: Willy; Clichy; Boyata; Nastasic; Kolarov; Toure; Fernando; Jesus Navas; Jovetic; Nasri; Dzeko
Goals: Cazorla 21′, Ramsey 42′, Giroud 60′
Arsenal keeping it narrow
Arsene Wenger started his side in a 4-3-2-1 system; he lined up Arteta, Wilshere and Ramsey in a horizontal line across the middle of the park. Even Cazorla and Sanchez, who were just ahead of the midfielders, were playing narrow, rather than as wide men. The width was coming from on rushing full backs. Essentially, the purpose it served was that it allowed Arsenal to have bodies in the midfield region, and dominate that area. Arsenal, as a team, played a number of short passes, and always had men close to the ball, ready to receive it, especially in the midfield area. This ensured that the Gunners could move the City defence around, and dominate them to create space for the full backs coming forward. The key was the positioning and the movement of each player in the midfield zone.
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Sanogo served as an excellent target man, dropping deep when required to collect the ball, or serve as a bouncing pad, and making runs in behind to stretch the defence when the game got a little too compressed for the Arsenal midfielders. The Aaron Ramsey goal was scored after such a run, with Alexis finding Sanogo in space. Alexis too, played very well in his 45 mintue show. The Chilean wasn’t really a winger, and nor was he in the central position. He was found frequently in the channel between the centre back, and full back, in the space between defence and midfield. This made him very difficult to mark and pick up, with Kolarov in particular struggling to contain him. The movement allowed him to find space and make passes, and also drag the defence out of position for others to make runs.
Essentially, the purpose of all this passing was to create space on the wings for the two full backs, Debuchy and Gibbs to run into. 39% of their play went down the right hand side, which is quite a percentage. The combination of Sanchez and Debuchy in particular was very effective. The Chilean stayed narrow and dragged his marker, Kolarov inside, and created a lot of space for Debuchy. A similar thing happened on the left hand side, with Cazorla managing to bring Clichy inside, and create space for Gibbs.
City building through the wide areas
With Arsenal enjoying a thorough dominance of the central areas, City were finding it quite difficult to build through this area of the pitch. Generally, with the likes of Toure and Silva in the side, they dominate the central areas, and direct play from here, but faced with a 3 man midfield, of whom Arteta was a lot more defensive, City struggled to find any link between defence and attack. The Premier League champions were really struggling to translate ball possession into meaningful ventures into the opposition half. Jovetic, who began the game in a central position was largely neutralised by the nagging presence of Mikel Arteta. Nasri, the playmaker with Silva absent, was operating in the wide areas. As a result, City were forced to try and build their play down the flanks. This was a very reactive game plan, as they looked to take advantage of Debuchy’s runs down the right to try and capitalise on the space he left behind. Over 40% of their play came down their left hand side.
This improved to a large extent in the second half, as David Silva came on for Nasri. The majestic Spaniard immediately made an impact, as he began dropping into pockets of space, and moving around a lot more. He worked combinations with Toure, and made City a lot more cohesive going forward. Of course, they still found it very difficult to really hurt the Arsenal back line, but it was an improvement on what we saw earlier in the game, especially in the first half. A lot of the attacks that City did manage to build, landed up in them getting to the wide areas, and in decent positions to make cut-backs, but the Arsenal defenders had their angles well covered. Out of the 27 crosses that the City team attempted, only 7 were accurate, making it a conversion rate on just about 25%. That really isn’t a very effective strategy going forward, and left the Citizens struggling.
Calum Chambers impresses on debut
On the day, all 3 of Arsenal’s new signings were very impressive, Calum Chambers in particular stood out. The young defender, making his debut in a slightly unfamiliar position did very well indeed. The new kind on the block ended up with a tackle, 5 interceptions, and a massive 13 effective clearances. He even made a crucial block after Debuchy sold himself to give City a shooting chance.
Overall, his positioning was very good, and he easily cut out a lot of important City passes and crosses. This player is one to watch carefully, as he could develop into something special, not just in the near future, but in the present. Though, he must be prepared for more central roles as Arsenal lack cover in the area.
Where does this leave them?
Both managers will have said very different things about this game in their respective changing rooms. While Pellegrini will praise the effort, and stress on the fact that this is essentially a glorified friendly, Wenger will tell his boys that this is the evidence they need, and that they have what it takes to beat the big boys. Arsenal performed very well, and showed some glimpses of their ability. City certainly aren’t up to speed, but they will need to wake up quickly. When they do, they’re going to be a dangerous force, and surely among the favourites to win the league (along with their victorious opponents).
Written by Vishal Patel. Follow him on Twitter @VishalNPatel7